Epistemology of Psychology

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The course has two main aims: provide an introduction to epistemology and discuss specific epistemological problems of psychology.

By the end of the semester, students should be able to:

1. Understand the fundamental concepts underlying the practice of science in general;

2. Understand some fundamental concepts in the field of psychology;

3. Adopt a critical position on the epistemological problems addressed;

4. Apply knowledge on scientific practice, avoiding obscurity and inaccuracies in the use of fundamental concepts and adopting correct methodological procedures in the light of contemporary epistemological debates;

5. Master the processes leading to research works.


I Introduction

1 Epistemology, psychology and cognitive science.

2 The scientific method: inductivism and its critics, the relation between observation and theory.

3 The distinction between science and pseudoscience.

4 The nature of scientific laws.

5 Models and types of scientific explanation.

6 Explanation and understanding.

7 The problem of values in science.

II-Problems of epistemology of psychology

1 Theories of the mind:

1.1 Dualism

1.2 Materialism (identity theory and behaviorism)

1.3 Functionalism and computational and representational conception of mind

1.4 Interpretationism; Davidson and Dennett

1.5 eliminativism

2 Status and legitimacy of common sense psychology (folk psychology). The debate between "theory on theory" and "simulation theory".

3 Assumptions of rationality and the explanation of human action:

4 The problem of the possibility of psychological laws.

5 The problem of the relationship between thought and language:

6 The problem of scientificity of psychoanalysis.

Teaching Methodologies

This curricular unit combines lectures with practical classes based on the discussion of fundamental epistemological problems and relevant texts.

Emphasis is placed on the following learning activities:

- Discussion on topics;

- Reading recommended texts, with emphasis on recent publications.

- writing essays on a specific topic, under teacher supervision.

- individual tutoring


BEM, S. e JONG, H., Theoretical Issues in Psychology, London, Sage, 2006.

BERMÚDEZ, J., Philosophy of Psychology: A Contemporary Introduction, London, Routledge, 2005.

BOTTERILL, G., e CARRUTHERS, P., A Filosofia da Psicologia, Lisboa, Instituto Piaget, 2004.

GENTNER, D., e GOLDIN-MEADOW, S., Language in Mind: Advances in the Study of Language and Thought, Cambridge, MA, The MIT Press, 2003.

HEIL, J., Philosophy of Mind, London, Routledge, 1998.

KAHNEMAN, D., et al, Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1982.

KUHN, T., A Estrutura das Revoluções Científicas, São Paulo, Ed. Perspectiva, 1991.

HEIL, J., Philosophy of Mind, London, Routledge, 1998.

POPPER, K., A Lógica da Pesquisa Científica, São Paulo, Cultrix, 1993.

STEIN, E., Without Good Reason: The Rationality Debate in Philosophy and Cognitive Science, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1996.



ECTS Credits



  • Teóricas - 30 hours
  • Teórico-Práticas - 30 hours

Evaluation Methodology

  • Frequency: 75%
  • Reflection work on one of the problems addressed in the program: 25%