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PhD Candidate: Philosophy of Science: Causal Inquiry in the Social Sciences

Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies, Radboud University

Job category Graduate fellowship / Fixed term
AOS Philosophy of the Social Sciences
AOS categories Philosophy of Science
Philosophy of Social Science
AOC Open
Workload Full time
Vacancies 1
Location Nijmegen, Gelderland, Netherlands
Start date January 2025 at the latest
Job description

Are you a creative and independent thinker and passionate about analytic philosophy of science? Are you interested in exploring how social scientists uncover causes and effects in the social world? And do you hold (or are close to obtaining) a Master's in Philosophy or a related field? If so, apply as a PhD candidate!

In this PhD project, you will critically study causal mechanisms in the social sciences. The project is suitable for a candidate with a strong background in philosophy of science and a proven interest or experience in social scientific research (such as political science, international relations studies, sociology, or educational research). You will be able to shape the project in a way that matches your interests and background.

Why did the Hungarian democracy backslide? Why do some women perform worse on standardised math tests? Increasingly, social scientists frame questions like these as queries about causal mechanisms. Thus, political scientists claim that ‘polarisation’ is a causal mechanism undermining the Hungarian democracy, and sociologists claim that ‘stereotype threat’ is a causal mechanism behind the worse performance of some women on standardised math tests. While social scientists cannot formulate exceptionless laws that tell them when democratic backsliding or poor academic performance will occur, many believe they can explain and/or predict instances of these phenomena by discovering case-specific mechanisms. These mechanisms, they argue, can open the ’black box’ of correlational research by showing how a putative cause led to an effect of interest. But how and in what sense can one speak sensibly about causal mechanisms in the heterogeneous, ever evolving, complex social world?

You will participate in relevant conferences, workshops and seminars, and communicate your findings through publications in proceedings and peer-reviewed journals. In addition to your research, you will have a standard 10% teaching load to help you develop your teaching skills and further qualify for a career as an independent academic researcher. You will also have the opportunity to further develop your skill set by attending courses that are relevant for your project and general development.

This PhD project will be funded by a starter grant awarded by the Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies to Dr Rosa W. Runhardt, Assistant Professor of Philosophy of Science, specialist in causal inference and measurement in the social sciences. In this project, Dr Runhardt will also be your daily supervisor. Furthermore, Dr Harmen Ghijsen will be your secondary supervisor and Prof. Marc Slors will be your PhD supervisor (promotor).


  • You hold or are about to obtain a Master's degree in Philosophy or a field related to the project.
  • You are a highly motivated, passionate, critical, and creative thinker who wants to grow as a scholar.
  • You have a demonstrable affinity with and/or experience in the social sciences, such as sociology, political science, international relations studies, or educational research.
  • You are self-organised, proactive, and able to work independently, but enjoy engaging in scientific discussions and are open to providing and receiving feedback.
  • You possess excellent written and verbal communication skills in English.
How to apply
Application type Online
Web address to apply https://www.ru.nl/en/working-at/job-opportunities/...
Hard deadline August 18, 2024, 11:59pm CET
Web address for more information https://www.ru.nl/en/working-at/job-opportunities/...
Contact name Rosa Runhardt
Contact email
Time created July 5, 2024, 7:15pm UTC
Scheduled expiry date August 18, 2024, 11:59pm CET
Last updated July 5, 2024, 7:15pm UTC
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