i8.4249 Philosophical aspects of self-fulfilling prophecy


Type Language Semester Credits Hours Room Time Term Year
S e 3 4 2 Mo 10-12 W 2018
BSc: optional compulsory (Wahlpflichtbereich)
BSc examination field: Philosophy of Cognition / of Mind (KOGW-WPM-PHIL)
MSc: Major subject
MSc major: Philosophy of Mind and Cognition


In 1948, sociologist Robert K. Merton coined the technical term ‘self-fulfilling prophecyö to refer to “a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true.” Since then, self-fulfilling prophecy has become an important topic of study in the social and psychological sciences, and the concept itself has become firmed entrenched in our everyday thought and speech. Its pervasiveness and influence has been claimed for nearly all aspects of social life: economics, race and gender relations, deviant and criminal behavior, models of human nature, education, politics and international affairs, religion, and scientific inquiry, among others. In this seminar, we will explore various philosophical aspects of self-fulfilling prophecies. We will begin by familiarizing ourselves with classic examples and conceptions of the phenomenon from the social and psychological scientific literature. Following this, we will take a more philosophical approach by examining, clarifying and precisifying the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy (and other closely related ones) itself. The bulk of the seminar will then consist in considering what implications the existence of such a phenomenon might have for various issues in epistemology, ontology, and the philosophy of science. Specific questions include: does self-fulfilling prophecy preclude the possibility of successful (scientific) prediction about the social realm?; what role does self-fulfilling prophecy play in the creation and continued existence of social entities?; are the products and outcomes of self-fulfilling prophecies in any sense ‘less realö?; how should the revelation that scientific predictions and theories themselves may become self-fulfilling affect our understanding of science?

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