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Philosophy & Ethics

The AS and A2 Philosophy & Ethics course is an invaluable opportunity to gain transferable skills for careers and courses demanding analysis, evaluation and clarity of expression.

The department follows the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA (OCR) specification. 

This A Level course is aimed at those who are prepared for an open-minded exploration of the big questions, in particular the medical, legal and moral issues that affect the lives of humans today, as well as deeper philosophical questions about the nature of the universe and of humanity, and the existence or non-existence of God.

The course is designed for anyone to undertake and previous knowledge from GCSE, whilst helpful, is not a requirement (those without GCSE background can easily get up to speed with a little summer reading). An open mind to often controversial and complex issues is required, as is the understanding that we are required more often than not to discover the questions and a number of solutions, but not a definitive answer. Those who wish to ask the impossible questions about life, the world and the universe and explore some of the answers offered by the philosophers and scholars are likely to feel at home being challenged by and challenging others on this course.

An A Level in Philosophy & Ethics is a highly regarded qualification for anyone proceeding to University in the Arts and the Sciences. The ability to think clearly and to evaluate contrasting philosophical, ethical and moral views, as well as possession of an understanding of the history of ideas from Socrates onwards, are valued by both universities and employers.

Those studying A Level in the past have gone on to study in such diverse fields as PPE and Law at Oxford and Cambridge, Medicine at University College London, English at Durham, History at St Andrew’s, Journalism at Bristol and Sports Science at Loughborough – as well as Theology and Philosophy at all of the above!

Students study for three papers – one in Philosophy, one in Ethics and one in Developments in Christian Thought. In the Lower Sixth, we consider the origins of Western philosophy from Greek rationalism (Plato and Aristotle) to Hebrew monotheism, we evaluate the classical arguments for the existence of God and consider the major challenges to belief in God. In the Upper Sixth, we debate the meaning of language, the nature of human experience, the possibility of miracles, the logical plausibility of belief in God, and the nature of life after death. In Ethics, the ethical theories of Aristotle, Kant, Bentham and Mill, Aquinas and Fletcher form the background to the study of contemporary issues, sexuality, cloning, abortion, euthanasia, economics and environmental ethics. The A Level course also considers the impact of Christianity on contemporary philosophical and ethical debate, focusing on scholars from Augustine to Ruether.

The big issues in such areas as legal ethics, medical ethics and the environment as well as sex and relationships provide the opportunity to explore how we know what has been traditionally seen as right and wrong and how we apply these ideas in practice. The big questions like “if there’s a God why doesn’t (s)he prove it?” in addition to euthanasia, cloning, IVF and social justice are investigated through the writings of the philosophers and scholars, always requiring pupils to evaluate for themselves the relative strengths and weaknesses of the contrasting evidence.

Modules are assessed in three 120-minute papers at the end of Upper Sixth.

Miss E Childs
Head of Theology & Philosophy