A level departments

Philosophy and theology

Encouraging students to think rigorously about the fundamental questions of truth and human understanding.

What we study

The AQA A Level in Philosophy is designed to give you a thorough grounding in the key concepts and methods of philosophy. The course enables students to develop important skills needed for progression to higher education, learning to be clear and precise in their thinking and writing. Philosophy allows engagement with complex texts, the analysis and evaluation of others’ arguments, and the construction and defense of one’s own arguments.

The course consists of four topic areas:

  • Epistemology
  • Moral philosophy
  • The metaphysics of God
  • The metaphysics of mind

Epistemology explores how we define knowledge, what its source is (including the views of realism, idealism and innatism), as well as the limits of knowledge raised by philosophical scepticism. In moral philosophy, students will analyse normative theories including utilitarianism, Kant’s deontological ethics and Aristotle’s virtue ethics. Questions of the meaning of ethical language, or ‘meta-ethics’, will also be explored, as well as how these apply to stealing, simulated killing, eating animals and telling lies.

In the metaphysics of God module, the VIII (Year 13) will examine the coherence of the concept and nature of God, arguments relating to His existence, as well as cognitivist and non-cognitivist approaches to the use of religious language. Questions about the ontology, nature, and relationship of the mind to the body will be examined in the metaphysics of mind section of the course. This will offer dualist, physicalist and functionalist responses to these questions.

A Paulina sitting outside, studying in the grounds of St Paul's Girls' School.

Beyond the curriculum

There are plenty of opportunities to extend your learning beyond the classroom. Students will have opportunities to hear visiting lecturers at the joint philosophy and theology societies throughout the year. Students are also encouraged to present their own ideas and research at these meetings, and it is a relaxed and informal atmosphere to test out new arguments as well as revisit old ones.

Students are also encouraged to visit lectures at external venues such as the London Institute of Philosophy, the RSA and LSE. Some students also choose to enter essay prize competitions which often boost a university application. One of the highlights of the year is our Joint Philosophy and Theology Dinner with St Paul’s School. This is a convivial occasion where students in the VII and VIII (Years 12 and 13) can share their experiences and insights of studying philosophy and theology as well as form collaborative study groups. VII (Year 12) students also have the chance to attend HowTheLightGetIn, the world’s largest philosophy and music festival.

Where it might lead

An A Level in philosophy is a springboard into a myriad of higher education opportunities; its breadth equipping students with a wide range of adaptable skills which suit a variety of degree courses. In the past, students have continued to read philosophy or theology or combined their interest with another area of study such as mathematics, physics, French or politics and economics. Students also find a qualification in this area facilitates entry onto a degree programme such as law, psychology, sociology or anthropology. From these degree programmes students then go on to find themselves in an incredibly diverse range of careers.

Students chatting in the Garden Building.

Qualification
A level

Board
AQA

Mode of Assessment
100% examinations

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