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Philosophy A level at Chatham Grammar School for Girls

Course description

This course aims to foster an interest in philosophy and the skills gained from it – independent thought, critical analysis and evaluation of fundamental questions surrounding the human mind and wider experience, and the ability to construct and defend logical arguments.  Students will study a range of philosophical ideas such as epistemology, ethics and the mind.  Philosophy is a highly regarded A level by universities and complements a range of intended career paths such as law, medicine, journalism and education.

Course content

Overall, the course is designed to allow students an introduction to important areas of philosophy that have been widely debated for millennia.  Students will study several key philosophy texts and explore ideas through a variety of different media.  They will also analyse and evaluate the ideas of famous philosophers, and use them as a springboard for developing their own ideas and arguments.   

Unit 1 – Epistemology

Epistemology is the study of knowledge, and it considers what it is possible to really know and how.  Through a study of key philosophers such as Rene Descartes and John Locke, we will examine such questions as…

-          Where do ideas and knowledge come from?

-          How do I know what is real and what isn’t?

-           What is perception and can I trust it?

-          Are there different types of knowledge? 

 

Unit 2 – Philosophy of Religion

In this unit we examine arguments for and against the existence of God.  We study the classical theories such as the teleological, cosmological and ontological arguments, and we then criticise and evaluate them.  Typical questions include…

-            If God loves everyone and is all-powerful, why does he allow suffering to happen?

-            Does the universe show evidence of design?  If it does, does that mean there’s a God?

-            If everything has been caused by something else, does this mean that logically there was a first cause to the universe?

-            Does the very definition of God mean that He must exist?

 

Unit 3 – Ethics

In this unit we consider how and why we make moral decisions and examine if there is a correct way to live a ‘good’ life.  In studying interesting ethical theories such as utilitarianism, virtue ethics and deontology, we will answer questions such as…

-          How do we decide what is the right thing to do?

-          Is there such a thing as altruism, or are all humans inherently selfish?

-          Is the idea of ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’ really fair?

-          Is it possible to make moral absolutes (e.g. you shouldn’t kill people), or does it depend on who you are?  Is there definitely such a thing as right and wrong?

 

Unit 4 – Philosophy of the Mind

In this unit we examine the difference between the mind and the body.  Through a study of Cartesian dualism, philosophical zombies and elements from psychology, we consider questions such as…

-          Are my mind and body two separate entities?

-          If they are, how do they work together?

-          How can I ever be certain that others have minds?

-          Is what I perceive the same as what others perceive e.g. do I see the colour blue in the same way that you do?

 

Course Skills

-          Analysis and evaluation of arguments

-          Written and oral communication skills

-          Logic and reason

-          Construction of arguments

-          Essay writing

-          Time management

-          Intellectual curiosity 

Entry requirements

All students must obtain five C grade passes at GCSE (a GNVQ qualification will also be considered). We do not allow students to study this course based on GCSE short course subjects. In addition we would expect students to have achieved a grade B in an evaluative essay writing subject e.g. history.  Students must also be willing to read widely around the subject. 

Assessment

3 hour written examinations on units 1 - 4

Future opportunities

Degree level  

An A level in philosophy is highly prized by universities, even if the subject matter you choose to study is different, because the skills you acquire can be used in almost every discipline – skills including independent thought and study, logical thinking, and the ability to criticise arguments and construct your own.  Common degree subjects chosen by former A level Philosophy students include (and are not limited to) philosophy, politics, theology, law, history, English, sociology and medicine.

 

Beyond  

Students who study philosophy at university are amongst the most employable upon graduation because of their ability to think clearly and rigorously.  Common career paths following a degree in philosophy include law, politics, the civil service, journalism, advertising, education and accountancy.  However, many other careers value philosophy graduates very highly as well! 

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Chatham Grammar School for Girls directly.

Last updated date: 26 September 2016

Key information

  • Start date: Next September

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