Philosophy – A Level
Philosophy is the original academic discipline tracing its beginnings to the pre-Socratic Greeks of more than 2,500 years ago. It involves reflection and analysis of the central concepts in science and culture such as knowledge, truth, the self and religion.
The study of philosophy is as much about its method as it is about its subject matter, and you will be introduced to the basic philosophical tools of logical and conceptual analysis of arguments as well as their construction. Clarity of thought and expression are the key skills in philosophy and much emphasis is placed on helping you acquire them.
Philosophy examines a multitude of fascinating questions including the possibility of knowledge about the world and ourselves, the universality of reason, the nature of mind and consciousness, the definition of religion and the existence of God, the possibility of refuting scepticism, the problem of free will, the question of truth and relativism, and the history and development of these questions and their answers.
Although the course is based on contemporary Western philosophy, much of the time is allocated to tracing its historical antecedents and to studying the great works that shaped it.
What will I study in Philosophy?
AS Units 1 & 2
An Introduction to Philosophy 1: What is the relationship between the world and our experience of it? Can our experiences deliver the principles we use to make judgements about things or must they be innate? What is it to be a person? Can non-humans be persons? To what extent are abilities such as language-use, rationality, consciousness, the ability to reflect about one’s feelings, experiences and motives, as well as those of others, essential features of personhood?
An Introduction to Philosophy 2: Is it possible to know that there is an objective, material world? Are colours, smells and sounds part of the material world? How plausible are the sceptical arguments that challenge our claims to know? Do the so-called ‘intelligent design’ arguments prove the existence of God? Is the existence of an omnipotent God consistent with the existence of evil in the world? Is the existence of an omniscient God consistent with the freedom of our choices? Can our choices be free if we are a natural part of the physical universe?
A2 Units 3 & 4
Key Themes in Philosophy: What is a mind? Are minds best seen as a natural part of the physical world or is substance dualism plausible? Can minds be identified with brain processes? What is consciousness? How can physical systems such as the brain be conscious? Can mental states have physical causes and effects? Can scepticism be refuted? Can knowledge be analysed as true justified belief? What is justification? Is objective knowledge of the world possible? If it is, can we know whether we have it? Are there universals? Is truth ever relative to anything?
Philosophical Problems: What is Humean empiricism? What is Hume’s distinction between impressions and ideas? What is Hume’s ‘fork’? Why does Hume analyse causation as a constant conjunction of distinct events and how does it lead him to his definitions of ‘cause’. Does Hume think miracles are possible? Can Hume reconcile free will with determinism?
How will I be assessed?
The course is assessed by short answer question and essay based papers – 2 in the AS year and 2 in the A2.
Do I need to have studied Philosophy before?
No, but you should be interested in engaging in debates over deep and interesting problems concerning some of the most central assumptions of science and culture.
Who will teach me?
Mohini Qavi is a highly experienced tutor who holds an MA and a PGCE from Kings College, London. She also teaches Religious Studies at Lansdowne and has a particular interest in the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics.
Which subjects complement Philosophy?
Philosophy intersects with academic disciplines such as Psychology, Sociology, Government and Politics, Economics, History and Classical Civilisation.
Which careers can Philosophy lead to?
Philosophy is valued for encouraging rational thought and a logical, questioning mind. It is suitable for students planning to enter a wide range of careers such as law, journalism, business, advertising, the civil service, government, social services, the City, etc.