Do you exist? Does anything? Can we trust our senses? How can we know anything? What is knowledge? What is a mind? How should I act? What is the purpose of life?
If you have ever thought about any of these questions, then you have already started doing philosophy. Philosophy considers the biggest questions ever asked, questions that other academic subjects cannot answer. Many of these questions have been asked by humans for thousands of years. In the Philosophy A Level, we study the answers to these questions provided by the world’s greatest philosophers, and attempt to answer them ourselves.
Progress in answering these questions requires clear and rigorous thinking, sensitivity to conceptual distinctions, imagination, understanding, often a sense of humour, always a sense of wonder, a delight in discussions and listening and, crucially, the ability to think for oneself. We study the structure of arguments, and use logic and reason to criticise the thoughts of philosophers, and to construct our own philosophical theories. Philosophy is an academic discipline, and to be successful you need to be a keen and perceptive reader, and have the ability to express yourself clearly through your written work. Above all, you will need an open and inquisitive mind, and a desire to untangle some complicated and important problems.
The course is split into four sections, and is assessed by two three-hour exams. The topics covered are:
- Epistemology – What is knowledge? What can we know? Can we prove the existence of the world? Do I exist? Can we be certain of anything?
- Philosophy of Religion – What is God? Can we prove God’s existence? Can we disprove God’s existence? Can we know anything about God?
- Ethics – Do right and wrong exist? How can we judge between right and wrong? Is morality objective or subjective? Are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ just words?
- Philosophy of Mind – What is the mind? Can I prove the existence of my mind? Am I the only mind? What is consciousness? What is experience?
Results are consistently very good, and many students go on to study Philosophy at a higher level. Philosophy is well regarded by Russell Group universities, and provides a range of transferable skills. As such, it complements the study of all other A level subjects. Philosophy is often described by students as their favourite subject, and what you learn in philosophy will stay with you forever. If you exist....
For specific details of the course studied at AS/A2 levels, visit the AQA website.