You may often have asked yourself philosophical questions without realising that you were doing philosophy.
Questions such as:
- How do I know that I exist?
- Can I know that other people exist?
- Is the world exactly as I perceive it to be?
- What is the mind and how is it related to the brain?
- Is knowledge possible?
- Am I ever free to choose or are all my choices determined by factors that are beyond my control?
- Is morality just a matter of opinion?
Studying philosophy involves both asking and trying to answer these questions. If you find yourself being puzzled by questions of this kind then philosophy could be the subject for you.
Philosophy examines ideas which are the basis of human existence and which people have considered and discussed for centuries such as knowledge, causation, truth, God, morality and freedom.
As you might expect, lessons will be thought provoking and will involve a great deal of lively discussion. You will learn about the ideas and arguments of famous philosophers, some classic (such as Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Wittgenstein) and some contemporary. You will be able to read original philosophical writings and will learn how philosophy works as an academic discipline, through the presentation of arguments. We will evaluate these arguments during discussion and also in writing.
Philosophy develops skills that are useful and transferable such as the ability to think logically, to analyse arguments and to generate ideas. Being able to write clearly and precisely about complex ideas is also a key philosophical skill. All academic disciplines and professions can benefit from the systematic thought processes and clarity of expression that Philosophy develops.
Philosophy goes well with any A Level subject because it involves looking at concepts which underpin other subjects. For example, the concept of causation underpins science and English also deals with fundamental questions of existence. It is often studied as a joint degree at university or can also be studied as a single honours degree.
We follow the AQA Philosophy specification which involves taking one three hour paper at AS Level and one 3 hour papers at A2 level. There is no coursework.
If you are finding it difficult to decide between Philosophy and Religious Studies, the following may be helpful to you:
- They both contain the philosophical topics of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics
- They both emphasise the importance of reason and argument
- Both emphasise the importance of studying primary texts
- In philosophy there are two topic areas: Epistemology and Metaphysics and Philosophy of the Mind which you cannot take in Religious Studies and which allow you to consider more abstract questions such as ‘what can I know?’ and ‘can I trust my senses?'
- In Philosophy you look deeper into the nature of life in general and look at concepts such as knowledge, causation, and mind and body whereas in Religious Studies most topics have God as their focus.