What is Philosophy?

Philosophy is simultaneously similar to, yet radically different from science. It is similar to science insofar as its enterprise is to further human understanding, but it is fundamentally different from science in the way that it seeks to do so. Understanding achieved through science rests on the construction of theories, testable hypotheses, prediction and explanation. Philosophy, by contrast, seeks to attain understanding through conceptual clarification in relation to the construction of arguments; in other words, it strives to clarify what makes sense, the conditions under which such sense is possible, and what that sense is able to reveal. One cannot, for example, create a theory that something makes sense; in order to create a theory – for the concept of a theory to even be coherent – sense needs to be there already.

Studying philosophy develops one’s ability to ask searching questions, analyse and evaluate one’s own arguments together with the arguments of others and present them in a clear logical form. Throughout the course, students will be directly acquainted with much of the primary literature associated with each of the areas studied, and encouraged to question assumptions and arguments at every turn – both in verbal and written form. Lively debate is encouraged throughout, and formal essay skills will be developed. In addition, there will be opportunities to attend university conferences related to the topics being studied. 

The A-level comprises four units: two at AS followed by two at A2. At AS students will cover Epistemology (unit 1) and Philosophy of Religion (unit 2); at A2, Moral Philosophy (unit 3) and Philosophy of Mind (unit 4).

Both AS and A2 philosophy are 100% by examination. AS comprises one 3 hour exam (units 1 and 2); A2 comprises one 3 hour exam (units 3 and 4).

Pre-Course Introductory Reading

Blackburn, S. Think!. OUP. 2001

Kolakowski, L. Why is There Something Rather Than Nothing?. Penguin. 2008.

Nagel, T. What Does It All Mean?. OUP. 1989