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Philosophy is the study of the underlying nature of everything from knowledge and existence to morality and the mind.  You will learn how to analyse and construct arguments on a range of philosophical topics.   An enquiring and analytic mind are a must!

Exam Board


Entry Requirements

GCSE grade 5 in either English language or English literature and a GCSE grade 5 in maths.


  • 100% Exams
About this course FAQs An introduction to Philosophy Pathways Information

What is Philosophy?

Philosophy is the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and values. It is a subject that allows students to reflect upon some of the biggest and most challenging questions we face as human beings – from the nature of our consciousness through to how we ought to live – while developing the skills that enable us to try to answer those questions. As philosophical questions will arise in any area of study, learning how to navigate those issues with the use of reason is something that philosophical traditions around the world and across the millennia have helped us to develop.  Philosophy is a subject that demands that students question conventional beliefs, but also helps them to cultivate the skills to think through the issues that arise in a methodical manner.


What will I study?

A-level Philosophy is divided in four topics: epistemology; moral philosophy; metaphysics of God; metaphysics of mind.


Epistemology is also known as theory of knowledge and provides a basis for much of what we do in the other topics. We will ask questions such as:

  • What is knowledge? Can we define it?
  • What does perception tell us about the world? What limitations does it have?
  • Are we born with any concepts and ideas already in our minds?
  • What can reasoning tell us about reality? Is it confined to abstract thinking or can it tell us about the world itself?
  • Can we know anything at all?


In Moral Philosophy, students will explore the nature of what is good and what determines the rightness/wrongness of an action, including the following questions:


  • Can we find moral principles by using experience?
  • Are moral principles based upon the use of reason alone?
  • Should we focus more on developing a good character rather than performing the right acts?
  • What matters most – duty or consequences?
  • Are there such things as moral facts?
  • What do phrases like “…is wrong” or “I ought to…” do? Do they describe the world or express how I feel?
  • Is lying, stealing, eating animals or killing in computer games morally justifiable?


Year 13 places emphasis on metaphysics – the study of the underlying nature of things. The two topics covered are the Metaphysics of God and Metaphysics of Mind. Metaphysics of God explores:


  • Is it possible to coherently define what we mean by God?
  • Are there proofs for the existence of God that use existence alone?
  • Are there arguments that support God’s existence based upon our experience of the world?
  • Does the existence of evil disprove or undermine claims about God’s existence?
  • If God is beyond human experience, can religious language be meaningful?


Metaphysics of Mind asks students to answer questions on the following:


  • What do we mean by “the mind”? What are the key features that determine that something has a mind?
  • Is the mind a distinct substance or set of properties from the body?
  • Can we reduce the mind down to brain processes? Is there need for talk of a mind at all?
  • Is the mind more like software on a computer than the hardware of the computer itself?

Can all talk of the human mind be reduced to talk about human behaviour?


Students will sit two exams at A-level. Each exam is 3 hours long and contains a range of shorter questions used to assess your clarity, precision and understanding of logic, and longer essay questions that asses your own reasoning skills. There is no coursework in this A-level.


What skills will I develop?

  • Conceptual analysis
  • Deconstruction and evaluation of complex arguments
  • Precision in your reasoning and phrasing
  • Drawing appropriate inferences from points
  • Constructing your own arguments
  • Techniques for testing claims and arguments to see whether they should be accepted
  • Logical thinking
  • Critical reasoning

Trips, visits and enrichments:

  • Opportunities to attend master classes and events nationally.
  • We run a one-day conference for philosophy students, including visiting speakers from universities around the country.
  • Philosophy book club: read philosophical texts and debate with others.


What can it lead to?

Students go on to study a variety of degree courses as the analytic and logical skills developed in Philosophy are respected by many professions. Some careers that philosophy graduates have gone into are:

  • Law
  • Government
  • Ethical advisory work
  • Psychology/counselling
  • Social work
  • The arts
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Journalism
  • International relations


Do we have to include our own opinions?
Not exactly. Opinions are just what you think. They can be good or bad, supported or unsupported, so we do not really want your essays to include opinion. What we do want is the conclusion that you have come to after a reasoned evaluation of the arguments. After all, that is what you think!
Is it a debating skills class? Is there lots of discussion?
No. Debating skills are often about how you can convince people of what you’re saying – even if it isn’t true! We are here to teach you how to work out what is true through reasoning, and how to deliver that in the clearest way possible. This means that we do a lot of discussion, but also a lot of independent work, reading and writing. Discussion is one part of what we do, but not the main part.
Is this the same as Religious Studies?
No. We share some content, but the two subjects approach it in very different ways. Note that one topic in Philosophy is about God and the Moral Philosophy topic does not look at religious ethics at all. Our content and approach are actually very different. You could do both and there would be no advantage or disadvantage. It all depends on what you want to study.
What subjects does it go well with?
Anything. We have had students from all subjects take something useful away from Philosophy. We also find it helpful when students can bring ideas in from other subjects to help with the discussions we are having. The skills we develop are useful in all areas of study and work, as well as life outside of those things.
There is a GCSE Maths requirement to do the course – do we have to do maths in the subject?
No. We don’t do any maths. However, there is a lot of abstract reasoning going on. Part of being successful in Philosophy is understanding how reasoning and logic works in general. Maths just gives us an indication of how well you can do that sort of reasoning.
What is most difficult about it as a subject?
From asking past and present students, we find that they find two key things to be difficult: the amount of content and writing the essays. However, we will support you through this as no one is expected to know it all immediately. Students find the course challenging, but they also enjoy it a lot. Philosophy students take a lot of satisfaction from their time on the course, even when it gets tough. All of your A-levels will be tough at some point but remember that we are all here to help!

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