A-level Philosophy

A-level Philosophy

It is difficult to explicitly define what philosophy is because the subject deals with all areas of life. Ultimately, however, it is the study of ‘wisdom’.  The course examines important topics including existence, consciousness, religion, perception and morality. Typical questions philosophers occupy themselves with include;

How do we know what we know?

Does the universe exist and how?

What is consciousness?

How do we know if spatial objects directly cause our perceptions?

What does it mean to be a good person?

Philosophers attempt to answer these imperative questions by formulating different arguments. Not only will students learn the content of these arguments, which are stimulating in themselves, they will also be taught how to evaluate them in terms of their logical structure(s), their justificatory power and their plausible or problematic consequences.

As philosophy is such a broad subject that deals with theoretical, empirical and metaphysical research methods, it is a subject that will not only equip students with numerous transferable skills such as; logical thinking, problem solving and creativity, it will also enable students to question areas of their own lives which is eye-opening and thought-provoking.

Entry requirements

Students will need a minimum of grade 5/6 above in English and Maths GCSE and have a willingness to write long and short essays.

Course Content

AS level

Paper 1: Epistemology (The study of knowledge) and theories of perception.

Topics covered: Justified true belief, scepticism, rationalism, empiricism, direct realism, indirect-realism and idealism

Paper 2: Moral philosophy (What is good and bad?).

Topics include: Aristotle’s virtue ethics, Kant’s deontology and Mill’s utilitarianism


Paper 1: Metaphysics of God

Topics covered: The attributes of God (If God exists, what is he like?), the ontological argument, the teleological argument, the cosmological argument and the problem of evil (God’s existence), religious language (is it meaningful?)

Paper 2: Metaphysics of mind (What is the mind/consciousness?)

Topics covered: Materialism/physicalism, idealism, reductionism and anti-reductionism


This course is assessed with a 3-hour exam at the end of each year. No coursework.

Where does it lead?

Typically, students of philosophy pursue careers in writing, law, politics, psychiatry and education. In fact, a high percentage of MP’S have at least a degree in philosophy.

Reading List

Descartes, René (1641), Meditations on First Philosophy, 1, 2, 3, 5, 6

Russell, Bertrand (1912), The Problems of Philosophy, Chapters 1

Mill, John Stuart (1863), Utilitarianism, Chapters 1, 2, 4, 5

Plato, Euthyphro

Chalmers, David (1996), The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. Oxford University Press, Chapter 1