Why study Philosophy?

Philosophy A level asks students to think for themselves, to think rationally and to be open-minded. Students develop and refine a range of transferable skills, such as the ability to ask penetrating questions, to analyse and evaluate arguments, and to present their own arguments clearly, logically and with precision.

The course content raises stimulating and challenging questions about what we know of reality, and what we can and cannot know of reality. The nature of human consciousness is questioned, and the role of logic, reason and rationality are interrogated. Grounded in such foundational concerns students then engage with the underlying assumptions found in a range of ethical and philosophical questions about the nature and purpose of human life.

Philosophy is a highly respected academic subject, and at A level standard it sets apart those who are passionate about clear thinking on profound issues. Universities and employers across the spectrum value the critical independence of mind shown by those who study Philosophy, and it forms a core part of the famous PPE degree taken by many leading politicians and business people.

Philosophy is currently taught to Sixth Form boys and girls at Monmouth School for Girls.

Head of Department: Dr H Whately

Course content

Board: AQA   Specification Code: 7172

  • Epistemology: the study of what knowledge is. Issues covered include questions about the existence of the world outside of the human mind, the nature of knowledge itself, and what we can really ever actually ‘know’ of what our senses tell us.
  • Moral Philosophy: Engaging critically with ethical theories such as those of Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics, Kant’s Duty-based approach, and Utilitarianism. Issues covered include telling lies, simulated killing in computer games and eating animals.
  • Metaphysics of God: Introduction to issues around religious language and arguments for and against the existence of God. Issues covered include ways of ‘proving’ the existence of God, paradoxes such as whether an all-powerful God could create a stone which was too heavy for he/she to pick up, and the role of logic in the use of language.
  • Metaphysics of Mind: Alternative views of the mind-body problem, and how they relate to each other.  Perspectives covered include dualism, materialism and behaviourism, as well as the issue of philosophical zombies and the uses of theoretical arguments.

Method of assessment

Two three hour written exams:

  • Paper 1 Epistemology and Moral Philosophy.
  • Paper 2 Metaphysics and God and Metaphysics of Mind.

The papers contain a combination of  3 mark, 5 mark and 12 marks questions which assess knowledge and understanding, and a 25 mark essay which assesses critical reasoning and evaluative skills in developing arguments.

Religious Studies or Philosophy?

Religious Studies A level and Philosophy A level do share some content areas, and we would not advise opting for both. Instead we recommend pursuing a qualification in one or other of the subjects. They take distinctively different approaches: Religious Studies emphasizes an understanding and appreciation of religious thought and its contribution to the individual, communities and society.  Philosophy, however, emphasizes the ways in which philosophers have identified underlying ideas about the validity of arguments and their premises.