“An unexamined life is not worth living”
So said Socrates, the first philosopher in the west. John Stuart Mill agreed with him: even if examining your life makes you discontented in some ways, it is still worth doing, because it is better to be a discontented Socrates than a contented pig. Socrates has many more life-opportunities than the pig, and even though the pig doesn’t know what it’s missing, it still is missing out on a lot.
Philosophy is critical reflection on our fundamental beliefs. It is an ‘ideas’ subject, and all you need to begin Philosophy is a fascination with ideas, or with ‘the big questions’ (as the title of one introductory book puts it), such as:
- Do we have free will or are we just a product of our genes and upbringing?
- What is consciousness and how is it related to the brain?
- Could computers have minds?
- Are any non-human animals persons, and what makes me the same person today as I was five years ago?
- Can we prove that God exists and is it rational to have faith in God?
- Does evil show that God doesn’t exist?
- Is morality more than subjective opinion?
- Why should I obey the law, and is civil disobedience ever justified?
Philosophy teaches you to think about such questions in a rigorous, logical, analytical manner. It trains you to think clearly and express yourself accurately, to break down and build up arguments, so it should help your work in other subjects too.
Philosophy is half-way between the Sciences and the Humanities, and combines well with almost any other subject, both at A level and at university. Though not itself a vocational subject, it is a useful background for entry into a wide range of careers (eg management, law, information technology, public administration), indeed for any job where one needs to be able to think logically and present ideas clearly.
The AS course consists of two themes, Epistemology and Philosophy of Religion. There is a single 3-hour exam in the summer consisting of a structured question on each theme.
The A2 covers two further themes, Ethics and Philosophy of Mind, with the same exam format as for AS: a 3-hour exam consisting of structured questions on each theme.
There is no coursework.
Philosophy teaches genuinely transferable skills in analytical thinking. Many Collingham students each year go on to study Philosophy at university.
AQA is the only Board available.