A Level Philosophy

 

What is it about at sixth-form level?

What is real? How should we live? What can we really know? Questions as broad and deep as these have fascinated people for centuries. As a philosophy student, you will start thinking about them and explore ideas and thinkers from across the ages. In one lesson, you might be walking with Socrates in ancient Athens as he argues that we are born with knowledge; in another, you might be back in the modern day wondering whether computers could ever experience love or sadness. You will meditate with Descartes on what sort of thing you are and you will address in detail what philosophers have said about the perennial puzzle of whether God exists.

Philosophy attracts those who like journeys, not destinations. This does not mean that philosophical questions have no answers. For whether they do or do not is itself a philosophical question! The questions are fascinatingly simple yet profound and they invite us to explore what they mean and what the ‘philosophical landscape’ looks like in which we would hope to find the right path.

Lower sixth

In the first year, you will study two units. In Unit 1 (Epistemology) you will look whether, when we perceive the world, we see it as it is or just how our mind makes it appear. You will consider a question first raised by Plato about how knowledge differs from belief. You will then consider where our ideas and knowledge come from: are they gained from experience or are we born with them? In Unit 2 (Moral Philosophy), the central issue is how to decide what the right thing to do is. Three theories will be considered and how they relate to some interesting real-life issues, such as telling lies, crime and punishment and violence in computer games. We will then ask what it means to say that something is wrong or right.

Upper sixth

In the second year, you will study topics in two other areas of philosophy. In Unit 3 (Metaphysics of God), you will start by examining the concept of God. You will then consider famous arguments for God. You will finish by considering whether it is even possible to talk meaningfully about God. In Unit 4 (Metaphysics of Mind) we will try to explain how the subjective conscious mind fits into the objective physical world. Is the mind nothing more than the brain? Could there be ‘zombies’ who are physically identical to us but lack consciousness?

Why study it and what Why study it and what skills does it develop

Philosophy is an old and much-respected discipline, attracting thinkers from around the world and from a spectrum of backgrounds. Their contemplations and debates upon the nature of our reality are at once both abstract and personal, shedding light upon the nature of our thoughts and our status as thinkers. Philosophy will introduce you to new ways of thinking about both new and familiar subjects as well as providing tools for examining the theories and presuppositions underpinning other academic subjects. We will explore classic questions such as the existence of the external world, what it means to know something, and whether or not these questions can be meaningfully answered.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

No particular qualifications are required. You should be aware that the course requires a lot of reading, a lot of writing and a capacity for logical thought and open-mindedness.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

The AS is assessed by one three-hour end-of-year examination. The paper is divided into two halves, one for each unit (Epistemology and Moral Philosophy). For each unit, there will be a set of compulsory questions requiring answers of different length: two short-answer questions, two medium-answer questions and one long-answer question.

A level

The A level is assessed by two three-hour end-of-year examinations. The first is on the Epistemology unit and the Moral Philosophy unit. The second is on the Metaphysics of God unit and the Metaphysics of Mind unit. For each unit, there will be a set of compulsory questions requiring answers of different length: three short-answer questions, one medium-answer question and one long-answer question. Each paper is worth 50% of the A level.

Reading

Think
By S. Blackburn
Published by OUP, ISBN 978-0192854254

Meditations on First Philosophy
By R. Descartes
Published by CUP, ISBN 978-0521558181

Language, Truth and Logic
By A.J. Ayers
Published by Dover Publications, ISBN 978-0486200101

Philosophy: Themes and Thinkers
By J.W. Phelan
Published by CUP, ISBN 978-0521537421

 

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: AQA 7171, A level: AQA 7172

 

Matthew

Grades achieved at MPW
AAA

Progressed to
Warwick University (Chemistry)

“I have definitely made the right decision to come to MPW - my grades have gone from averaging Es to straight As. Teaching at MPW is much more personal and I felt like talking to teachers. They are very good and give you lots of support if you do not understand something. My Personal Tutor took me through the UCAS process step by step. We went through my Personal Statement many times to make sure it was completely perfect. I am very excited about my firm choice.”

Gabriel

Grades achieved at MPW
AAA

Progressed to
Nottingham University (Philosophy)

As a dyslexic student who initially got CCEE for my AS, I was convinced that I could not achieve any higher. My time at MPW proved me wrong. Initially I was reluctant to move from my local school in York to a college so far away from home, my parents, and friends. At the end of my first year I was overjoyed to find that many hours of hard work and renewed revision techniques had resulted in me achieving three A's in my subjects. I wanted to continue at A2 as I knew it would greatly improve my university prospects and encourage me to work even harder. After two fantastic years at MPW I can emphatically say that going to MPW was the best decision I ever made. 

Andrew

Grades achieved at MPW
A*AA

Progressed to
University of York (Law) 

“Having a Personal Tutor to discuss ANYTHING with, from my UCAS application to organising my life in general, really did make life at the college more streamlined and in general less stressful.”

Anastasia

Grades achieved at MPW
A*A*A*

Progressed to
University College London (Economics) 

“Honestly, I could not imagine when I joined MPW that, due to language and adaptation barriers, I would achieve top grades in my first A-level exam sittings. This view changed completely after only a few weeks in the college’s supportive and motivational environment; with teachers who aimed at finding a personal touch with each student and with my Personal Tutor who made my adjustment to the UK education system not only an easy step in my life but, more importantly, an enjoyable one.”

Akmaral

Grades achieved at MPW
A*A*A*

Progressed to
University College London (Mathematics and Statistics)

“International students have many aspects to think about, such as accommodation and guardians, but MPW surprised me by having a highly organised and supportive administration. Also, because most MPW Cambridge students are local, as an ‘international’ student, I found this very useful in both improving my English and in giving me a taste of a genuinely ‘English’ college.”

Julia

Grades achieved at MPW
A*AABB

Progressed to
King's College London (International Relations)

 “The teachers really helped me overcome any difficulties I came across; they always seemed willing to offer support be it inside or outside of the classroom. I could safely say my teachers inspired me to work hard and aim for the best, sometimes simply by being passionate about what they do.”