Philosophy is a very popular subject at Ashbourne. It appeals to students from Arts and Science backgrounds. The goals of philosophy at Ashbourne are to train students to think, which takes place within focused debate in class, to produce philosophical investigation, which takes place in essays and to familiarize students with key questions and answers in the topics studied. The seminar style of teaching and learning, which is made possible by Ashbourne’s small class sizes, is ideal for studying the subject.
Why study Philosophy?
Philosophy trains students to ask questions about the things other people do not ask questions about. It also trains students to analyse and argue and by this means come up with some answers to the big questions. Philosophy combines well with almost all A Level subjects. As it improves logical, precise thinking it is a great help to those studying not only essay subjects but also Maths and Sciences.
Which syllabus do we follow?
We follow the AQA specification for Philosophy.
How many units are there?
There are four units in total: two at AS and two at A2.
What is each unit about?
Utilitarianism: the maximisation of utility, including:
Kantian deontological ethics: what maxims can be universalised without contradiction, including:
Aristotle’s virtue ethics: the development of a good character, including:
Students must be able to critically apply the theories above to the following issues: crime and punishment, war, simulated killing (within computer games, plays, films, etc), the treatment of animals, deception and the telling of lies.
Ethical language: What is the status of ethical language?
Cognitivism: ethical language makes claims about reality which are true or false (fact-stating)
Non-cognitivism: ethical language does not make claims about reality which are true or false (fact-stating)
Dualism: the mind is distinct from the physical
The indivisibility argument for substance dualism (Descartes)
The conceivability argument for substance dualism: the logical possibility of mental substance existing without the physical (Descartes).
The ‘philosophical zombies’ argument for property dualism: the logical possibility of a physical duplicate of this world but without consciousness/qualia (Chalmers).
The ‘knowledge’/Mary argument for property dualism based on qualia (Frank Jackson).
Qualia as introspectively accessible subjective/phenomenal features of mental states (the properties of ‘what it is like’ to undergo the mental state in question)
for many qualia would be defined as the intrinsic/non-representational properties of mental states.
Materialism: the mind is not ontologically distinct from the physical.
Logical/analytical behaviourism: all statements about mental states can be analytically reduced without loss of meaning to statements about behaviour (an ‘analytic’ reduction).
Mind–brain type identity theory: all mental states are identical to brain states (‘ontological’ reduction) although ‘mental state’ and ‘brain state’ are not synonymous (so not an ‘analytic’ reduction).
Functionalism: all mental states can be reduced to functional roles which can be multiply realised.
Eliminative materialism: some or all mental states do not exist (folk-psychology is false or at least radically misleading).
How is the content assessed?
Section A: Epistemology
Section B: Philosophy of Religion
The students sit a 3 hours written paper. 80 marks are available. 100% of AS, 50% of A-level.
Section B: Philosophy of Mind
The students sit a 3 hours written paper. 100 marks are available 50% of A-level
How is the course structured?
The first two components from the AS syllabus in the first year, followed by components 3 and 4 in the A2 syllabus, studied in the second year. In each year the components are covered in the first two terms, up to the Easter break, when we embark on an intensive program of revision and examination practice.
When do I sit my exams?
Students sit their examinations in June.
Which Ashbourne teachers teach this course?
BD Hons, DipTheol (London) BSc Hons (Birmingham) Religious Studies, Mathematics and Philosophy
Michael Peat has a very broad academic background as his first degree was in Physics. Doctoral studies took him to Philadephia where he lived for a number or years and on his return he lectured for many years to undergraduates and postgraduates in Philosophy and Theology. He now teaches Philosophy and Theology at Ashbourne. Philosophy, though challenging, is a particularly popular subject. Michael is a keen chess player and along with Chris Todd runs the chess club.
Beyond A Level for Philosophy Students
This A level is a particularly good preparation for Philosophy or Law, which several of our students have gone on to study. However, Philosophy is a very well respected A Level which combines well with Arts and Humanities subjects and will benefit students aiming for courses and careers in almost every area.
Author: by Michael Lacewing
Title: Philosophy for A2
Author: by Michael Lacewing