Departmental Aims

  • To introduce Sixth Form students to the philosophical exploration of life’s most important and challenging questions: for example, how should we live, what counts as knowledge, and how does the mental relate to the physical?
  • To teach and nurture rigorous, analytical thinking. Learners are taught to read, write and speak with precision and clarity, and to engage in lively but respectful dialogue and debate, both in and beyond the classroom
  • To prepare students for the AQA Philosophy A Level, whilst also equipping them with transferable intellectual skills to enrich their lives in the Sixth Form and beyond.

Although there is no GCSE in Philosophy, Sixth Form students will have been asking themselves philosophical questions for many years, both in and beyond their lessons. AQA Philosophy A Level enables them to articulate and develop their philosophical interests in accordance with the methods of a long standing western tradition of academic Philosophy.

Learners are taught in a small but supportive group, with one teacher overseeing their progress and development throughout the course. Each student is encouraged to develop their particular strengths and interests, often reflecting their other subject choices.

The Philosophy classroom is well situated in the PPE Faculty, adjoining the Sixth Form common room and computer suite; this facilitates close contact between students and teacher.

We work from the latest textbooks and have a wealth of additional printed and digital resources. Termly after school webinars are provided, to enable students to learn with professional philosophers, usually with A Level students from other schools and colleges.

In the summer term, we hold a Philosophy day for BMS Year 9 students, to which our Sixth Form Philosophy students make a considerable contribution. They are trained to lead groups of younger students in philosophical activities throughout the day, learning a great deal themselves in the process.

A Level Curriculum

AQA Philosophy

Year 1:

  • Moral philosophy
  • Theories of ethics including: Utilititarianism, Kantian Ethics and Virtue Ethics
  • Applied ethics including: human and non-human animals, killing (including simulated killing), and theft
  • Metaethics: is morality invented or discovered?
  • Epistemology (Theory of Knowledge)
  • What is knowledge?
  • Perception as a source of knowledge
  • Reason as a source of knowledge
  • The limits of knowledge.

Year 2:

  • Metaphysics of Mind
  • How are mental states related to physical states? Theories and arguments from Descartes to the present
  • Metaphysics of God
  • How cogent are the traditional arguments for the existence of God?
  • Ontological, teleological and cosmological arguments are explored
  • Religious language: what is the cognitive status of talk about God?

Throughout this two-year course, students read and analyse the arguments of philosophers from Plato to the present, along with commentaries and critiques of these arguments. They are encouraged to engage with these arguments in a searching and challenging way.

For anyone wishing to get a glimpse of the nature of the subject and its methods, Michael Sandel’s Harvard Justice lectures provide the ideal starting point: