Philosophy and Belief

Philosophy starts with doubt, questioning and wonder – we look at the most profound questions of human existence, What is the Universe made of? What really matters, and how, and why? What is knowledge and how do we get it? What, if anything, is good? In doing so, we look at the answers that different philosophers have given across the centuries, from Plato and Aristotle to Jesus and Buddha, finishing with the challenge to use our freedom given by the European existentialists Kierkegaard, Sartre and Camus. Students debate, argue and discuss, share their ideas and challenge each other, as well as reading some of the most important ideas that philosophers have contributed.

It is a statutory right for parents to withdraw their children from this subject.

The aim of this department is to help our pupils to become thoughtful and reflective thinkers who are secure in their own views, opinions and beliefs and assured in their ability to express these. Throughout their study of this subject our pupils will be taught the skills of critical analysis and argument which will be built upon and developed year on year.

Throughout Years 7, 8 and 9 students will study a variety of philosophical and religious themes, both Eastern and Western, and ancient and modern. We introduce the questions of the origins of the universe, miracles, what is the mind and the self and we examine, criticise and question different accounts of life after death. Year 7 critically consider religious and historical claims about Jesus and whether the Resurrection was real. Year 8 look at cosmology and contrast science and religion, and Year 9 study epistemology, reflect on the limits of their own knowledge, study Philosophy of Science and learn the classical philosophy of Plato and Aristotle.

Year 10 have started to study a History of Idea programme, majoring in Philosophy – they will listen to complex and intellectually demanding lectures on a wide sweep of philosophical themes, from classical to the present day, and work in seminar-like groups on the material they have studied, undertaking complex thought that emulates Sixth Form level study.

Philosophy and Ethics at KS5

The subject of Philosophy and Ethics is an extremely popular choice for students’ Sixth Form studies, with over 70 students studying it in Years 12 and 13.  It is a course which places an emphasis on developing a student’s problem solving and creative abilities, as well as providing a forum for the debate of questions that have vexed mankind for centuries.  The subject can be particularly useful for building a student’s powers of analysis and evaluation, creativity and the ability to explore challenging and demanding concepts.  Everyone who takes the course can make a valuable contribution, as Philosophy is very much about unlocking and understanding the human experience and condition. Needless to say, it is an exacting and academically rigorous course.

Some of the topics that are studied are: Plato’s Cave and the Theory of the Forms, Descartes’ methodological doubt, and various philosophical arguments for the existence of God, as well as some critiques of religion, such as Freud’s Primal Horde Theory. In Ethics we examine the nature and role of Ethics, whether ‘morality’ exists in any objective sense and then we consider ethical frameworks and theories such as Utilitarianism. We go on to consider the impact of free will and determinism on human existence and on Ethics in particular. In essence we wish to give our students a knowledge of some of the ideas that have shaped the world in which we live.

We follow the Cambridge Pre-U Philosophy and Theology syllabus throughout Years 12 and 13, with examination at the end of Year 13. We select modules relating closely to Philosophy and Ethics. The Pre-U examination has full A level equivalency, and also allows the possibility of achieving above A*. It is widely recognised and lauded as academically rigorous by the most prestigious universities. The course is taken by subject specialists in Epistemology, Moral Philosophy and the Philosophy of Religion.  Approximately 80% of our students achieve Grade C (or the Pre-U equivalent thereof) or above at the end of Year 13, with approximately 40-50% of these being A or A*.