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A Level

Why Study Philosophy?

Often described as a subject where you mysteriously "end up knowing less when you come out than when you went in", philosophy is an invaluable choice to make at A Level. There will be extreme focus upon developing essay-based skills, critical reasoning and analytical skills, as well as frequent debates in-class about various standpoints.

Philosophy, according to the Trinity College website, is one of the most highly regarded Arts' A Levels - belonging to the same category as the likes of Modern Languages, English Literature and History. So not only will you be acquiring beneficial skills for university from the course, but you'll also be aware of the recognised difficulty of such a course also.

If you enjoy exploring and tackling deep issues such as morality, knowledge, religion, and the mind, then this is the ideal course for you.

Course Structure

This applies to A Level Philosophy AQA 7172 from September 2017 (not Philosophy & Ethics).

Paper 1: Epistemology & Moral Philosophy (100 marks). 1x 3 mark, 2x 5 mark, 1x 12 mark and 1x 25 mark for each of the 2 sections.


  • Defining knowledge - e.g. propositional, acquaintance.
  • Tripartite view of knowledge - e.g. justified, true belief.
  • Perception - e.g. direct & indirect realism.
  • Reason - e.g. innatism.
  • Limits of knowledge - e.g. Descartes' scepticism.

Moral Philosophy:

  • Normative ethics - e.g. utilitarianism, deontology.
  • Applied ethics - e.g. applying deontology to theft.
  • Meta-ethics - e.g. moral realism and anti-realism.

Paper 2: Metaphysics of God & the mind (100 marks). 1x 3 mark, 2x 5 mark, 1x 12 mark and 1x 25 mark for each of the 2 sections.

Metaphysics of God:

  • Arguments for God's existence - e.g. ontological, cosmological.
  • Nature of God - e.g. immanence, omnipotence.
  • Religious language - e.g. falsification, eschatalogical verification.

Metaphysics of the mind:

  • What do we mean by the mind? - e.g. qualia, intentionality.
  • Dualist theories - e.g. substance dualism.
  • Physicalist theories - e.g. eliminative materialism
  • Functionalism - e.g. functional duplicates.

Study Help



International Baccalaureate

For IB students studying philosophy, all students will cover the core theme of 'Being Human'. Out of the following options, SL students must choose one theme and HL students two themes from below.


  • Aesthetics
  • Epistemology
  • Ethics
  • Philosophy & Contemporary Society
  • Philosophy of religion
  • Philosophy of science
  • Political philosophy

Alongside this students must study one text from the below.


  • The Bhagavad Gita
  • The Analects by Confucius
  • Tao Te Ching by Lao Tazu
  • The Republic, Books IV-IX by Plato
  • Meditations by Descartes
  • Second Treatise on Government by Locke
  • On Liberty by Mill
  • The Genealogy of Morals by Nietzsche
  • The Problems of Philosophy by Russell
  • The Human Condition by Arendt
  • The Ethics of Ambiguity by de Beauvoir
  • The Ethics of Authenticity by Taylor

For an internal assessment, both SL and HL students must produce a philosophical analysis of a non-philosophical stimulus such as a poem, film scene, or painting. HL students are also expected to undertake a deeper exploration of the nature, function, meaning and methodology of philosophy than SL students.

Scottish Higher

Philosophy is only available to Scottish students at Higher level, not Standard. The course consists of three mandatory units, of which there is one choice available.


  • Philosophy: Arguments in Action
  • Philosophy: Arguments and Doubt OR Philosophy: Arguments and Doubt with a Scottish context.
  • Philosophy: Moral Philosophy

Unit Outcomes:

  • Philosophy: Arguments in Action - develops learners’ ability to analyse and evaluate arguments. Learners will develop knowledge and understanding of argument structure, philosophical techniques and errors in reasoning.
  • Philosophy: Arguments and Doubt - develops learners’ ability to analyse and evaluate theories of knowledge. Learners will develop knowledge and understanding of rationalism and empiricism.
  • Philosophy: Moral Philosophy -develops learners’ ability to analyse and evaluate moral theories. Learners will develop knowledge and understanding of a key moral philosophical theory.


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