A2 Philosophy

A Level

In Winchester

Price on request


  • Typology

    A Level

  • Location


  • Duration

    2 Years


At AS level you will study two units and take two exams, one in January and one in June. Each unit is made up of two key philosophical themes:

Important information

Government funding available




Winchester (Hampshire)
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Owens Road, SO22 6RX


On request

To take into account

5 GCSE's at A* - C including Maths and English. We strongly advise a Grade B in GCSE English due to the complexity of the texts studied and the need for advanced essay writing skills. We will, however, accept committed students with C in English. We don't expect you to have studied any Philosophy before but any relevant reading that enhances your interest in the subject would be beneficial.

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Course programme


AQA (1-2 years)

A level Philosophy introduces you to some of the classic debates in the subject. Some of the questions that we explore challenge assumptions made in other subjects that you may be considering studying at Symonds. Questions such as: How do we gain knowledge? Where does our knowledge come from? Are we born knowing anything? Or: What do we mean when we say something is morally wrong? How can we work out what to do in a moral dilemma? Is there such a thing as the right thing to do?
The two year course will develop your skills of analysis and argument. You will need to be able to express yourself well on paper and to think logically. The three examined skills are knowledge and understanding, interpretation and analysis, and evaluation. You will be examined in two written exams in the first year and a further two written papers in the second year. There is no coursework in Philosophy.
Course content
At AS level you will study two units and take two exams, one in January and one in June. Each unit is made up of two key philosophical themes:
Unit One: An Introduction to Philosophy (1)
Reason and Experience
In this topic we examine where our knowledge comes from. Is all our knowledge gained, as the Empiricists argue, through the experiences we have in the world around us or could it be the case, as the Rationalists claim, that there are some things we can know innately (from birth)?
Why should I be governed?
An introduction to Political Philosophy. We focus on the question of how we came to live in a state where we are obliged to obey the rules. Did we consent to be ruled and follow the laws? On what grounds would civil disobedience be justified?
These two topics form Unit One and are examined in January.
Unit Two: An Introduction to Philosophy (2)
The value of Art

It is clear that most of us value art (be it music, films or plays). This course explores some of the theories which attempt to account for what it is exactly about good art that we value. Do we value art because it represents the world around us? Do we value art because it expresses emotions or is the value of art wrapped up in the formal qualities of the work?

Free will and determinism

Are we really free? You may think you have chosen to read this information sheet out of your own free will; a conscious, unhindered free decision. Determinism says that given the set of conditions you find yourself in, you had absolutely no choice in the matter; your behaviour was determined and inevitable. This argument has serious implications for us making sense of our ability to make decisions and choices. It has an impact on our notions of praise and blame and punishment too.
These two topics formUnit Twoand are examined in June.
At A2 Level we explore key themes and problems in more detail:
Unit Three: Key themes in Philosophy
Epistemology and metaphysics

This course builds on the knowledge and understanding already developed in the AS Reason and Experience unit. It includes an exploration of the sceptical argument that we can know nothing. We will study arguments that attempt to refute this view and assess both sides of the debate. The course also asks whether there can be such a thing as absolute and objective knowledge. Can we know something absolutely and for certain? Or is there only a relative perspective from which we can claim to know ? We will consider both sides of the argument and decide which view is most convincing.
Moral philosophy
Are there moral truths? Can there be such a thing as an absolute â€OEright†and â€OEwrong†? Or is it all a matter of perspective? Is there no such thing as a moral truth? This course explores the alternative arguments and evaluates each position. We also look at how moral decisions are made: should we decide what to do in a moral dilemma by looking at the consequences of our behaviour alone? Or should we appeal to moral duties and principles to guide our actions? We will consider at least one practical ethical problem in our discussions, for instance abortion, euthanasia, our treatment of the environment, or animal rights.

Unit Four: Philosophical Problems

Plato's Republic
In this unit we explore a series of philosophical problems raised in a classic text. The problems link to other areas of the course and you are expected to draw on your knowledge of the text to discuss the issues in a wider, whole course based context. Plato's Republic is concerned with issues about the nature of morality, the nature of knowledge and the ideal form of political rule. We will read sections of the text and highlight the issues raised. This will form the basis of our discussion and subsequent evaluation of the arguments.
Methods of teaching
We will use a whole host of methods to assist your learning. Sometimes you will be listening to a teacher explaining a philosophical idea; sometimes you will be taking notes. On other occasions you will be working in pairs or in small groups to research a particular topic area. You may be asked to prepare a presentation to deliver to the class or to read an article and report back on the key features of the text. All your learning experiences will be designed to enable you to fully understand the material and move swiftly from assimilating new information to applying it. One of the key skills you will be developing is the ability to evaluate arguments and communicate your response effectively. Each unit is accompanied by a course booklet to enable you to access the knowledge you require efficiently. We also hope to be able to offer you the chance to attend student conferences that will be directly relevant to the exams.
Methods and patterns of assessment
Year One:
Unit One: January exam. 50% of your AS grade. 1 hour 30 minutes, two essay topics.
Unit Two: June exam. 50% of your AS grade. 1 hour 30 minutes, two essay topics.
Year Two:
Unit Three: June exam. 60% of your A2 grade. 2 hours, two essay topics.
Unit Four: June exam. 40% of your A2 grade. 1 hour 30 minutes, text based questions and essay topic.
Financial Implications
You'll need to purchase your own copy of Plato's Republic for A2 and we would strongly recommend that you buy a textbook to support the work we do in class for AS. We will give you a reading list with the details of the books we recommend. Textbooks can also be located in the Learning Resources Centre. In addition each unit is accompanied by a course booklet produced here at Symonds. In all, expect your costs to be no more than £30 per year. We hope to offer trips to relevant student conferences where appropriate, these will however, be optional. The College has a student support fund for any one who has difficulty meeting these costs.
Career possibilities
A level Philosophy develops your skills of analysis, interpretation, evaluation, and communication. You will learn to write precisely and to argue logically, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of Philosophical positions. In this respect philosophy is a subject that compliments many other areas of study including Law, Politics, History, Sociology, English, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Music. It is a highly regarded and rigorous academic subject that will be of use to a wide range of careers including Journalism, Law, Medicine, Veterinary Science, Police work, Teaching and Public Relations.

A2 Philosophy

Price on request