Studying Religion and Philosophy at A Level requires depth of thinking and critical analysis. Girls ask questions and test out arguments.  

Is there a God? What is God? What is reality? What is mind? Do souls exist? Do miracles happen? Can we know anything beyond the physical world? Is there life after death? Why is there suffering in the world? What are religious experiences? What makes something right or wrong? What is right and wrong in abortion, euthanasia, genetic engineering, reproduction and embryo research? What is right and wrong in environmental ethics, sex, relationships, war, peace and justice? Are humans free? Are we responsible for our actions? What is conscience?

The course raises questions from the Philosophy of Religion that cut to the heart of what it is to exist as a human being, whilst the study of Ethics questions how we should live a good life. The material is often topical, and deeply relevant to us as individuals. The final component of Development in Religious Thought offers an opportunity to look at one religion in depth. Not only in terms of its key beliefs and practices, but also in terms of how it has shaped history, society and the individual’s sense of identity.

In lessons we discuss and debate with each other as well as learning analytical and critical thinking skills. Classes usually have a diversity of beliefs and opinions, so there is plenty of practice to be had. We work as a whole group, or in pairs to explore and map the topics, and then use a variety of ways to argue and evaluate.

Studying Philosophy at IB is very much concerned with ‘doing Philosophy’ rather than simply learning about it.

Could a robot ever be ‘human’? what makes me, me? Are we as persons, born or made? What is the self? What is consciousness? What is the basic state of human beings?  How should we live? Do we need rules? What role does/should equality play in theories of justice? Is strict equality impossible? Are human rights inalienable and universal? Do non-human animals have rights? Do non-living things have rights? What are morals? What makes something right or wrong? What is right and wrong in abortion, euthanasia, genetic engineering, reproduction and embryo research?

This is a subject for thinkers and enquirers and the core topic, Being Human, is a good starting point as students begin by asking about their own nature. The optional topics that the girls can study are Political Philosophy and Ethics, so there is plenty to debate about. At the same time, all of the course relates to real life and our experience of it, making it topical and relevant to individuals.

In lessons there is a lot of discussion and students are encouraged to explore ideas, and develop their own opinions. We learn about philosophical methods, offer presentations and learn how to analyse and interpret texts and other stimuli.

In the autumn term most of the A Level and IB Philosophy students attend an evening seminar course run by the Royal Institute of Philosophy at the Bath Literary and Scientific Institution. This gives them an opportunity to encounter material that is not directly related to their courses of study, to meet and discuss with sixth formers from other schools, and to get a taste of Philosophy at University.

This is a fascinating course, which offers challenge, insight and great deal of critical thought development, which supports the ongoing study of so many areas of further education.

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