My name is Mike Fogg and I’m the course leader for Philosophy A Level. I’m looking forward to welcoming you to the department in person at the beginning of the academic year, but before then, I’d like you to complete a series of tasks and activities in preparation for the A Level course.
Many of you won’t have studied Philosophy as a separate subject before, so we’re really keen you have a good understanding of what the course is about before you start. These tasks have been designed with that in mind and are for you to complete independently at home over the coming months. There’ll be the chance to discuss what you’ve learnt when you start at College in September.
The tasks will be released here, in three phases (see table below) and should be completed by Choices Day on 1 September 2021. Please throw yourself into them and above all enjoy them!
Please note, some Course Leaders (for example for Music) may release their tasks earlier, as they may form part of the College’s audition process. If this applies to you, you’ll be notified separately.
New Starters Course Tasks and Activities
To be completed by
Explore your Subject
Explore your Subject
Introducing Philosophy – three philosophical questions
a highly regarded academic subject, held in the greatest esteem by the top
universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge. It’s relevant to numerous different
areas of study from Law and Politics, to History and Mathematics. Indeed, some
of the greatest thinkers in human history have studied Philosophy, including
Einstein and Aristotle. However, Philosophy is not simply a way of gaining
access to the top universities, or honing one’s reasoning skills. You should
choose Philosophy because you find it exciting and interesting.
introduction to some of the topics studies in Philosophy, we’d like you to
choose one of the questions below:
One: The existence of God
existence of so much pain and suffering in the world show that an all-powerful,
all-knowing, all-loving God does not exist? If He was all-powerful, then He
could stop our suffering. If He was all-knowing, then He would know we were
suffering. And if He was all-loving, then He would not want us to suffer. Yet
there is so much suffering in the world. Arguably, the existence of war,
famine, disease and death, show that God cannot exist.
Watch the following trailer for the film 1917, which depicts scenes from World War 1, when around 40 million people died.
answer the following question, including your response to the above issues:
Does the existence of so much pain and suffering in the world, show that God does not exist?
Question Two: Knowledge
Can you really know anything for certain? You undoubtedly believe that there is a world outside of your own mind. But can you know this for sure? You could only know that there is a world outside of your mind if you know that you are awake. But you could be having a vivid dream right now!
Watch the following clip from the film Inception, where one of the central characters, Ariadne, realises that she’s currently dreaming.
answer the following question, including your response to the issues raised
Is it possible to prove that you are currently awake? If not, thenwhat can you know, if anything?
Question Three: Ethics
kill animals because we like the taste of their flesh? It’s accepted by
virtually everyone that animals can feel pain and pleasure. And most people in
Western countries don’t need to eat meat to survive. There are plenty of
healthy substitutes which provide us with protein, like Quorn, falafel and
different pulses. Indeed, many people adopt a vegetarian life-style, because
they think it is healthier. Is it right, therefore, that people in rich Western
countries should eat meat?
Watch Joaquin Phoenix’s impassioned speech concerning animal welfare, when he won the Oscar for his role as the Joker.
answer the following question, including your response to the issues raised in
the above paragraph.
Should animals be killed because we enjoy eating them? What do you think?
There are some excellent introductions to philosophical
issues on the Wireless Philosophy YouTube page:
The most relevant material for the first year of the Philosophy
A Level course is in the sections on ‘Introduction to Philosophy of Religion’
and ‘Introduction to Epistemology’ (you can find these in the Introductory
Series by Topic under the Playlists tab.)
TASK Using a
note-taking technique such as mind mapping or Cornell notes, please create a
summary page for each of the videos.
To explore these and other topics in more detail, go to the Philosophy Bites website which has a downloadable introduction to Philosophy as well as hundreds of downloadable podcasts:
Philosophers argue about the deepest questions that humans face, like:
life have a meaning or purpose?
should we live?
did the universe come from?
we prove God’s existence?
They attempt to answer these questions by producing arguments. An argument is made up of one or more reasons (called premises), which attempt to convince someone of the truth of a conclusion. The premises, or reasons, are bits of evidence which suggest that the conclusion is true. A conclusion could be any claim that you want to prove. For instance, I might want to prove the conclusion that ‘Eating meat is wrong’.
So, I would need to produce reasons or premises:
Premise 1 – Eating meat causes unnecessary
harm to animals.
Premise 2 – It is wrong to cause unnecessary
harm to others.
Conclusion – Therefore, eating meat is wrong.
the reasons or premises are ‘evidence’ offered in support of the conclusion. We might even see
arguments as a bit like shopping lists, such as in the following example:
Premise 1: Because he has no sense of personal hygiene
Premise 2: Because he lacks drive, motivation, or any ambition
Premise 3: Because he’s very negative about most things
Premise 4: Because he puts me down
Premise 5: Because he has strong feelings about his ex
Conclusion: Therefore, he’s not good boyfriend material.
Task 1: Watch the
clip below, which explains what an argument is and how to structure one.
Task 2: Produce premises
(reasons or bits of evidence) to support the following four conclusions: (Note, before you begin each one, decide
which conclusion you wish to support; for instance, in the first argument below,
you could support either the view that ‘social media platforms have a negative
impact on society’ or the opposing view that they ‘do not have a
negative impact on society’. You choose.)
a) Impact of social media on
Therefore, social media platforms like Snapchat, Facebook and twitter have/do
not have a negative impact on society.
b) The existence of God
Therefore, God exists/does not exist.
c) The death penalty
Therefore, the death penalty should/should not be brought back for serious
d) Free university education
Therefore, university education should/should not be free.
there are no limits on the number of premises that an argument can have. Some
arguments may have one premise, while others may have hundreds.
Please keep a note of your premises so we can discuss them