A level Philosophy Distance Learning Course - Online

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  • Academic title
    AS +A2 = A level in Philosophy. Both AS and A2 level courses and examinations must be successfully completed to gain a full A level.
  • Course description

    Course summaryThis course has been designed to enable students to gain a thorough grounding in key philosophical concepts, themes, texts and techniques. Students will develop a range of transferable skills which can be applied far beyond the study of Philosophy.

    At AS level, the course concentrates on a number of key philosophical themes, intended to provide students with a broad introduction to Philosophy.

    At A2, students will specialise further, selecting two themes to study in depth and focusing on philosophical problems through the study of a key text.

    This course allows you to study at your own pace, and is suitable to be studied by all students irrespective of age, creed, religion or gender.

    Read on to find out more about our A Level Philosophy distance learning course and how you can learn with our amazing materials and online support.

    Course ContentAn outline of what is offered in our A Level Philosophy course:

    AS LevelPHIL1Epistemology: Reason and ExperienceTopics include:
    • Mind as a tabula rasa
    • The limits of a posteriori knowledge
    • Ideas without experience
    • The extent of a priori knowledge
    • Conceptual schemes

    In this unit you will learn…

    The strengths and weaknesses of empiricism, the view that all our ideas derive from experience

    How much knowledge about the world can be grounded in or justified through experience

    The strengths and weaknesses of rationalism, the theory that all significant knowledge can be derived from reason alone

    The doctrine of innate ideas and its philosophical significance

    The view that experience is only intelligible as it is, because it presents sensation through a particular conceptual scheme or framework

    The difference between deductive and inductive arguments, necessary and contingent truths, and analytic and synthetic truths

    Mind and Metaphysics: PersonsTopics include:
    • Persons introduced
    • The concept “person”
    • The limits of personhood
    • Personal identity
    • Personal survival

    In this unit you will learn…

    The characteristics associated with personhood and the distinction between humans and persons

    The nature of the concept “person” and degrees of personhood; potential persons, ex-persons and diminished persons

    The limits of personhood; whether non human animals or complex machines possess any of the characteristics of persons, and to what extent

    Whether physical or psychological continuity are necessary or sufficient conditions for personal identity through time

    An alternative way of talking about a person’s existence through time; personal survival, and the strengths and weaknesses of this approach

    Politics and Religion: why should I be governed?
    Topics include:

    • The state of nature
    • From state of nature to governmental state
    • Political obligation and consent
    • Power, legitimacy and dissent
    • Civil disobedience

    In this unit you will learn…

    Two different views on what mankind’s condition would be like in a ‘state of nature’, in the absence of a central government

    Why it might be rational to submit to a central authority; the distinction between individual and collective rationality, and between positive and negative liberty

    The view that political obligation comes from consent, and the concepts of hypothetical and tacit consent

    The concepts of power, authority and legitimacy, and whether popular approval is a requirement for a legitimate state

    Whether a guaranteed right to dissent is necessary for us to be politically obligated

    The aims and requirements of civil disobedience and direct action, and under what circumstances they are justified


    Epistemology: Knowledge of the External WorldTopics include:
    • Perception and the external world
    • Representative realism
    • Introducing idealism
    • Should we be idealists?
    • Realism revisited

    In this unit you will learn…

    The common sense view of how the world is experienced, and sceptical arguments against it

    The distinction between primary and secondary qualities

    The strengths and weaknesses of the secondary quality thesis and sense data theory

    The strength and weaknesses of idealism, the theory that there is no world outside our perception of it

    A philosophical reworking of the common sense view, and whether it can overcome the sceptic

    Mind and Metaphysics: Free Will and Determinism
    • Introducing determinism
    • Humans and determinism
    • What is free will?
    • Could free will and determinism be compatible?
    • Implications of determinism

    In this unit you will learn…

    Arguments in favour of the view that the world is determined by existing sets of conditions and the laws of nature.

    How determinism fits with human action, the view that actions are pre-determined by environment and inheritance, and the view that free will is an illusion

    The strengths and weaknesses of the view that free will requires indeterminism, and that human consciousness exists outside the natural causal chain

    The strengths and weaknesses of the view that free will is compatible with determinism through causally determined voluntary actions

    The moral implications of determinism, whether responsibility, praise and blame could make sense in a deterministic world, libertarian and compatibility responses

    The difference between reasons and causes; action and bodily movement; actions and events

    Politics and Religion: God and the WorldTopics include:
    • Arguments for design
    • Arguments from design
    • The problem of evil
    • Responses to the problem
    • The religious point of view

    In this unit you will learn…

    The view that the natural world shows evidence of intelligent design in its apparent order and purpose

    Arguments in favour of the view that the apparent design of the natural world implies an omnipotent designer; arguments from analogy, probability, cause and effect, and inference to the best explanation

    The problem of evil; the view that the presence of evil in the world is inconsistent with the idea of an all powerful, benevolent creator; the distinction between moral and natural evil

    Several attempts to deal with the problem of evil, on the basis of; free will, the afterlife, the best of all possible worlds

    The idea that the world can accommodate multiple different perspectives, and the religious point of view is just one of them

    Whether the religious ‘hypothesis’ can be properly described as such; scientific belief distinguished from religious belief

    PHIL 3
    Key Themes in Philosophy: Political Philosophy• Human nature
    • Competing views of the state
    • What is liberty?
    • Why is liberty valuable?
    • What are rights?
    • Problems of rights
    • What is justice?
    • Justice and redistribution
    • Nation states

    In this unit you will learn…

    What a number of different philosophers think about human nature, and the implications of these views on political philosophy

    Several different accounts of what the state is for, and arguments for dissolution of the state as we know it

    How freedom can be defined both positively and negatively, and how it can be interpreted by competing political ideologies

    What makes freedom valuable, ways in which it might be promoted and defended, and the relationship between liberty and the law

    How we can be said to have rights, the notions of natural and positive rights, and how human rights can be grounded

    Problems with the extent and application of rights, ways in which conflicts between rights and social utility might be resolved, and the relationship between rights, liberty, morality and the law

    What constitutes various types of justice, including social, economic and distributive justice

    Different accounts of the just distribution of goods in a society, in terms of desert, need and equality, how redistribution might be justified, and the relationship between distributive justice, liberty and rights

    How distribution concepts might be applied to nation states, and the relationships between states, and whether distributive justice applies on a global scale

    How liberty relates to nationalism and national sentiment, and whether cross-border movement is just

    Whether rights apply to groups and nations as a whole, for example, the right to self determination

    Key Themes in Philosophy: Philosophy of Mind
    • Introducing dualism
    • Problems with dualism
    • Dualist solutions, and further problems
    • Reductive accounts of mind
    • Identity theory
    • Functionalism
    • Can consciousness be eliminated
    • Hard problems of consciousness
    • Non-reductive materialism
    • Dualism returns

    In this unit you will learn…

    Arguments for and against the Cartesian account of mind and body; substance dualism

    The philosophical problems that this theory gives rise to; the problem of other minds and the problem of mind-body interaction

    Proposed solutions to these problems, and Wittgenstein’s critique of the Cartesian approach

    Four different attempts to reduce consciousness to the physical world; the view that mental statements can be reduced to statements about behaviour; the view that the mind can be ontologically reduced to physical states of the brain; attempts to account for the mind in terms of its functions; attempts to eliminate the mind and ‘folk psychology’ from the intellectual discourse

    General arguments in favour of reductionism, including dissolution of the other minds and mind-body problems, and the non-mysteriousness of the mental

    General arguments against reductionism, appealing to qualia and intentionality

    The ‘hard problem of consciousness’, the possibility of philosophical zombie and the intelligence of artificial intelligence

    Non-reductive forms of materialism and John Searle’s biological naturalism

    The strengths and weaknesses of property dualism and the difficulty of accounting for psycho-physical causation


    • Introducing the Meditations
    • The method of doubt and its purpose
    • Inducing doubt
    • The Cogito
    • Clear and distinct ideas
    • The first proof of God
    • The Cartesian circle
    • Essential natures
    • Removing scepticism
    • Mind and body
    • Dualistic problems

    In this unit you will learn…

    The best way to approach the Meditations, how to read it and its historical background

    Several arguments to induce exaggerated doubt about one’s beliefs, and the purpose of the sceptical method

    The outcome of the arguments from doubt; total deception and absolute certainty; the Cogito and the implications of this conclusion

    The doctrine of clear and distinct ideas and their importance for the Cartesian project

    Several proofs of God’s existence, and objections to these proofs; the ontological argument and the Cartesian circle

    The doctrine of essential properties, and how it underpins the ontological argument and Cartesian dualism

    Descartes’ distinction between intellect and imagination, the proof of material things and how scepticism is ultimately overcome

    How Descartes argues for the view that mind and body are distinct substances and objections to these arguments

    The question of mind-body interdependence and the ‘intermingling’ thesis

    Summary of Assessments

    Unit 1: PHIL1 – An Introduction to Philosophy 1• 50% of AS Level
    • 25% of A Level
    • Written paper: 1 hour 30 minutes
    • 90 marks
    • Students must answer the compulsory question on reason and experience and one other question.

    Unit 2:PHIL2 – An Introduction to Philosophy 2• 50% of AS Level
    • 25% of A Level
    • Written paper: 1 hour 30 minutes
    • 90 marks
    • Students must answer two questions

    Unit 3: PHIL3 – Key Themes in Philosophy
    • 30% of A Level
    • Written paper: 2 hours
    • 100 marks
    • Students  must answer two questions from two different sections (i.e. on two themes).

    Unit 4: PHIL4 – Philosophical Problems• 20 % of A Level
    • Written paper: 1 hour 30 minutes
    • 60 marks
    • Students must choose one section and answer the compulsory question and one essay question.

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