Why Philosophy of Religion and Ethics?
There are so many important questions and decisions we must make in life. There are so many different ways of understanding the world and our place within it. For thousands of years people have tried to make sense of it all. What is life all about? Why is there evil in the world? Is euthanasia wrong? When is it right to go to war?
If you value discussion and debate, if you are fascinated by life’s mysteries, then this is the course for you.
Are there any recommendations for entry to the course?
Candidates need to obtain a grade 6 or above in GCSE English to take this option. A GCSE in Religious Studies puts you at a slight advantage but is not a requirement.
What will I study?
Unit 1. Epistemology
The meaning and definition of knowledge – is it ‘justified true belief’ (the tripartite view) or is there a better alternative (Zabzebski)?
Perception as a source of knowledge: Can we trust our senses? Different theories including Direct Realism, Indirect Realism (Locke and Russell) and Idealism (Berkeley)
Reason as a source of knowledge: How do we gain knowledge? Innatism (Plato), Rationalism (Descartes and Leibniz) and Empiricism (Hume)
The limits of knowledge: Can we know anything with certainty? Local and global scepticism and different response including Descartes three waves of doubt.
Unit 2. Moral Philosophy
Normative ethical theories: The meaning of good, bad, right, wrong within three ethical approaches (Utilitarianism, Kantian deontological ethics and Aristotelian virtue ethics).
Similarities and differences across the three approaches
Applied ethics (stealing, simulated killing, eating animals and telling lies)
Meta-ethics (the origins of moral principles and the distinction between cognitivism and non-cognitivism about ethical language)
Unit 3. Metaphysics of God
The nature and concept of ‘God’ including arguments for the incoherence of God.
Arguments relating to the existence of God (Ontological arguments, Teleological arguments, Cosmological arguments, the Problem of Evil)
Unit 4. Metaphysics of mind
What do we mean by ‘mind’? What are qualia and what is intentionality?
Dualist theories: Is mind different to matter? Substance Dualism and Property Dualism.
Physicalist Theories: Is mind is a feature of matter? Physicalism, Mind-Brain Type Identity Theory and Eliminative Materialism.
Functionalism: Are mental states expressions of functional roles?
How will I be assessed?
The course is assessed through written examination using both short answers and longer essays.
What can study of this subject lead to?
Studying philosophy can make a significant contribution to any job that requires you to think clearly and rigorously. The city firms, banks, management consultancies, chartered accountants - are enthusiastic about people who have studied philosophy because students of philosophy have developed the skill of thinking clearly. Philosophy students also go into law, politics, medicine and the civil service. Journalism and advertising are also a logical career path.