Should you eat an alien? What is the relationship between the mental and the physical? What is it to be free? Our approach to Philosophy at MCS foregrounds the questions themselves.
It’s sometimes mistakenly said that in Philosophy you can say whatever you want, as long as you can argue for it. The problem with this characterisation is that what we might want to say and what can be coherently argued for often don’t coincide, so it’s mistaken because it puts the relationship between our thinking and our beliefs backwards: In fact, part of the fun of studying Philosophy is that it can reveal to us the surprising implications of our beliefs, and this confronts us with the awkward question of which of our beliefs we ought to keep and which we should reject.
At MCS, Philosophy is taught in the Sixth Form. Younger pupils encounter Philosophy through our Lilium programme and are invited to join the Philosophy Society.
“The unexamined life is not worth living”Socrates
Pupils in Upper Fourth encounter Philosophy through the ‘Thinking Skills’ component of the Lilium programme. The focus here is on learning how to formulate and assess arguments, ranging over questions of metaphysics (When does an aggregate of parts constitute an object?) to ethics (Under what circumstances would it be morally permissible to eat an alien?). Part of the aim here is to allow pupils to see how their answers to apparently abstract questions can inform their thinking about more concrete and familiar ones.
The A-level Philosophy course tackles the ‘Big Questions’ head-on: The Lower Sixth combines Epistemology – the study of knowledge and justification – and Philosophy of Religion – including the concept of God, arguments for and against God’s existence, and the nature of religious language. In the Upper Sixth we turn to the relationship between mind and body, and in Moral Philosophy engage with theories of good action and questions about the existence of moral truths alongside very practical issues like the permissibility of simulated killing or eating animals.
Lessons are discursive, with a focus on the exchange and evaluation of arguments. This makes for robust debate, the ultimate aim of which is for pupils to develop their own, informed view.
Refer to the Sixth Form Curriculum guide for a more detailed breakdown of the A-Level Philosophy programme.
If you are thinking about studying Philosophy in the Sixth Form at MCS, you might want to start reading around the subject before you join. Our Study Preparation guides are a useful tool, detailing further reading around key topics.
There is a broad extra-curricular programme focused on enriching and extending pupils’ engagement with philosophy.
Trips are arranged for members of Philosophy Society to local lectures and events, including at local schools and the University. A-level philosophers enjoy an annual trip to a pupil conference in London. This provides an opportunity to extend their understanding of some familiar issues while introducing them to others.