Shrewsbury School

Philosophy & Theology in the Sixth Form

The following information is taken from our document 'The Sixth Form and Beyond', which is updated each December. It can be downloaded as a pdf file.


This highly-regarded and well-established Pre-U course will very much appeal to those who want to deepen their interest in Philosophy, Theology, Ethics, and the history and nature of ideas.  The course requires students to take an enquiring, academic and reflective approach, thinking rigorously about some fundamental issues of truth and the human understanding of our world and our lives.  It will appeal to those who want to ‘dig a little deeper’, who are intrigued by issues of language, evidence, logic, and culture.

As befits a linear course, the three exams are taken at the end of the Upper Sixth, and they all require essay-style responses of various lengths.

Paper 1    Introduction to Philosophy and Theology

  • Foundational debates in Philosophy (e.g. Plato and Forms, Aristotle and Empiricism)
  • Foundational debates in Epistemology – Rationalism and Empiricism
  • Ethics – Absolutism/Relativism, Divine Command Theory
  • The Nature of Belief – Rationalism/Fideism, Revelation, Sacred Texts
  • Conscience, Free Will and Determinism

Paper 2     Philosophy of Religion

  • Arguments for the Existence of God – Design, Cosmology, Ontological, Moral
  • Religious Experience – Varieties, Miracles, Psychology, Sociology
  • Science, Evil, Life after Death – Science/origins, the Problem of Evil, Body and Soul
  • Two texts – John Polkinghorne, Science and Creation; The Search for Understanding   
    John Hick, Evil and the God of Love

Paper 3    Ethics

Christian Ethics – Sermon on the Mount, Paul/Romans, Natural Law, Situation Ethics
Ethical Theories – Utilitarianism, Kant, Virtue Ethics, Existentialism
Applied Ethics – War & Peace, Abortion and Euthanasia, Embryo Research/Genetics, Environmental Ethics, Business Ethics
Two texts – John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism (incl. Essay on Bentham), Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism and Humanism

All three papers are assessed by a written exam with a choice of questions.

(GCSE in RS is helpful but not a prerequisite for studying this subject at A Level; one’s academic ambitions and personal interest in the topics are much more important.)

The course encourages candidates to develop the critical, literary and evaluative skills that are central to a wide range of degrees.  These include Law, English and History, as well as the more obvious Theology, Philosophy and Psychology.  Interestingly, some of our most able students have had significant strengths in Mathematics or the Sciences; clarity, logic and precision of thought are as helpful in this subject as curiosity for, and sympathy with, the human condition.

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