Philosophy & Religion
Why Study Philosophy and Religion?
As a Woodard school, the King's philosophy and religion department is a respected academic department and is regarded as central to the Woodard vision - an awareness of the reality of spirituality as a fundamental human characteristic. Not only that, the absolute necessity of tolerance and mutual respect, based on knowledge and understanding, in our multi-faith society. All pupils study this subject in a non-judgmental, open and vibrant context. It is also an increasingly popular option at A level.
Face to Faith
All pupils follow the Face to Faith programme of philosophy and religion for two years. The Woodard Corporation endorses this programme as an excellent preparation for life in a multi-faith world. The programme brings our pupils together with young people from all over the world using digital technology. Young people of different religions and cultures learn directly with, from and about each other.
Face to Faith prepares students for global citizenship in the 21st century. Through facilitated dialogue and the "community of enquiry" method, students practise the key skills of conflict negotiation and resolution so that they are able to hold meaningful and respectful inter-faith discussions – even if their views diverge. Using video-conferencing facilities and a secure online community, pupils work together to investigate specific global issues such as the environment, health, art, poverty and wealth; discuss a range of opinions, values and beliefs, and explore the reasons for similar and different world views.
Face to Faith can connect pupils at King's with schools as far afield as Australia, Canada, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, Philippines, Singapore, UAE and the US.
The Face to Faith programme is accredited by the International GCSE, offered in 140 countries by Cambridge Assessment and is recognised by the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme.
Most people have the same beliefs and opinions as those around them. Everybody has a philosophy but not everyone has a good philosophy, and few have one that they have chosen for themselves. As the philosopher Bertrand Russell said, ‘Most people would rather die than think. In fact most people do.’
During the study of this A level, you will learn that merely holding an opinion is not good enough. Hitler had opinions. Islamic State has opinions. You will also learn that tolerance is insufficient as a guiding principle for life. There are many things we ought not to tolerate: slavery, racism, sexism, terrorism, genocide. Commitment to an unexamined set of opinions and tolerance of every other unexamined set of opinions will not get us very far if we want to become deep thinkers and live good lives. As Socrates said, ‘An unexamined life is not worth living.’
The aim of this course is to turn you into a deep thinker, critically aware not just of the world around you, but of the world of ideas that serve as its foundation. We aim above all else to make you an interesting conversationalist, able to talk about and share ideas. Is it necessary to say that every employer values highly those who can think well and share ideas? Or that University life will be so much more rewarding if you learn to think at A level? To be the best you can be – whether that is a lawyer, doctor, business leader or academic – you need to discipline the mind and train in philosophy.
It takes courage to think really deeply, so this course is not for everyone. But it may well be for you.
The way you think will influence the choices you make. Both parts of the course therefore include a study of how we think (philosophy) and what we ought to do (ethics).
The practical side of philosophy is found in a study of ethics. How ought you to behave, how should you live? This part of the course teaches pupils to identify the way a worldview impacts upon ethical thinking. Evolution teaches that we are ‘naked apes’, so is the law of the jungle all we have in terms of ethics? That is certainly one way of thinking about ethics, but most thinkers have not thought this conducive to civilised life. So, is ethics in any sense universal or factual? Or are decisions always perspectival, personal and relative? Formal study of ethics teaches pupils to easily recognise which ethical framework is being used in an argument. This empowers them to critique the value of an argument by questioning the underlying assumptions.
Some of the topics covered are:
Free Will and Moral Decision Making
Normative ethical theories (like Situation Ethics and Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics)
Applying ethical theories to issues of theft and lying
Applying ethical theories to issues of human life and death (abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment)
Applying ethical theories to issues of non-human life and death
Introduction to meta-ethics: the meaning of right and wrong
Pupils are given lesson notes for each area of the course in order that lesson time can be well used. Assessment is through two equally weighted, three-hour examinations at the end of the course.
Philosophers have traditionally cut their philosophical teeth on the big questions: Where did we come from? Does life have any purpose or meaning? Is there a God? Each of these questions is studied in depth at A level and in the process pupils get a framework for their thoughts so that they can easily identify and question the working assumptions of any contribution to these debates. Post-modernism, atheism and aesthetics are covered as well as a basic introduction to logic (inductive and deductive arguments, a priori and a posteriori evidence), epistemology (how do we know anything?) and ontology (what came first, chicken or egg?).
Some of the topics covered are:
Arguments for the Existence of God (Design, Ontological, Cosmological)
Evil and Suffering
Self and Life after Death
Christianity and Science
Christianity, gender and sexuality
Symposiums in ancient Greece were places where people could eat, drink and discuss ideas together. Although some discussions were casual, many were a source of real debate and would often feature daring thinkers and controversial subjects, trying to solve the answers to our deepest questions through the proliferation of ideas.
Among its aims are:
- To raise the profile of Philosophy and Religion regionally and nationally.
- To advance professional relationships in schools, universities and interfaith organisations.
- To strengthen the distinctive contribution of the South West to the national field of Philosophy and Religion.
These aims are currently being met through an annual meeting where members come together to dialogue through the medium of debate or lecture. We have in our membership teachers, researchers, students, chaplains, and other interested parties. Some institutions associated with the Symposium include: the University of Exeter, Southampton University, the Canford Group of schools, the Woodard group, and several others schools, colleges and Higher Education institutions across the South West.
The Symposium was founded in 2009 by Julie Arliss and Jarrett Wilson, and is indebted to the patronage of Professor Keith Ward (Regius professor Emeritus of Christ Church Oxford) and the Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt. Rev Peter Price. Previous speakers to the Symposium include Julian Baggini, Roger Trigg and Stephen Law.
King's College kindly sponsors and plays host to the Symposium, and meetings are held in the historic Woodard Room. Members can invite guests to events and also recommend them for membership. If you have not yet been invited to join and would like to become involved please email Jarrett Wilson at Jarrett_Wilson@hotmail.com.
Father Mark Smith
Father Mark Smith is our Chaplain and he is a full-time member of staff who lives with his family on the school campus. The Chaplaincy is regarded as a vital touchstone for everything that happens at King's and, as a Woodard School, the role of the Chaplain is an incarnational one - reminding the school community of the loving presence of God permeating all we do.
The Chaplain teaches all pupils for at least three years and interacts with them formally and informally in a wide range of other ways. Some examples include:
- Confirmation classes
- Friday afternoons working in the school mini-farm which is run by the Chaplain
- The Philosothon – a philosophy competition discussing the 'big' questions
- Mindfulness meditation practice
- The Year Group Forum
- Individual counselling