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Philosophy of Religion & Ethics

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At King's College

If you enjoy deep thinking and questioning things that most people take for granted about the world, then you’ll probably love philosophy.

The Rev'd Smith, King's Chaplain and Religious Studies Teacher

Most people would rather die than think. In fact, most people do.

Bertrand Russell, Philosopher

To be able to employ the disciplines of theology and philosophy effectively will not only make you a scholar of religion, but equip you to embark on a wide range of careers.

The Rev'd Hellier, Religious Studies Teacher
 

Why Study Philosophy?

This A level course is officially called Religious Studies but it is essentially the philosophy of religion and ethics (hence the name of the department at King’s).

During the course you 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 and the variety of religious and other belief structures, 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? 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. 

Philosophy of Religion and Ethics
Philosophers have traditionally cut their philosophical teeth on the big questions: Is there a God? Where did we come from and what is the “self”? Does life have any purpose or meaning and is there eternal life? Why is there evil and suffering? 

Each of these questions is studied in depth at A level, and in the process you will develop a framework for thought so that you will easily identify and question the working assumptions of any contribution to these debates.

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 you 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?

Christianity and Dialogues
This part of the course examines Christian teaching and issues facing Christianity, like gender and sexuality, the influence of science on religion, the way society is becoming less religious (secularism), and how to co-exist with other Faiths. The course ends with dialogues: how Christianity links and connects with philosophy and ethics.

The Rev'd Mark Smith

BA (South Africa), DipTh St. Paul's
Chaplain and Religious Studies Teacher

The Rev'd Hellier

BD, University of London
Religious Studies Teacher
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