2007 – Edexcel RS AS/A2 Philosophy and Ethics – Teaching the new specification

  • Possibility of a new A* at A2 being introduced after pressure from Universities – 90%+
  • But resit marks wont count towards it!
  • Specific anthology courses in the Autumn
  • AS Foundations Sept 2007 as at the moment including coursework
  • Sept 2008 new new spec! Changes to coursework only. QCA required no c/w.
  • In exam questions there is potential for combining aspects e.g. how far does situation ethics contribute to an understanding of religion and morality…
  • Below the line questions study of ethical dilemma – 1 q per topic i.e. Just War and pacifism and one on sexual ethics.
  • We will be able to find out what candidates got in individual questions.
  • Philosophy Above the line either design or cosmological (show knowledge of the argument if a q on identify the sts and wks)
  • Below the line problems in philosophy: evil and suffering and miracles
  • A2 same pattern: Above the line – religious exp / onto / and non-existence and critiques of the existence of God.
  • Below the line – selected problems: life after death; religious language
  • Ethics: Above – 2 topics: 1) critiques of religious religion and morality – Dawkins recommended reading AND 2) deontology, natural law and virtue ethics
  • Could be compare and contrast in some of these
  • Below – selected problems 3 topics: 1) is ought; good and emotivism (no more intuitionism but useful anyway.) 2) objectivity, relativism and subjectivism; 3) justice, law and punishment – no more links with deontology or natural law.
  • So a question on ethical language see 1 and another q will combine the others in some way, see 2+ 3
  • Coursework general – 40% get a grade A– approx mark 38/50; but over reliance on internet and GCSE texts. Avoid GCSE style questions or topics / pick a controversial topic. AO2 marks are single biggest failing. 3000 words is about necessary for good candidates. Scholarship is essential. Ensure creditworthy words.
  • New coursework replacement Sept 2008 Unit 2 – keeps the coursework essence. Pick one of 7 topics to research, can be free choice; exam questions very broad; not intended to be a taught unit but no problem if taught! 1 hour 15 mins can write about 1500 words. Each topic area offers 3 broad areas of study thus 21 questions (rather like Synoptic paper). Students do not have to do same areas as chosen for other exams. Independent learning v imp. Enquiry based approach. Teacher’s role is to give advice, help plan and guide. They need to be able to formulate an evaluation, conclusion AO2; use technical and religious terminology.


Medical ethics

These are the 3 areas for the exam in ethics in area C




Look for unifying principles:

Sanctity of life

abortion, euthanasia, genetic engineering (one or all)


Human rights


Playing God


Abstract concepts remain the same despite the q.

  • Key to a good script in the exam
    • Crispness – don’t waste time on intro or conclusion
    • Strength in AO1 but weakness in AO2

    Examiners are marking on-line so:

    • Short paragraphs
    • Clear and underlining of scholars, quotes and even very important points!

      E.g. epistemic distance or Aquinas suggested ” “

    • No thick blobby pens
    • Evaluation is real weakness: use words like Because…examiners want to know why!!
    • Refer to strengths and weaknesses as weak and strong because!! Or I agree with Swinburne because… but don’t just repeat what he said because you will have put that in AO1
  • Life after death – teaching AO2 better – use video e.g. Simpsons heaven and hell as stimulus. “To what extent is talk about Life After Death meaningless?” [16] some beliefs from the video we saw:
    • Reward or punishment
    • Reunited with the dead
    • Bodily resurrection
    • Achieved through commitment
    • Doubt leads to hell
    • Only those with names in book go to heaven…

      Can the statement be proved to be true or not? Of value or not?

  1. We ought to talk about life after death because some believe there is a link between life and death and how we behave in this life affects has implications for what happens after we die
  2. We ought to talk about it because as Freud suggested it gives a psychological crutch…
  3. Some philosophers have said it is meaningful and I agree with John Hick who said ‘Eschatological verification’…
  4. It is meaningful because it is a major tenet of the world faiths and therefore it affects …
  5. Because Jesus said so and he claimed that through him…
  6. Because it is a contradiction as Paul Tillich said, death is the end of life, if death is the end there can be no more life.


So why is the concept meaningless?

Conclusion – save something big for the end – “In my opinion… I agree with…. Because as he said…”


  • Problems inherent in the discussion
  • Jesus only precedent and of a different kind to ours!
  • Idea of bodily resurrection is often presented as if there were no objections therefore it must be examined.
  • Mythological, stereotypical; literal simplistic interpretation; anthropological – no suggestion of symbolic or metaphorical – we are using these concepts to describe something beyond our knowledge and understanding..
  • Logical P’s would say no purpose because no factual or objective, verifiable proof.
  • However for those people who commit their lives to it, it is not meaningless!
  • RM Hare’s idea of the ‘blik’ – the fundamentalist video is a ‘way of seeing’ – this cannot therefore be verified or falsified.

Is the concept of life after death meaningful? if so is any position on reincarnation or resurrection viable or satisfactory? See 2007’s q 2 at A2


“Examine and evaluate the claim that deontology fails to be a reliable means of moral decision making.” [40]

Answer the q in the first sentence.

E.g. Deontology’s strength is that it is not bound by social change or personal subjectivism; moral absolutes give clear guidance in a society that is worse off for its ever increasing desire to be seen to include the views of all.

Or: because deontology is based on moral absolutes it potentially can give clear guidance even in a world of changing attitudes.


Anthology example exercise

Go through the extracts; identify the discussion points – here:

‘don’t have to argue’


-clarify the argument

‘you know he’s real’


-topic is religious experience

‘reasons for claims’


-questioning faith based knowledge of God’s existence







‘various types of religious exp.’


paragraph 1 the meaningfulness and validity of the experience



  • Pascal’s reasons of the heart.
  • Examples of people who have had them.
  • What have they said about them? Ineffable, transcendent
  • Swinburne’s credulity and testimony.
  • Identify types of religious exp: mystical; William James etc
  • Inner conviction is not an objective sense-based exp; see Logical P’s and what constitutes knowledge.
  • Synthetic, a priori.
  • Is inner conviction sufficient reason for faith?

Para 2

‘risky business’ Dawkins! Making a claim about something you cannot verify.

Attacks fundamentalists; Hare and his bliks

Wisdom’s parable of the Gardener.

Wittgenstein and anti-realists…


Anthology paper

  • 1 hr 15 mins
  • 9 extracts in paper
  • Teacher chooses subject and teaches it!
  • Students will have to have read all passages in that section e.g. religious experience.
  • The exam will be part of one of the selection; it will have the ‘juicy bits in’ so not a boring bit which says nothing!
  • Read the passages and work out which paragraphs are likely to be chosen!
  • See sample assessment materials available on line.
  • Philosophy passages are going to lend themselves more to inclusion of scholars whereas the others are more likely to be more discursive.
  • Students need to take a stand either agree of disagree.
  • E.g. Are religious experiences meaningful or not? Y/N because …
  • Religious experiences are proof of the existence of God if they have experienced them…
  • Is it a risky business? Y/N
  • Are religious experiences symptoms of insanity? Y/N
  • Discuss in relation to understanding of nature of man…
  • I agree but here’s the problem…
  • I disagree because…
  • I agree with Swinburne’s principle of testimony because in this case… but these are not ordinary experiences
  • You cannot brand everyone insane…
  • Nothing would sway some people against…
  • If one looks at those who have had religious experiences are they all liars or are they all misinterpreting their experiences? Isn’t it the way that their lives have changed empirical evidence of some sort? Even if not all are some can be…



If this passage is true then religious experiences prove that God exists!!!!!!!

If this passage says that religious experiences are not true then these people are mistaken therefore we cannot trust that anyone or any scriptures etc are trustworthy and therefore the foundations of Western society are thrown into question.

What it doesn’t do is disprove the existence of God…!


Did you find this information helpful?