Why study Religious Studies (Philosophy and ethics)
This course is for students who want to explore the deeper questions behind religion and the structures that inform it. It is a rigorous and philosophical course that challenges candidates’ own beliefs as well as those of contemporary religions. We attempt to answer some of the big questions, such as “how ought I live?” “Does God exist?” and “Why is there evil and suffering in the world?” Christianity is the primary religion studied, alongside the thoughts of some of the world’s greatest philosophers and theologians. Candidates for this course should be prepared for some big thinking. Students will also explore some of the most important ethical questions, just as relevant today as when they were first asked.
What do I need to start the course?
There is an expectation that all students undertaking this would have achieved a minimum grade 5 in their English GCSE and minimum B in RS at GCSE.
How will I study?
Over the two year course we will introduce students to the key methods, doctrine and concepts in philosophy & ethics through the study of three broad themes. Students are examined at the end of the year as there is no coursework.
Section A: Philosophy of religion
Arguments for the existence of God
- Presentation: Paley’s analogical argument.
- Criticisms: Hume
- Presentation: Anselm’s a priori argument.
- Criticisms: Gaunilo and Kant.
- Presentation: Aquinas' Way 3. The argument from contingency and necessity.
- Criticisms: Hume and Russell
Evil and suffering
The problem of evil and suffering.
- The concepts of natural and moral evil.
- The logical and evidential problem of evil.
- Responses to the problem of evil and suffering.
- Hick’s soul making theodicy.
- The free will defence.
- Process theodicy as presented by Griffin.
- The strengths and weaknesses of each response.
The nature of religious experience.
- Visions: corporeal, imaginative and intellectual.
- Numinous experiences: Otto, an apprehension of the wholly other.
- Mystical experiences: William James; non sensuous and non-intellectual union with the divine as presented by William Stace.
Verifying religious experiences
- The challenges of verifying religious experiences.
- The challenges to religious experience from science.
- Religious responses to those challenges.
- Swinburne’s principles of credulity and testimony.
The influence of religious experiences and their value for religious faith.
Section B: Ethics and religion
Normative ethical theories
- Deontological: natural moral law and the principle of double effect with reference to Aquinas; proportionalism.
- Teleological: situation ethics with reference to Fletcher.
- Character based: virtue ethics with reference to Aristotle.
- The differing approaches taken to moral decision making by these ethical theories.
- Their application to the issues of theft and lying.
- The strengths and weaknesses of these ways of making moral decisions.
The application of natural moral law, situation ethics and virtue ethics to:
- Issues of human life and death:
- embryo research; cloning; ‘designer’ babies
- voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide
- capital punishment.
- Issues of non-human life and death:
- use of animals as food; intensive farming
- use of animals in scientific procedures; cloning
- blood sports
- animals as a source of organs for transplants.
Section C: Christianity
Students are required to study those aspects of the religious beliefs, teachings, values and practices of Christianity specified below and the different ways in which these are expressed in the lives of individuals, communities and societies
- Sources of wisdom and authority
- Self, death and afterlife
- Good conduct and key moral principles
- Expressions of religious identity