The Philosophy and Religious Studies Branch

Philosophy

In the Sixth Form we require all students to continue to study philosophy. Why?

Because philosophy teaches one to think.

If this sounds fundamental, that’s because it is. The ability to think—really think—is a scarce commodity today. Today, everyone has an opinion about everything. But few can explain or defend their opinion. If you ask someone where they got that opinion, they may look at you as if you had just landed from Mars. If they are able to answer at all, more often than not they will begin the answer with: “Well I feel that…” Immediately you are in the realm of emotion, and outside the realm of reason.

The study of philosophy teaches you to think rationally, starting with observations and propositions and arriving at conclusions following the rules of logic. It teaches one to analyse arguments and to expose logical fallacies.

Philosophy asks and proposes answers to the fundamental questions of life.

These were succinctly summarized by St. John Paul II in his encyclical, Fides et Ratio:

Moreover, a cursory glance at ancient history shows clearly how in different parts of the world, with their different cultures, there arise at the same time the fundamental questions which pervade human life: Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life?

The study of philosophy asks, analyses and proposes answers to these questions. This is essential to any education because, as John Paul II points out, all humans seek answers to these questions in order to give direction to their life.

Philosophy seeks truth—or at least it always did until recently.

Since World War II, there has risen a branch of modern philosophy called Postmodernism, which holds that there is no such thing as truth. Truth, along with goodness and beauty, are regarded by classical philosophers as the ultimate desires of all men. Aristotle, at the beginning of Metaphysics, said, “All men by nature seek to know.” To know what: truth. Even those who claim not to believe in truth will immediately object to a false proposition, “But that is not true!”

Studying philosophy builds virtue.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines virtue as a habitual and firm disposition to do the good (CCC, #1803). St. Gregory of Nyssa, one of the Catechetical Fathers of the Church, said, “The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God” (ibid.).

Plato and Aristotle wrote extensively about virtues and the virtuous life 350 years before the birth of Christ. This is one of the reasons that many theologians consider them to be precursors of the Gospel. The ideas and principles that they formulated about virtue are as applicable today as they were in the fourth century B.C. In philosophy, students can acquaint themselves with and discourse on these timeless writings, applying their understanding of virtue to real life.

Philosophy and Theology Department

In the Sixth Form pupils in Lower IV and Upper VI are taught together and the curriculum of Philosophy and Theology runs on a carousel programme over two years.

Philosophy

The Philosophy Department is committed to educating students in the spirit of friendship and love, which has been the ideal of philosophy since ancient Greek times. Our students are strengthened not only in their commitment to the pursuit of knowledge and truth, but also in the lifelong practice of virtue as exemplified in the classical Greek concept of paideia. This course is designed to provide students with the philosophical concepts required to understand the world around them. Students study the basic tenets of the Aristotelian philosophy of realism with some exposure to primary texts such as The Defence of Socrates and The Euthyphro. They further engage in examining such metaphysical concepts as substance, accidents and essence which form the basis of philosophical thinking.