Philosophy, Religion and Ethics

“How should one live?” Socrates

Socrates asserted that every individual had to grapple with this fundamental question. In answering the questions a philosophy of life and system of values are developed to give purpose and structure to existence. In PRE we reflect on the answers given by great philosophers to Socrates’ question. For many people in the world religion plays a key part in their thinking and everyday lives. Studying various philosophies and religious teachings gives pupils a broader outlook, improves their abstract thinking and helps them to understand the motivations and personal perspectives of believers. Together we examine key issues affecting ‘being human’ such as equality, free will, medical ethics and sexual ethics. We explore the case for the existence of God and the ways in which psychology approaches religious experience. Pupils debate the concepts of life, death and beyond, giving them an opportunity to examine a variety of beliefs on the meaning behind existence. Ultimately they embark on a challenging, stimulating and sometimes emotive journey, for which the department provides the key skills and resilience required.

Lower School

In Year 7 pupils develop key skills like reasoning, articulating ideas clearly, interpreting abstract concepts and begin to analyse and evaluate independently. We build on previous knowledge and challenge them to assess the strengths and weaknesses of points of view. We tackle questions like, what is religion? Where do we look for God? What are we doing to the environment? In Year 8 pupils continue to seek answers to questions like, who was Jesus? What is morality? They consider what it means to be human and are able to offer meaningful answers in response to these challenging questions.

Middle School

During Year 9 pupils continue to grapple with key matters of life, death and potential after-life possibilities, as well as considering the moral minefield through which mankind must pick its way in the modern world. This work lays a solid foundation on which the GCSE course is built. The PRE department offers an opportunity to study for a GCSE that combines elements of philosophy and the study of ultimate questions with a consideration of religious attitudes to contemporary moral issues. The course involves objective reflection and no particular religious stance is required on the part of the pupil; an open mind is needed in order to weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of an argument and to reach a reasoned conclusion. These key skills are relevant and desirable in life and are particularly valued in the many careers that require an understanding of others, like law, medicine and journalism.

“Both the GCSE and A Level courses really made me think about how I should live” Ipswich School pupil

Sixth Form

At A Level there are opportunities for students to participate in conferences, independent learning, peer teaching sessions and revision days where department members share their experience of external examination marking. Together with excellent teaching, this guarantees an A Level course that is fascinating for students interested in philosophical and theological questions of meaning, purpose and truth, as well as how we grapple with the ethical dilemmas that arise in contemporary society. Universities have a high regard for the PRE A Level due to its challenging academic content and the implied ability to reason, debate, justify, empathise, enquire, research and write that is nurtured in all our students.

“After two weeks at university I came home for my Ethics folder; it is the only A Level stuff I used for my politics degree” former Ipswich School student