Philosophy for Year 12/13*

This course is intended for students in Year 12 to gain an understanding of some of the key issues that are explored in the discipline of philosophy, and the ways in which philosophers approach the task of understanding the world.

* Open to Year 13 offer holders for any School of Social Science undergraduate programme.

Course aims

This course will give students a taste of the material that would typically be covered in year 1 of an undergraduate degree.

What this course offers

In addition to introducing students to university life, this course will complement and enhance their A-level studies in philosophy and related disciplines. Students will be asked to consider fundamental questions about the nature of reality and their place within it. The course will help develop transferable skills in critical thinking, oral communication, essay writing and their understanding of complex, abstract ideas.

The course at a glance

  • Course lead: Dr Paula Satne
  • Six x 2 hour weekly sessions 
  • A mix of lecturing, reading tasks and interactive group discussion
  • The emphasis is on ‘learning by doing’ (enquiry-based learning) and everybody gets the chance to participate.
  • Students do not receive any homework and all work will be completed during class time.
  • All students will be given the option to write and receive feedback on an essay to get a sense of what kind of work is produced at first-year undergraduate level.

Course content

Students will explore:

  • what philosophy is and why it is relevant to them;
  • the ways in which philosophy approaches fundamental questions concerning the nature of reality and their place within it.

Week 1: Welcome and introduction

Students will be introduced to the University, to the course and to the subject of philosophy. The session will include an activity to get students thinking about what it means to ‘think philosophically’ about some fundamental questions about the nature of reality

Week 2: Who do you think you are?

In this workshop, we shall explore the question of what makes you you? Are you a soul? Are you an animal? Are you simply a collection of thoughts and feelings? We will consider whether you are the same person as you were when you were a baby. And, if there is an afterlife, what it would be for you to exist in the future?

Week 3: What is time?

As you read this, time seems to be passing. The moments, seconds, are going by. But what is time? How does time change? In this workshop, we will investigate the nature of time. Should time be conceived of as just another dimension, analogous to space? Or does the ‘present’ enjoy a special existence, not shared by the past and the future?

Week 4: Does God exist?

In this workshop, we shall examine some arguments that purport to prove God’s existence. We shall also look at the so-called problem of evil: if God exists, why is there so much suffering in the world?

Week 5: Are we ever free?

What is it to act freely? Can we be free if everything has been determined by our genes and the circumstances we find ourselves in? Would an element of luck, or indeterminism, help secure our freedom? In this workshop, we shall consider classic compatibilist and libertarian responses to these difficult questions.

Week 6: What makes a good philosophy essay and how do you get high marks?

This final session focuses on how to write a good philosophy essay and the criteria that are used when essays get marked. Students will work collaboratively with a tutor in order to develop plans in response to essay titles that have been used for formal assessments.

In this class, we will also sum up what you have achieved in this course and address any outstanding questions you may have. We will also outline the possibilities that are open to you for studying social anthropology, or any of the other social sciences, at The University of Manchester. We will consider, amongst other things, admissions policies, application procedures, personal statements and so on.

All students will be given their own copy of the following textbook to keep: Beebee, Helen and Rush, Michael (2019) Philosophy: Why It Matters, Polity Press.