Theology & Philosophy
In Theology & Philosophy at Haberdashers', the aim is to encourage every boy to think about their own ‘Worldview’ and to consider how they might answer the fundamental questions of human existence.
The curriculum in Years 7-9 is organised around a quest for answers to the ultimate questions of life: Where am I from? (Origin) Who am I? (Significance) Why is the world in a mess? (Evil) Is there a future? (Purpose) How should I live? (Morality) Is there a God? (Reality) How can I know? (Epistemology). In pursuit of this aim, the world’s major religions are studied on their own terms; with consideration given to how the ultimate questions are answered. As boys learn about and respond to the various religious positions the skills of empathy, tolerance and critical analysis are developed. This is supported by a unit on ‘What Makes a Good Argument?’ In addition, the classical arguments for and against the existence of God as well as units on Atheism, Christian Ethics and the way in which Worldviews are communicated through the Media are considered.
At GCSE, the boys can further their study of such major questions as the existence of God, the complexity of moral issues and the concept of miracles. These topics are considered in relation to the teachings of Buddhism and Christianity. This is a popular course and boys enjoy wrestling with both the abstract concepts and the concrete dilemmas with which they are presented.
In the Sixth Form boys are given the opportunity of studying either/both Theology or/and Philosophy. The Theology course examines units on the Philosophy of Religion, Developments in Christian thought and Ethics, which build upon and develop their experience of the GCSE course. The former includes a detailed consideration of the classical arguments for the existence of God as well as considering the relationship between religion and science and the problem of evil. In the ethics module various ethical theories are studied before considering how these can be applied to a variety of important ethical dilemmas. The module on Christian thought includes a critical analysis of the concepts of human nature in the context of the purpose of life, the self and immortality, natural and revealed theology, and historical and theological understandings of the person of Jesus Christ and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Philosophy is taught as a separate subject in the Sixth Form, where boys learn about the core academic disciplines which are centred on political philosophy and epistemology (theory of knowledge). The syllabus is designed to give the boys a good foundation in the history of western philosophy and of contemporary philosophical debates.
The classes systematically develop the boys’ ability to carry out individual research and sustained critical analysis by reading and discussing classical philosophers such as Plato, Descartes, Hume and Mill. The logical structure of arguments is clarified by breaking them down into premises and conclusions, and the arguments are subsequently assessed by reflecting on their soundness and validity.
In both the Theology and Philosophy A-Levels, boys are encouraged to develop skills which will prepare them well for university courses. These include engagement with primary texts, high expectations regarding the quality of essays and a deep critical analysis of a range of scholarly perspectives.
These skills are developed in order to prepare boys for the intellectual demands of higher education, with a particular view to universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, and London. Philosophy is an obvious subject to consider for boys who want to go on to read a PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics) or PP (Philosophy and Physics) Degree. The Theology A-Level is particularly good preparation for degrees such as Theology and Religion at Cambridge.
The department publishes an annual journal, Veritas, written and edited by students. A number of conferences and trips are run each year for all ages. Our most recent guest speakers include Andrew Copson (Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association), Peter Vardy and Nigel Warburton who delivered an after dinner speech at the Theology and Philosophy Sixth Form dinner.