Philosophy for A Level : Metaphysics of God and Metaphysics of Mind book cover
1st Edition

Philosophy for A Level
Metaphysics of God and Metaphysics of Mind

ISBN 9781138690400
Published June 16, 2017 by Routledge
402 Pages

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Book Description

Philosophy for A Level is an accessible textbook for the new 2017 AQA Philosophy syllabus. Structured closely around the AQA specification this textbook covers the two units, Metaphysics of God and Metaphysics of Mind, in an engaging and student-friendly way. With chapters on ‘How to do philosophy’, exam preparation providing students with the philosophical skills they need to succeed, and an extensive glossary to support understanding, this book is ideal for students studying philosophy.

Each chapter includes:

  • argument maps that help to develop students’ analytical and critical skills
  • comprehension questions to test understanding
  • discussion questions to generate evaluative argument
  • explanation of and commentary on the AQA set texts
  • ‘Thinking harder’ sections
  • cross-references to help students make connections
  • bullet-point summaries of each topic.

The companion website hosts a wealth of further resources, including PowerPoint slides, flashcards, further reading, weblinks and handouts, all structured to accompany the textbook. It can be found at

Table of Contents




How to use this book

How to do philosophy

Following the syllabus

Additional features

Using the anthology


Companion website and further resources

1 How to do philosophy

Philosophical argument

Deductive argument

Inductive argument

Understanding arguments

Evaluating arguments

Evaluating claims

An aside: why reason?


Reading philosophy

Approaching the text

Engaging with the text

Beyond the text

Writing philosophy

What you need to know

Planning an essay

Writing an essay

A standard essay structure

General advice

2 Philosophy of religion

I. The concept and nature of ‘God’ A. God’s attributes



Aquinas on omnipotence

Supreme goodness (omnibenevolence)

God and time

Thinking harder: Stump and Kretzmann on eternity

Key points: God’s attributes

B. Arguments for the incoherence of the concept of God

The paradox of the stone

Omnipotence and supreme goodness

The Euthyphro dilemma

Plato’s dilemma

Omnipotence and morality


Omniscience and free human beings

Thinking harder: three solutions

Key points: Arguments for the incoherence of the concept of God

Summary: the concept and nature of ‘God’

II. Arguments relating to the existence of God

A. Ontological arguments

St Anselm’s ontological argument

Gaunilo’s ‘perfect island’ objection Thinking harder: Anselm’s reply

Descartes’ ontological argument

Two objections to ontological arguments

Empiricist objections to a priori arguments for existence

Kant’s objection: existence is not a predicate

Malcolm’s ontological argument

Thinking harder: a response to Malcolm

Key points: ontological arguments

B. Teleological/design arguments

The design argument from analogy

Hume’s objections

Paley’s design argument


The problem of spatial disorder

Evolution by natural selection

Swinburne’s design argument

Swinburne’s response to Hume

Thinking harder: is the existence of a designer a good explanation?

Is the designer God?

Hume’s objections

Swinburne’s response

Key points: the argument from design

C. The cosmological argument

The Kalam argument

Thinking harder: infinity

Aquinas’ First and Second Ways

Aquinas’ Second Way

Aquinas’ First Way

Thinking harder: Descartes’ cosmological argument Two issues for arguments from causation

Hume on the causal principle

Thinking harder: The possibility of an infinite series

Aquinas’ Third Way

Leibniz’s argument from contingency

Two more issues for cosmological arguments

Russell on the fallacy of composition

The impossibility of a necessary being

Key points: the cosmological argument

D. The problem of evil

An outline of the problem

Two types of evil

Thinking harder: Midgley on human evil

The logical problem of evil

A free will theodicy

Thinking harder: Midgley on free will

Plantinga’s free will defence

Natural evil

The evidential problem of evil

Plantinga’s free will defence again

Hick’s ‘soul-making’ theodicy

Key points: the problem of evil

Summary: arguments relating to the existence of God

III. Religious language

The distinction between cognitivism and non-cognitivism




Thinking harder: verification and falsification

The ‘University’ debate

Flew’s challenge

Mitchell’s response

Hare’s ‘bliks’

Key points: religious language

Summary: religious language


3 Philosophy of mind

I. What do we mean by ‘mind’?

Features of mental states


Phenomenal properties/qualia

Overview of the six theories

Key points: what do we mean by ‘mind’?

II. Dualist theories: substance dualism

A. Substance dualism

Descartes’ indivisibility argument

The mental is divisible in some sense

Not everything thought of as physical is divisible

Thinking harder: Is the mind a substance?

Descartes’ conceivability argumentMind without body is not conceivable

Thinking harder: What is conceivable may not be metaphysically possible

What is metaphysically possible tells us nothing about the actual world

Key points: substance dualism

B. Issues facing substance dualism

Issues facing interactionist substance dualism

The conceptual interaction problem

The empirical interaction problem

Issues facing epiphenomenalist substance dualism

The problem of other minds

The argument from analogy

The existence of other minds in the best hypothesis

Thinking harder: Avramides on Descartes’ solution

Substance dualism makes a ‘category mistake’

Key points: issues facing substance dualism

Summary: substance dualism

III. Physicalist theories



Key points: physicalism

A. Mind–brain type identity theory

Type identity theory

Smart on correlation, identity and reduction


Putnam and the multiple realisability of mental states

Dualist arguments

Key points: mind–brain type identity theory

B. Eliminative materialism

Patricia Churchland on reduction and elimination

Paul Churchland on why ‘folk psychology’ might be false


Our certainty about the existence of our mental states takes priority over other considerations

Folk psychology has good predictive and explanatory power (and so is the best hypothesis)

Thinking harder: the articulation of eliminative materialism as a theory is self-refuting Key points: eliminative materialism

C. Philosophical behaviourism

Hempel’s ‘hard’ behaviourism

Ryle’s ‘soft’ behaviourism


Thinking and other mental processes


Dualist arguments

Issues defining mental states satisfactorily

The asymmetry between self-knowledge and knowledge of other people’s mental states

The distinctness of mental states from behaviour

Key points: philosophical behaviourism

Summary: physicalist theories

IV. Functionalism

What is a function?

Functionalism and behaviourism

Functionalism and multiple realisability


The possibility of a functional duplicate with different qualia (inverted qualia)

Block on the possibility of a functional duplicate with no qualia

Thinking harder: Chalmers on explaining consciousness

Key points: functionalism

Summary: functionalism

V. Dualist theories: property dualism A. Property dualism

The theory

The knowledge argument

The knowledge argument as a dualist argument against other theories

Responses to the knowledge argument

Mary does not gains new propositional knowledge, but does gain ability knowledge

Mary does not gain new propositional knowledge, but does gain acquaintance knowledge

Thinking harder: Mary gains new propositional knowledge, but this is knowledge of physical facts that she already knew in a different way

The ‘philosophical zombies’ argument

Possible worlds

Chalmers’ zombie argument

Thinking harder: how arguments for property dualism work

The zombie argument as a dualist argument against other theories

Responses to the zombie argument

A philosophical zombie (or zombie world) is not conceivable

Thinking harder: what is conceivable may not be metaphysically possible

Thinking harder: what is metaphysical possible tells us nothing about the actual world

Key points: property dualism

B. Issues facing property dualism

Issues facing interactionist property dualism

Issues facing epiphenomenalist property dualism

The phenomenology of our mental life

Natural selection

Thinking harder: introspective self-knowledge

The problem of other minds

Property dualism makes a ‘category mistake’

Key points: issues facing property dualism

Summary: property dualism

4 Preparing for the exam

The examination

The structure of the exam

Assessment objectives

Understanding the question: giving the examiners what they are looking for

Three-mark questions

Five-mark questions

12-mark questions

25-mark questions Revision: it’s more than memory

Exam technique: getting the best result you can

Revision tips

Exam tips

Glossary (with Joanne Lovesey)

Index by syllabus content


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Michael Lacewing is a teacher of philosophy and theology at Christ’s Hospital school, and a former Reader in Philosophy and Vice-Principal Academic at Heythrop College, University of London. He is founder of the company A Level Philosophy (, and advises the British Philosophical Association on matters related to philosophy in schools.


'Michael Lacewing has a talent of making complex concepts accessible to a range of students with his ‘student-friendly’ style. His materials are concise, thorough and prepare students well for their examinations. His book has a clear layout and is appropriate for the specification.'

Karen S. Ackerman, Alleyns School, UK

'Philosophy for A-Level is a clear and lucid account that directly links and covers the new A-Level specification. The content is challenging but so well organised that it guides the students through some of the most difficult metaphysical questions in Philosophy. It will be a valuable resource for student and teacher.'

Amanda Forshaw, Head of Humanities, Woodhouse College, UK