Philosophy for AS and A Level : Epistemology and Moral Philosophy book cover
1st Edition

Philosophy for AS and A Level
Epistemology and Moral Philosophy

ISBN 9781138690394
Published June 15, 2017 by Routledge
478 Pages

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Book Description

Philosophy for AS and 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 shared by the AS and A Level, Epistemology and Moral Philosophy, 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 student’s analytical and critical skills
  • comprehension questions to test understanding
  • discussion questions to generate evaluative argument
  • explanation 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

    Hypothetical reasoning

    Understanding arguments and argument maps

    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 Epistemology

    I. What is knowledge?

    A. Knowledge and its definition

    Types of knowledge

    Propositional knowledge

    The definition of knowledge

    The purpose and nature of definition

    Can propositional knowledge be defined?

    Key points: knowledge and its definition

    B. The tripartite view

    The tripartite definition of knowledge

    Why justified true belief?

    Thinking harder: A note on certainty

    Are the conditions individually necessary?

    Justification is not a necessary condition of knowledge

    Truth is not a necessary condition of knowledge

    Belief is not a necessary condition of knowledge

    Gettier’s objection: are the conditions jointly sufficient?

    Key points: the tripartite view

    C. Responses

    Add a ‘no false lemmas’ condition (J+T+B+N)


    Thinking harder: rejecting the argument for infallibilism

    Reliabilism (R+T+B)

    Truth and the third condition

    Virtue epistemology (V+T+B)

    Zagzebski’s analysis of knowledge

    Key points: Responses

    Summary: What is knowledge?

    II. Perception as a source of knowledge

    A. Direct realism

    The argument from perceptual variation


    The argument from illusion

    Thinking harder: the argument from hallucination

    The disjunctive theory of perception

    The time-lag argument

    Thinking harder: direct realism and openness

    Key points: direct realism

    B. Indirect realism

    What are sense-data?

    Why indirect realism?

    Locke’s distinction between primary and secondary qualities

    Scepticism about the existence of mind-independent objects

    The existence of the external world is the best hypothesis

    Two supporting arguments

    Thinking harder: the existence of mind-independent objects is not a hypothesis

    Representation, resemblance and the nature of physical objects

    Berkeley’s argument that mind-dependent ideas cannot be like mind-independent objects

    Key points: indirect realism

    C. Berkeley’s idealism

    Berkeley on primary and secondary qualities

    Berkeley on secondary qualities

    Berkeley’s attack on the primary/secondary quality distinction

    The immediate objects of perception are mind-dependent objects

    Three arguments against mind-independent objects

    Berkeley’s ‘master’ argument

    Idealism and God

    Thinking harder: idealism and the cause of our perceptions

    Issues with Berkeley’s idealism

    Problems with the role played by God in Berkeley’s idealism

    Arguments from illusion and hallucination

    Idealism leads to solipsism

    Key points: Berkeley’s idealism

    Summary: perception as a source of knowledge


    III. Reason as a source of knowledge

    Rationalism, empiricism and innatism

    A priori/a posteriori knowledge

    Analytic/synthetic propositions

    Necessary/contingent truth

    Defining rationalism, empiricism and innatism

    Key points: rationalism, empiricism and innatism

    A. Innatism

    Two arguments for innate knowledge

    Plato’s slave boy argument

    Leibniz on knowledge of necessary truths

    Locke’s arguments against innate knowledge

    Leibniz’s response to Locke

    Thinking harder: experience triggers innate knowledge

    Alternative empiricist accounts

    Locke’s argument against innate concepts

    Rejecting Locke’s definition of ‘innate concept’

    Leibniz’s defence of innate concepts

    The mind as a ‘tabula rasa’

    Locke’s two sources of concepts

    Hume on impressions and ideas

    Simple and complex concepts

    Issues with the empiricist theory of concepts

    Thinking harder: challenging the copy principle

    Leibniz on ‘intellectual ideas’

    Thinking harder: the concept of substance


    Key points: innatism

    B. The intuition and deduction thesis

    Rationalism and empiricism revisited

    The meaning of ‘intuition’ and ‘deduction’

    Empiricist alternatives

    Hume’s fork

    Descartes’ theory of rational intuition

    The cogito

    Clear and distinct ideas

    Empiricist responses to the cogito

    Clear and distinct ideas and God

    Descartes’ Trademark argument

    Thinking harder: degrees of reality

    Empiricist responses to the Trademark argument

    Descartes’ cosmological argument

    Empiricist responses to Descartes’ cosmological argument

    Descartes’ ontological argument

    Empiricist responses to Descartes’ ontological argument

    Descartes’ proof of the external world

    The concept of a physical object

    Thinking harder: The existence of physical objects

    Empiricist responses to Descartes’ proof of the external world

    Key points: the intuition and deduction thesis

    Summary: reason as a source of knowledge

    IV. The limits of knowledge

    A. Philosophical scepticism

    The particular nature of philosophical scepticism

    Am I a brain in a vat?

    The distinction between philosophical scepticism and normal incredulity

    Local and global scepticism

    Descartes’ sceptical arguments

    Key points: philosophical scepticism

    B. Responses to scepticism

    Descartes’ own response

    Empiricist responses

    Thinking harder: Direct realism

    Thinking harder: Reliabilism

    Key points: responses to scepticism

    Summary: the limits of knowledge

    3 Moral Philosophy

    I. Normative ethical theories

    A. Utilitarianism

    Bentham’s quantitative hedonistic utilitarianism

    ‘The Principle of Utility’

    ‘Measuring Pleasure and Pain’

    Mill on utilitarianism

    Mill’s qualitative hedonistic utilitarianism

    Is pleasure the only good?

    Smart on hedonistic and non-hedonistic utilitarianism

    Nozick’s experience machine

    Preference utilitarianism

    Mill’s ‘proof’ of utilitarianism

    Stage 1: Happiness is good

    Stage 2: Only happiness is good

    Issues for (act) utilitarianism

    Problems with calculation

    Fairness, individual liberty and rights


    Moral integrity and the individual’s intentions

    Rule utilitarianism

    Smart on rule utilitarianism

    Rule utilitarianism developed


    Key points: utilitarianism

    B. Kantian deontological ethics


    Kant’s account of the good will and duty

    The good will

    The distinction between acting in accordance with duty and acting out of duty

    Thinking harder: The good will again

    The categorical imperative

    Hypothetical and categorical imperatives

    Thinking harder: Contradiction in conception and contradiction in will

    The second formulation of the Categorical Imperative

    Issues for Kantian deontological ethics

    Universalisability and morality

    Conflicts between duties

    The view that consequences of actions determine their moral value

    Morality is a system of hypothetical imperatives

    The value of certain motives

    Key points: Kantian deontological ethics

    C. Aristotelian virtue ethics

    The good for human beings


    Final ends

    The function argument

    Testing the analysis

    Thinking harder: the rational ‘soul’

    Aristotle’s account of virtues

    Virtues as character traits

    Virtues, the doctrine of the mean and the importance of feelings

    The role of education in the development of a moral character

    Practical wisdom

    The role of practical wisdom

    The relation between practical wisdom, virtue and action

    Key points: Aristotelian virtue ethics (I)

    Eudaimonia, pleasure and philosophy

    Eudaimonia and pleasure

    Eudaimonia and philosophy

    Voluntary action, choice and moral responsibility

    Voluntary and involuntary actions

    Choice and deliberation

    Thinking harder: moral responsibility


    Issues for Aristotelian virtue ethics

    Guidance on how to act

    Conflicts between virtues

    The possibility of circularity involved in defining virtuous acts and
    virtuous people in terms of each other

    Thinking harder: Virtue and eudaimonia

    Key points: Aristotelian virtue ethics (II)

    Summary: normative ethical theories

    II. Applied ethics



    Kantian deontology

    Aristotelian virtue ethics

    Eating animals


    Kantian deontology

    Aristotle, Diamond and virtue ethics

    Simulated killing

    Playing the killer

    An audience’s perspective

    Telling lies


    Kantian deontology

    Aristotelian virtue ethics

    Key points: applied ethics

    Summary: applied ethics

    III. Metaethics

    What is metaethics?

    The origins of moral principles: reason, emotion/attitudes, or society

    The distinction between cognitivism and non-cognitivism

    Key points: The distinction between cognitivism and non-cognitivism

    A. Moral realism

    From cognitivism to moral realism

    Moral naturalism

    Utilitarianism as naturalism

    Thinking harder: naturalism in virtue ethics

    Moral non-naturalism: Moore’s intuitionism

    The naturalistic fallacy

    The open question argument

    Thinking harder: is the ‘naturalistic fallacy’ a real fallacy?



    Issues for moral realism

    A J Ayer’s verification principle

    The argument from Hume’s fork

    Hume’s argument from motivation

    Hume’s is-ought gap

    Mackie’s argument from relativity

    Mackie’s arguments from queerness

    Key points: moral realism

    B. Moral anti-realism

    Error theory

    Non-cognitivism and moral anti-realism


    Emotivism and subjectivism

    Ayer’s defence

    Emotivism after Ayer


    Prescriptive meaning


    Moral language

    Issues for moral anti-realism

    Can moral anti-realism account for how we use moral language?

    Thinking harder: disagreement and moral argument

    Whether moral anti-realism becomes moral nihilism

    Moral progress

    Key points: moral anti-realism

    Metaethics and applied ethics

    Summary: metaethics

    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

    Short-answer questions

    Nine-mark questions

    Fifteen-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

    Subject index


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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 writes in an engaging way and really brings the A-Level philosophy syllabus to life; he focuses not only on the content but on the philosophical method itself. An essential read for any A-Level philosophy student'.

    Cressida Tweed, teacher of philosophy at Woodhouse College and Lead philosophy tutor at the National Extension college, UK.