A Level (A2) Predictions 2017 – OCR Philosophy and Ethics


It’s that time of year again. Let’s see whether we can take a look at the previous questions and take an educated guess about what might come up. The truth is that this has become harder and harder to do. A few years ago there were a few topics that hadn’t come up. Now everything has pretty much come up in previous years. Still, I’ll have a go at predictions. Just remember the usual disclaimer: I am not psychic and I don’t know the future. These are *guesses*! Anything could come up! Please revise all areas, you just may want to have a little look in more depth at these topics. OK, that said here goes:


Religious Experience: ‘Voices are not proof of God but evidence of psychological neurosis.’ Discuss (35) (Click link for essay)

Miracles: ‘Hume’s understanding of miracles is flawed’. Discuss. (35)  (Click link for essay)

Attributes of God: ‘God’s foreknowledge is incompatible with human free will.’ Discuss. (35)

Life after Death: ‘Resurrection is more coherent than reincarnation’. Discuss. (35)

Religious Language: To what extent does analysis of the uses and purpose of religious language overcome the criticisms of the logical positivists? (35)


Free Will and Determinism: Critically evaluate theological determinism. (35)

Conscience: How convincing are Newman’s claims that conscience is the voice of God? (35)

Virtue Ethics: ‘Virtue Ethics is the best approach to environmental issues.’ Discuss (35)

Sexual Ethics: Assess the usefulness of religious ethics as an approach to the issues surrounding contraception. (35)

So why have I predicted these ones? Well, in philosophy, the only topics that have never come up as far as I can see are voices in religious experience, Hume’s definition of miracles (different from his criticisms of miracles, which has come up), and the uses and purpose of religious language. Then the other two from life after death and attributes have not come up for a while.

With ethics it was a case of choosing between quite a few options – as far as I can see, no-one apart from Butler has been specified in a question, so there could be a question on any of the other conscience scholars. Also never seen a specific question on predestination which seems odd? The two applied topics have never come up in that combination.

There you go – hope that helps with revision! Now to do ‘predictions’ for AS – a bit pointless really as it is the first year, so literally anything could come up! That hasn’t stopped other people from having a go at it though!

BTW – are you interested in a really useful revision guide for AS? Get mine here: https://rs.pushmepress.com/titles/as-religious-studies-revision-guide-for-ocr-a-level-religious-studies/trade-paperback-uk



“Ian Ramsey’s R…

“Ian Ramsey’s Religious Language, though admittedly more in the empiricist camp than displaying evident influence of Wittgenstein, was a pioneering book in the consideration of ‘ordinary’ religious language. Religious claims, according to Ramsey, should properly be considered as qualified models, or stories, which under the right circumstances can bring about religious discernment (“the penny drops”). Ramsey was at pains to insist that this language , though “logically odd”, was in some sense genuinely descriptive (“about God”) and not in some merely Braithwaitean sense about moral commitment to pursue a way of life.

While the invocation of models goes a good way towards showing how one might find religious language “meaningful”, it was not evident from Ramsey’s “Christian empiricism” how these disclosure situations might claim to be more than emotive response. Neo-Feuerbachians and anti-realists, such as Don Cupitt, are content to find religious language “meaningful” without committing themselves to belief in some absolute being who transcends the world.”

From Religious Language by Janet Soskice in Quinn and Taliaferro, A Companion to Philosophy of Religion

In an essay on Religious Language, and especially analogy, OCR A Level students might be expected to evaluate to what extent religious language can be said to be about God in any meaningful sense. The classical view that analogy was able to affirm in a limited way certain things about God on the basis of the connection between creator and created has been given a new slant by Ramsey. This passage asks the question (which students would do well to ask in an essay on this); to what extent are the insights into God supposedly provoked by religious language insights into an actual reality, rather than just heightened awareness of a particular state of mind (and therefore non-cognitive presumably)?

Practice Questions A2

On a certain other Philosophy and Ethics website they have put their advice about what areas they think will come up this summer in the OCR Religious Studies exam (June 7th). However, you have to buy a copy of one of their books to find it. I don’t have the time to write a book on this, but I will have a go at telling you what I think it might be wise to revise, simply based on areas of the spec that haven’t come up for a long time. So here we go, four questions:

Critically assess Rudolf Otto’s concept of numinous experience.

‘Hume’s definition of miracles makes them impossible to believe in.’ Discuss.

‘Plato’s arguments for the soul are ineffective.’ Discuss.

Critically assess the view of scripture as revelation.

You could do a lot worse than have a go at writing an answer to these questions as part of your revision.

January 17th A2 Philosophy of Religion OCR exam questions

For those taking the January module for Philosophy of Religion OCR A2 I have been asked if I can predict what will come up! The answer to that is no! Anything could come up! All I can point to is what hasn’t come up for a little while.

In June 2012 Eternity, Dawkins and Aristotle, Language Games (Wittgenstein) and Conversion experiences came up. I predicted three of those amongst some others.

The other topics that I noticed hadn’t occured for a while were: disembodied existence, definition of miracles (perhaps linked to Hume), main aims and conclusions of William James (not the 4 characteristics of mystical exp.), numinous experience (Rudolf Otto), and the via negativa. We haven’t had questions on revelation and sacred scripture for a little while either.

Good luck and remember, there is no guarantee that any of these will come up!