VCE Philosophy Units 1 and 2
Philosophy is the structured investigation of some of the deepest questions that confront us. For example, in Units 1 & 2 we consider questions such as: What is the ultimate basis for existence? What is consciousness? Do we have free will? Can we know anything for certain? Can science give us knowledge? Why should I act morally? What is the best form of government? Why is art so important for us? What makes a great work of art so great?
Who is it for?
Philosophy is ideal for those who ask ‘why?’ a lot; those who wonder about life, about right and wrong, about freedom, truth, beauty and a thousand other things.
It is for those who like pondering fundamental questions and who want to acquire the skills required to develop and articulate their own opinions on such questions through the giving and evaluation of reasons.
What do you do?
The Unit 1 & 2 Philosophy courses are online. Each week you read through content, watch videos and try-out online interactive media that will introduce you to a particular question of philosophical interest together with some of the possible positions on the question and some of the arguments for these positions that have been offered by past thinkers.
The real fun starts then when you are presented with stimulus activities designed to provoke you to take up your own position on the question before guiding you to develop that position by thinking through the reasons you can give for your view and looking critically at the positions and reasons offered by others.
As you think through the online content you exchange ideas with other students in the online Forum areas and post your reflections on your developing understanding of the problem on your personal online Blog.
Overall, the activities are designed not only to enable you to develop your own views on the topic but also to build critical thinking skills that will enable you to express your views clearly and to argue convincingly in their favour.
What skills do you need?
There are no formal prerequisites for either Unit, but you do need to:
- love spending time really thinking through challenging questions;
- be sincere in your search for the truth;
- be willing to take a chance and share your ideas with others, even if you are uncertain of how good your ideas are (there is only one way to find out!);
- be ready to give reasons for your opinions and to critically investigate the reasons offered by others;
- have the personal integrity to give up a treasured belief if you are given convincing evidence that it is false.
What skills do you develop?
Apart from being a lot of fun, philosophy offers you the opportunity to achieve a number of very important things.
For a start you can sort out your own beliefs on various significant topics – and having coherent, non-contradictory beliefs is part of becoming your ‘own person’ and being a complete, independent member of society. In adult life you will be required to make on-the-spot decisions on critical issues, and you will need to be pretty sure of what you believe and why you believe it if you are to act responsibly and authentically in such situations.
Also Philosophy as an academic discipline requires and fosters the development of some very specific (and very useful) skills in the recognition, analysis, evaluation and creative production of arguments (reasons for belief). These critical thinking skills are essential if you are to really succeed not only in philosophy but in all other subjects, and in life more generally for that matter!
In particular study in philosophy will guide you develop an understanding of the structural principles and the writing skills required to write a really convincing piece of argumentative prose.
That’s a really important ability!
As this is an online course, students cannot participate in the course unless they have access to a fairly high speed, reliable, internet connected computer for a minimum of six hours per week.
Things to think about
Students should be prepared for Philosophy to forever change the way that they see themselves and the world.
You have been warned !
Things you can do now
There is a basic logic component to this course. Students can hone their logic skills in preparation for the intellectual rigors to come by working through the first few tutorials in the Critical Thinking Web’s ‘Identifying Arguments’ module.
Go to the VCAA website for more information about this subject.
Things to have a look at
A quick outline of the virtues and pleasures of studying philosophy with DECV.
Two DECV philosophy teachers discuss a philosophical problem.
Some more detailed examples of the kinds of questions philosophers consider (but the existence of God, the moral status of abortion and the coherence of time travel are not specifically covered in the DECV course).