Religious Language- Apophatic and Cataphatic Ways: A2 Philosophy

Preview of Lesson Plans:

Via Negativa:

Students pick three things in room and describe it by 10 things it is not

Write on board:

  • Not heavy
  • Not on the floor
  • Not universally known
  • Not moving
  • Not mental
  • Not black or purple
  • Not hot
  • Not absent from me (Aimee/ teacher)

= dream catcher (I have a dream catcher tattoo on my ankle)

Students share one thing with partner – guess – share with class

Write a short paragraph:

  1. I think it was (clear/ unclear) to describe items by what they are not because…

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First Year Exam Paper Breakdown: Philosophy Soul Question

Here’s a breakdown of a student’s answer for the question on the Soul, Mind, Body unit from the new spec exams 2016 (first years).

‘There is no such thing as a soul’ Discuss (30)

OCR marks given for student’s answer:
A01 9/15
A02 8/15

I used this answer as part of my lesson on essay writing for this unit. I gave the students 3 highlighters: critical words (purple) , use of ‘no/ such thing’ (blue) and every time a new name is used (green). What was clear very quickly is that this student used multiple critical words, wide selection of scholarly names and linked points back to the question.

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First Year Exam Paper Breakdown: Philosophy POE Question

I love deliveries from new spec text books to stationery. Today’s delivery: philosophy exam papers from the new spec exams (first years). Here’s a break down of a student’s answer for the question on Problem of Evil.

Assess the claim that natural evil has a purpose (30)

OCR marks given for student’s answer:
A01 15/15
A02 14/15

From reading the student’s answer there are a few noticeable points:

The structure is very clear and simple with an introduction, four main paragraphs and a conclusion.

intro aug 1.jpg

There are three simple things that make this introduction work. The first is the student uses the word ‘natural’ 3 times and ‘purpose’ twice. This shows that they are directly linking their essay to the question immediately (it is also a good way for the student to really clarify what the question is asking of them). Secondly the quote grabs the reader’s attention immediately. It is a short yet relevant quote from Augustine which the student then links into the question with a ‘this means’. Thirdly the student introduces the other key names involved Hick and Irenaeus. This makes it clear to the reader that they will be involved in this answer.

The four main paragraphs have a very clear theme and structure

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Nature of God: A2 Philosophy

Preview of lesson plans:

  • A3 bubble: Attributes of God
  • Go round class get an answer from everyone
  • Pick 5 attributes and define them (add simple/ immutable)


  1. Is it hard to define God
  2. Which attributes conflict? Why?
  3. Does God need all of these to be God, which one can he lack?

Demonstration one: all students stand in a line (past, present, future) God stands back and sees all line (time) in one glance. Emphasize Boethius ideas on eternal

Can you see any potential problems with this?

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“Religious experiences are an illusion of the mind”: Student’s Work

This is an example of what I would class as a good introduction. See the use of critical terms (red), links to the question (x3 in green) and the engagement with the two key names (Freud and James) in relation to the quote. The quote shows higher level independent reading but also shows understanding through not only linking it to James but also the question.


This is the first paragraph from the same essay. See the clear structure: James (yellow), E.G (green), E.G evaluation (purple), E.G evaluation linking back to James and introductory links to Freud (blue). Once again this is what I deem a good paragraph. The student maintains links to the example throughout (St. Teresa), I learn as a reader about her case without excessive description, James is also not forgotten from the first part of the paragraph by the student linking it to the example in an evaluative and analytical way. It does not over complicate the structure, the evaluation is prominent and the links back to the question are noticeable.

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Philosophers meet Social Media: Homework get creative!

At the end of what has felt like a very long term battling with a new spec, I wanted to set my students a homework that would:

  • Be interesting,
  • Consolidate their learning,
  • Challenge them to achieve higher marks in the exam and …
  • Easy to mark!

Answer: Facebook profiles for any Philosopher, Scientist, Atheist etc covered so far.

The results were brilliant! I received work that was funny, engaging and showed deeper understanding of the key figures.

Here are some examples:

Facebook profiles:

Fact Files:

And my favourites…

Tinder (dating) Profiles:

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