Subject Spotlight: The Year 12 subject that could change your life

It’s the search for wisdom that can change students as individuals. 

Blackfriars is one of only a handful of South Australian schools to offer Philosophy as a SACE Stage 2 subject. 

And teacher Peter Sage says it’s a subject that can change the way students think about the world around them – and their place in it. 

“It’s traditionally understood to be the search for wisdom,” Mr Sage says. 

“In the context of Blackfriars, I see it more as the history of ideas. It looks at a range of things … for example, in the Year 12 course, we look into ‘how do we know what we know?’. 

“We are asking the most fundamental questions. The history of ideas are all the things that the really, really clever people over the course of the centuries, mostly philosophers, I might add, have come up with.” 

Peter Sage is encouraging more students to study Philosophy as part of their SACE.

More broadly, Philosophy is “crucial” for developing students’ analytic thinking. 

“For students, whereas they can pick up various skill sets, get new skills in different subjects … Philosophy changes them as individuals,” Mr Sage says. 

“It’s crucial … because kids can then see the world with a proper perspective. Notions of balance. And it’s interesting because the knowledge, it sets them free. They understand that they must be humble and tolerant and understanding and receptive and inquisitive. And you don’t get that in other subjects. 

“The students will be able to bring even sharper analytical tools to everything else they do.” 

While not enjoying the popularity of more-traditional subjects, such as English and History, which Mr Sage also teaches, he is encouraging more students to take on Philosophy. 

“If you study anything to its highest point, its highest level … you become a Doctor of Philosophy,” he says.  

“It’s interesting, because kids really don’t have any idea. They know about PhDs, but they don’t know that that means a Doctor of Philosophy. And I think that is a symbol of the importance of the subject.” 

His own journey to a love of philosophy came as a young man, growing up in the shadow of the Vietnam War. 

“Some names were mentioned and I started reading them and it was extraordinary to discover somebody felt a sense of alienation, or isolation, or insecurity, but it was the 1750s. I just couldn’t believe they had felt that way. My interest just developed over the years.” 

He went on to study the subject at university, as did his son, who has Honours degrees in Law and Philosophy. 

As for future Year 12 Philosophy students at Blackfriars, Mr Sage’s message is simple: “We learn together and, I hope, grow together.” 

SACE subject outline 

Philosophy is a 10-credit subject or a 20-credit subject at Stage 1, and a 20-credit subject at Stage 2. 

Students learn that philosophy is part of life: it shapes the way people think, what they consider to be of value, what they take as being the truth, and how they engage with others and the world around them. Historically and now, philosophers have been recognised as teachers of wisdom whose contributions have helped to form society and its visions for the future. 

Philosophy involves the rational investigation of questions about existence, knowledge, and ethics, to which there are no simple answers. Consequently, philosophical problems tend to provoke disagreement and foster a variety of views and theories about the nature of the world and what ought to be done. Investigation of these problems requires skills of critical reasoning, developed through an understanding of reasoning and the foundations of argument analysis. 

Philosophy promotes respect for intellectual integrity as a human value and develops students’ skills to engage in philosophical argument. Students build their capacity to be creative and independent critical thinkers who can articulate and justify philosophical positions and argue reasoned action. 



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