In this section

Find an IB World School

The IB in


The emphasis of the Diploma Programme philosophy course is on “doing” philosophy. It focuses on developing students’ ability to formulate arguments in a sound and purposeful way, and encourages students to develop intellectually independent and creative ways of thinking.

A concern with clarity of understanding lies at the core of the philosophy course. This clarity is achieved through critical and systematic thinking, careful analysis of arguments, the study of philosophical themes and a close reading of philosophical texts. Through this examination of themes and texts the philosophy course allows students to explore fundamental questions that people have asked throughout human history; for example, does life have meaning? How do I know what is the right thing to do? Is knowledge culturally dependent?

All students study a core theme entitled “What is a human being?” This theme provides an opportunity to explore fascinating and enduring philosophical questions such as: is there such a thing as a self? What is the relationship between mind and body? Could animals or machines be persons? All students also study a philosophical text, and complete an internal assessment exercise in which they undertake a philosophical analysis of a non-philosophical stimulus, such as a painting or poem.

Standard level students also explore one optional theme, from a choice of eight:

1. Grounds of epistemology

2. Theories and problems of ethics

3. Philosophy of religion

4. Philosophy of art

5. Political philosophy

6. Non-Western traditions and perspectives

7. Contemporary social issues

8. People, nations and cultures

Higher level students study two of these optional themes, and in addition will also spend time reflecting on the nature of philosophy and on their own experience of doing philosophy. This reflection on the nature, methodology and purpose of philosophy is assessed specifically in an additional assessment component, which is taken by HL students only.

Find out more

Order IB publications relating to group 3.

Read about similar studies in the Middle Years Programme and Primary Years Programme.

"IB history students have jumped at the opportunity to do internal assessment pieces about colonialism, the civil rights movement, and the African-American experience. That their own history and interests are validated in an academic programme has been essential to their success."

Adam Man, Diploma Programme coordinator, Baltimore City College, Maryland