Philosophy updates

Last updated:

This page contains the latest updates on the Diploma Programme (DP) philosophy course.

The new DP philosophy course will be launched in February 2023 for the first teaching in August 2023. First assessment will take place in May 2025.

Below you will find an overview of the course updates. For a technical breakdown of the DP curriculum and assessment methods for this course, read the philosophy subject brief (SL & HL)(PDF, 759 KB).

Overview of the new course

The overarching emphasis of the DP philosophy course is on students “doing philosophy”, that is, actively engaging students in philosophical activity. This means that a key focus of the course is on encouraging students to explore complex philosophical concepts and questions in a curious and critical way, articulating their own views on the issues they encounter and developing their own philosophical voice.

All standard level (SL) and higher level (HL) philosophy students follow a shared core syllabus that encourages the exploration of philosophical concepts and issues in an inquiring and intellectually curious way. The shared core syllabus involves the study of the core theme, one optional theme and one prescribed text, as well as the completion of the internal assessment exercise. In addition, students at HL must study one further optional theme, exposing them to a greater breadth of philosophical concepts and issues, as well as the HL extension topic “Philosophy and contemporary issues”.

Course component


Core theme: Being human

The core theme “Being human” is compulsory for all students. It is focused on the exploration of key concepts such as identity, the self, and human nature, and on questions such as what sets humans apart from other species and where the boundaries of being human lie.

Optional themes

SL students are required to study one theme from the following list. HL students are required to study two themes from the following list.

  1. Aesthetics
  2. Epistemology
  3. Ethics
  4. Philosophy of religion
  5. Philosophy of science
  6. Political philosophy
  7. Social philosophy

Prescribed text

Students are required to undertake an in-depth study of one text from the “IB list of prescribed philosophical texts”.  This list of 12 carefully selected texts includes classics such as Rene Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy, as well as new additions for this iteration of the course such as Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks.

HL extension

The HL extension topic “Philosophy and contemporary issues” is compulsory for all HL students. This element of the course focuses on an exploration of pressing issues relating to technology and the environment. Students consider how philosophy can help us to engage with these kinds of issues, and reflect on their own experiences of doing philosophy in the course.

Internal assessment: Philosophical analysis

Students are required to write a philosophical analysis of a non-philosophical stimulus such as a film, painting, or poem.

Improved representation of diverse perspectives and traditions

In recent years, there has been a shift towards greater recognition of the global and diverse nature of philosophy. This shift has seen critical reflection on the nature and boundaries of philosophy itself, as well as increasing recognition of previously marginalized or excluded perspectives within the discipline. The new DP philosophy course encourages teachers and students to recognize, explore and draw upon the diversity and richness of different traditions and perspectives within philosophical thinking, and to reflect this diversity in the design and delivery of their course.

Greater engagement with contemporary issues

Throughout the DP philosophy course, students are encouraged to apply their developing philosophical knowledge and skills to real-world situations and issues. This direct engagement in philosophical activity and its applications can be seen in the internal assessment exercise, where students explore how non-philosophical stimulus material can be treated in a philosophical way. For example, students can choose to explore a philosophical issue raised by a television show, painting, song lyric or even a personal experience, helping them to make connections between philosophy and the world around them.

The new iteration of the philosophy course has an even stronger emphasis on exploring contemporary issues. This is most apparent in a new HL extension topic where students consider some of the most urgent issues facing humanity in the 21st century and to consider how philosophy can help us to engage with and navigate these issues.

Key assessment changes

The most significant assessment change in the new philosophy course is the move to an open book assessment for the prescribed text component. Students will be allowed to take a non-annotated version of their selected book into the exam with them. It is intended that this change will help to reinforce that the focus of this component is on critical engagement with ideas from the text, not memorization of content.

Assessment overview



Paper 1 part A

This component consists of stimulus-based questions on the core theme.

Paper 1 part B

This component consists of thematic essay questions on the optional themes.

Paper 2

This component consists of an open book assessment on the prescribed philosophical texts.

Paper 3

This component asks students to respond to an unseen extract from a philosophical text that discusses a pressing contemporary issue relating to technology or the environment.

Internal assessment

This component requires students to write a 2000-word philosophical analysis of a non-philosophical stimulus of their choice.