Subject Overview

Philosophy is at the heart of every subject exploring the fundamental questions that people have asked since the beginning of time, and confronts new problems arising within contemporary society.

  • These questions are many and varied:
  • What exists?
  • What is it to be a human being?
  • What can we know?
  • How do I know what is the right thing to do?

Such questions are explored through an examination of various themes and texts. Doing Philosophy requires intellectual rigour, an open and critical mind, and a willingness to understand alternative views.


IB (sixth form)

The study of the Core Theme, ‘What is a human being?’, is compulsory at both Higher and Standard Level.

This gives students the opportunity to search for a better understanding of themselves both as individuals and as members of communities.

Central questions in the Philosophy of Mind will be examined and will include: What is a person? How is personhood manifest? Could animals or machines be persons? Can I know myself –  or another? Do I have free will?

Optional Themes: The Philosophy of Religion and Theories and Problems of Ethics

In addition to this, Higher Level pupils study two, Standard Level pupils one, Optional Theme(s).

‘Theories and Problems of Ethics’ concerns the way people think they should conduct their lives. How do we decide if a particular action is right or wrong? Ethics also leads to an examination of power in relationships –  how should I treat other people?

You will also study various ethical theories, including absolutism, relativism, utilitarianism and virtue theory.

‘The Philosophy of Religion’ addresses questions about the nature and existence of God and the coherency of religious language. You will also consider
the age-old problem of evil, the implications of God’s action in the world and the nature of the relationship between science and religion

A third element of the course demands that you study a philosopher in that philosopher’s own words.  

In studying a text you will develop your ability to present a philosophical argument by testing your position against the standpoint of the author and using the author to take your own thinking forward on the issue under consideration. The text studied will be: ‘Meditations, by Descartes.

The IB Diploma is designed to produce highly-educated all-rounders who embrace social responsibility, intercultural awareness and a duty to local and global communities to make an increasingly complex world a better place.