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IB Philosophy 

Part 1: Themes

The purpose of studying themes is to enable students to wrestle with specific areas of philosophical problems and issues, and to gain experience in doing philosophy in the spirit of the aims of the course. Students at SL must study the core theme and one optional theme.

For the core theme and each of the optional themes, a number of possible topics for study are listed for guidance. These lists are neither prescriptive nor exhaustive, and teachers are encouraged to exercise flexibility, creativity, and innovation in their delivery of the course.
The same amount of time should be allocated to the study of the core theme and each optional theme, as no theme is more important than any other. Where appropriate, teachers are encouraged to examine themes from the perspectives of diverse world views. There is no prescribed supporting material for the themes and it is suggested that teachers use a wide range of sources.


Core theme: What is a human being?

The study of the core theme is compulsory.

Optional themes

Students are required to study one theme from the following list (Y2 =2)

  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

* These are focal topics for this year.

Part 2: Prescribed philosophical text

The purpose of studying a prescribed philosophical text is to allow students to achieve an in-depth knowledge and understanding of challenging work and to extend their overall comprehension of philosophy. The detailed study of a philosophical text can be seen as another way in which students learn to do philosophy by entering into dialogue with another philosopher.


Students are required to study one text from the “IBO list of prescribed philosophical texts”. This will be Plato's "Republic"  We will focus on this during the second semester.


Part 3: Internal assessment

Students are required to produce a philosophical analysis of non-philosophical material, to demonstrate their philosophical skills.


Doing philosophy—an independent approach

Learning philosophy can be achieved through a study of the history of philosophy or by doing philosophy. The emphasis of the Diploma Programme philosophy course is on doing philosophy within an international context. The aim is to encourage students to develop the ability to reason and argue and to take a personal and independent position on philosophical issues. Below is a suggested approach that will enable students to study themes or texts in a consistent way. It is not the only approach available, but it provides a starting point from which students can develop into independent thinkers. This approach is suitable for all the tasks included in the syllabus.

  • Essays on a theme

  • Essay on a text

  • Internal assessment exercise


Formulating arguments

The philosophy course does not include logic as a specific topic for study. However, students should be familiar with the basic features of reasoning necessary to formulate their own philosophical arguments and to develop and evaluate those of others. Teachers should develop their students’ skills so that they are able to construct personal philosophical arguments.

When formulating philosophical arguments students should:

  • identify the problem(s)/issue(s) and possible assumptions present in the activity

  • ask themselves what they think about these problem(s)/issue(s), taking into account their own and other perspectives

  • present reasons that support their position

  • put forward possible objections or counter-arguments that could be leveled against their position

  • suggest strategies for overcoming these objections or counter-arguments

  • illustrate their position and counter-positions with supporting examples

  • offer possible and consistent resolutions to the problem(s)/issue(s) present in the activity, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the positions they encounter.

Using texts

Students should adopt the same approach when they examine a classic philosophical issue or use a philosophical argument presented in a text. They should always be careful not to refer to the text or the author as an authority. In addition, students are expected to:

  • identify the philosophical problem(s)/issue(s) raised by the text

  • identify the author’s standpoint in the text

  • state what they think about the author’s standpoint

  • develop and explore their own position on the author’s standpoint by:

    • acknowledging alternative approaches to the text

    • considering how different approaches to the text might enable them to extend their own thinking about the problem(s)/issue(s) posed.

This approach goes beyond the mere presentation of arguments and counter-arguments from philosophers’ texts and insists on students developing their own line of reasoning. Students must always demonstrate how their own personal reasoning underpins their argument.
Some common mistakes made by students include:

  • engaging in a superficial analysis along with small talk

  • focusing on description rather than argumentation

  • failing to take into account personal and cultural influences in analyzing the text.

While the course prescribes that one philosophical text (from a list of 12) must be studied, this does not preclude incorporating other philosophical texts into the study of the core theme and the optional themes.

We will be creating an ongoing collection of individual philosophers and their essential work to serve as supplemental information to our more focused inquiry into the world of philosophy and our own pursuit of knowledge.


Internal assessment is an integral part of the philosophy course at both HL and SL. The activity of writing a philosophical analysis of non-philosophical material has been chosen to reflect common activities used in teaching and doing philosophy. It allows students to explore what doing philosophy means. Through this activity, students will demonstrate their ability to apply their philosophical knowledge and understanding to real-life examples or situations, and how non-philosophical material can be treated in a philosophical way and challenge their philosophical reflection.

Nature of the internal assessment

Students at both HL and SL must produce a philosophical analysis of 1,600–2,000 words. This word limit does not include the bibliography or references. It also does not include the 200-word description that is necessary for lengthier non-philosophical material (for example, texts containing over 200 words, play/film/movie scenes, television scenes, radio shows, lengthier extracts from novels).

Students should identify an issue raised by the non-philosophical material and analyze it in a philosophical way. This analysis must relate to a philosophical issue or argument raised by the study of the course.

Suitable material for analysis includes:

  • novels, plays, poetry, song lyrics

  • films/movies, television, and radio shows

  • cartoons, paintings, photographs, or other visual images

  • newspaper articles/letters

  • Internet sites

  • advertisements

  • pamphlets

  • propaganda.

Students should select a short piece of non-philosophical material to analyze. A newspaper article can stand alone but where novels or plays are used, no more than two pages should be selected for analysis, and in the case of a television or radio show, film/movie, or play, no more than two scenes should be used. The emphasis should be on the depth and quality of the philosophical analysis, and not on the length or the intellectual level of the source material used.

When the source material contains 200 words or fewer students must include a copy of this material. When the source material contains more than 200 words students must include a description of this material. Sources of 200 words or fewer may take the form of poems, pamphlets, song lyrics, and newspaper articles/letters. Sources of over 200 words (poems, novels, newspaper articles) and film/movie scenes or television/radio shows (not the whole movie or show) must be described in no more than 200 words. All stimulus material must be accurately referenced.

Management of the internal assessment

Integration into classroom activities

The philosophical analysis should be completed during the course. Work for the exercise should be incorporated into normal classroom activities. It must be related to one of the themes or a text being studied as part of the philosophy syllabus.

Time allocation

It is recommended that 20 hours of class time at both HL and SL should be allocated to this assessment component. During the suggested 20 hours, students may be able to complete more than one philosophical analysis. These students can then select their best pieces to be submitted for the final assessment.

Formal requirements

Students must adhere to the word limit and must provide the following information.

  • Title.

  • Part of the syllabus to which the exercise relates.

  • The number of words.

  • Bibliography and references.

  • A copy or description of the source material used for their philosophical analysis. Texts of over 200 words (poems, novels, newspaper articles) and film/movie scenes or television scenes/radio shows (not the whole movie or show) must be described in no more than 200 words.

Guidance and authenticity

The teacher plays an important role in advising students on philosophical analysis. In particular, it is the responsibility of the teacher to ensure that students are familiar with:

  • the formal requirements for the internal assessment exercise

  • the assessment criteria that are used to assess their work

  • the amount of guidance students are allowed to receive from their teacher regarding the development and presentation of the exercise.

Teachers must discuss the activity with their students before they start work on philosophical analysis. Students should also be encouraged to initiate discussions with the teacher to obtain advice and information. However, if a student could not have completed the work without substantial support from the teacher, this should be recorded on the appropriate form from the Vade Mecum.

As part of the learning process, teachers can give advice to students on a first draft of the philosophical analysis. Advice on improving the work can be given, but this first draft must not be heavily annotated or edited by the teacher. Constant drafting and redrafting are not allowed, and the next version handed to the teacher after the first draft must be the final one.

Teachers must explain clearly to students that the internally assessed work must be entirely their own. When authenticity is in doubt, the teacher should first discuss this with the student. In addition, one or more of the following actions may be helpful.

  • Compare the style of writing in the philosophical analysis with work known to be that of the student.

  • Check the references cited by the student and the original sources for the philosophical analysis.

  • Interview the student in the presence of a third party.

  • Use one of the many websites set up to detect plagiarism.

Teachers are required to sign the IA coversheet in the Vade Mecum to confirm that the work of each student is his or her own unaided work.

Submission of internal assessment

Teachers must assess the work students submit using the internal assessment criteria. 


Linked below are sample student work and accompanying moderator comments from the IB OCC.  These are examples of three different approaches to writing the Philosophy IA which is to craft a philosophical treatment of non-philosophical work.