IB Philosophy (HL and SL)

Course description

Philosophy, the ‘love of wisdom’, is a fascinating and exciting subject which enables students to wrestle with the greatest questions known to mankind. The philosopher is tasked with an abstract challenge – thinking about thought itself. The aims of the IB Philosophy course are broad and enabling. Students are required to:

  • develop an intellectually independent and creative way of thinking
  • formulate arguments in a rational and logical way
  • examine critically their own experiences, and their ideological and cultural biases
  • become aware of the plurality of philosophical traditions, ancient and modern

Syllabus outline

Core Theme – Being Human

An in-depth analysis of the question, ‘What does it mean to be a human being?’ Areas of focus include: how the mind relates to the body, whether machines could be human, or whether there is such a thing as human nature.

Optional Themes

Higher Level requires the study of two themes, while Standard Level requires the study of only one theme. The themes include the Philosophy of Science (comprising the nature and methodology of science, and the relationships between science, the self, and society) and also the study of Ethics (theoretical approaches to morality, the nature of ‘good’, modern ethical dilemmas, etc.).

Prescribed texts

The study of a complete philosophical text (usually, The Ethics of Authenticity by Charles Taylor).

Internal assessment

Students will work on a piece of extended writing i.e. ‘coursework’, which involves a philosophical analysis of non-philosophical material. The analysis must be 1600-2000 words in length, but the choice of topic is open; it could be a novel, song, poem, or a work of art.

Exploring Philosophical Activity (Higher Level only)

Students will demonstrate their ability to describe and apply philosophy as an activity. They must respond to an unseen text, analysing the meaning as well as describing how philosophy ‘works’ in the document.


It is unlikely that pupils will have studied Philosophy formally at Middle School level prior to this course. However, candidates must have attained  7-9 at GCSE one or more of the following subjects: Religious Studies, English Language, English Literature or History. Study of Classics may also be an advantage. You must be willing to approach the subject with an open, inquiring and critical mind.

Potential careers

Philosophy can lead to any career. The styles of argument and analysis that you will learn are important for all careers, as you learn how to construct sound arguments and criticise bad ones among other key skills. Taking this subject does not restrict you to any particular career path and pupils have gone on to study a wide range of subjects at university including Philosophy, Law, English literature, Theology, Psychology and even Sciences or Medicine.

Contact for further information:

Mr. T. Kirby – tck@wellingtoncollege.org.uk