Academic Subjects

Tips for Philosophy SL

At the beginning of my journey in the IB, I thought that Philosophy would be one of the hardest subjects that I was going to take. But I discovered that if you pay attention and put in the work, philosophy can be incredibly interesting.  Here are some of my best tips to help you improve in IB Philosophy!

1. Read the books before class

You can never overestimate the value of reading ahead.  Ask your teachers which authors you’ll be studying through the semester and get the books you need.  You should also own a copy, either digital or physical, of the official IB Philosophy core curriculum book (titled Philosophy: Being Human). By familiarizing yourself with the texts, you’ll be in a better position to understand what your teacher is explaining!  This way, you’ll have a taste of the concepts and can ask better questions in class. When you study for your exams, you will be more familiar with the author’s arguments and how to use them. You should understand all the terms and theories you learn, because your grade depends on it.  For example, one of my required books was Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.  Once you get into the habit of reading ahead, you’d be surprised at how much higher the quality of your work is!

2. Learn the authors’ quotes

When writing your IAs, it is good to know some of the authors’ quotes that explain what you are trying to say. Using them demonstrates that you know the author, their ideas, and understand the concepts you’re using.

For example, one good Aristotle quote is: “One swallow does not make a summer”. I used that quote in my IA to explain that someone who performs one good action isn’t necessarily a good person. You need to do good actions frequently to be considered a good person. Remember to always put your quotes in context with what you are trying to argue and explain why they are important for your essay!

3. When in doubt, watch videos!

Sometimes, watching videos summarizing the big picture is what we need to understand a theory of philosophical concepts. Visual learners (like me) can especially benefit from this medium. Here are some videos I found helpful when studying ethics:

  1. Immanuel Kant: ethics by Philosophy Explained
  2. Utilitarianism: John Stuart Mill by CrashCourse Philosophy
  3. Aristotle and the virtue theory by CrashCourse Philosophy

Apart from this, it’s important to find other ways of engaging with the material. Reading summaries, making conceptual maps, and explaining what you have learned to your friends are different ways to interact with philosophy!

4. Apply the concepts to your own life

IB philosophy is not only about learning theories, dates, or philosophers. It is about being able to understand it, arguing different points of view, examining ideas, criticizing and analyzing arguments, and knowing how to apply all this to your daily life. While I watch Netflix, I can link philosophical concepts like ethics with the scene that I’m watching. In fact, my IA was based on a Netflix series called The Rain, and I discussed whether an action was good if it was done for the common benefit (ethics). If you are interested in philosophy, it won’t be as difficult for you to understand it. Study, put in the effort, and you will reap the rewards.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to DM on Instagram (@estefyvegas) and I will be happy to help you.  Good luck!!


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