How to approach the Philosophy examination

The Self in its Different Dimensions

Spiritual Dimension: ‘the Self as Transcendent Entity’
Judeo-Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zen, Taoism

The Inner Self: ‘Who am I?’

Psychological foundations:                                                      Philosophical foundations:
The Unconscious (Freud)                                                         Logos / Pure Ideas (Plato)
The many-faceted self (Jung)                                               Cogito / Dualism (Descartes)
Stream of consciousness (James)                                      Bundle of impressions (Hume)
Need to self-actualise (Maslow)                                               Will to Power (Nietzsche)
Positive conditioning (Skinner)                                        Consciousness / Freedom (Sartre)

Moral Dimension: ‘the Self as Moral Agent’
Socrates, Aristotle, Confucius, Lao-Tzu, Mencius, Kant, Mill, Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, Singer, Sandel

Social/Political/Global Dimension: ‘the Self as active citizen (of the world)’
Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Marx, Mill, Arendt, Rawls,Taylor

The Biological Self: ‘the Self as part of Nature’
Darwin, Pinker, Dawkins, Singer

The above chart is meant to help you with your IB Philosophy revision. Remember that to achieve a top grade in your examination paper, you must combine an ‘in-depth knowledge and understanding’ of your set text but also show the ability to bring into your essay, challenging arguments, taken from other sources, which you will then use to support, qualify or refute the philosophical issues under review. Finally, your conclusion must clearly highlight your personal opinion / position regarding the examination question.
If, for instance, you have been studying Descartes’ Meditations’, over the past two years, you may want to refer to some of the ‘objections’ put forward by some of his correspondents, like Mersenne or Hobbes. In the Preface to the Meditations, Descartes specifically asks the reader “not to pass judgment on the Meditations until they have been kind enough to read through all these objections and my replies to them.” Of course, you may also wish to refer to Gilbert Ryle’s argument developed in ‘The Concept of Mind’ (1949) that Descartes’ theory of the ‘mind’ is nothing but a philosophical illusion, perpetuated by ‘category mistakes’. You do not have to be an expert on Ryle’s theory to make a valid philosophical point. Only refer to what you clearly understand or simply go and get another strong counterargument from a philosopher you are more familiar with. However, always try and look for the original source instead of trying to memorise a few snippets from a general guide to Philosophy. Half-baked arguments are no substitute for proper reasoning and they certainly won’t further your cause with a discerning examiner.
Lastly, remember that the examination should not be the most terrible ordeal you may imagine but, on the contrary, the opportunity for you to show off your knowledge and critical understanding of all the philosophical material you have come across during your IB preparation. By the time, you open your Philosophy exam papers and you pick up your pen, you must think of yourself, no longer as a ‘philosophy student’ but as a confident ‘philosopher’, capable of presenting coherent analyses and pertinent personal conclusions.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*