Philosophy — Ethics


This theme deals with ethical questions from a variety of perspectives. It is concerned with practical decision-making and the way people think they ought to lead their lives. Ethics explores the possible grounds for making moral decisions and examines notions such as freedom, values, responsibility and virtue. Ethics also entails a reflection upon experiences such as friendship, hospitality and love. A study of applied ethics explores approaches to important issues, some of which may be of international concern.

This theme allows students to explore philosophically such questions as: Are there fundamental moral principles that apply in every situation? How do we decide if a particular action is right or wrong? How should we treat people? Are moral decisions culturally influenced? What do we mean when we say something is right or wrong?

Normative ethics

The study of ethical principles—what they might be, whether they are universal and how they influence our actions. This includes deontological and duty-based theories; teleological or consequentialist theories like utilitarianism; and notions of virtue and virtuous character.


The study of the meaning of ethical statements and the foundation of moral judgements. What do we mean when we say an action is right or wrong? Do moral values exist independently of humans? Do moral questions apply only to humans? What is the relationship between statements of fact and statements of value?

Applied ethics

The study of ethical approaches to important contemporary issues such as bio-medicine, the environment and politics.

(from the IB Philosophy Guide)