Philosophy topics essays

Philosophy topics essays

Learning Benefits

Generally speaking there are two types of philosophy topics. The first is a text philosophy topic in which you take the words of a philosopher and examine them in detail. The second is a problem philosophy topic in which an issue involving philosophy is discussed in detail. But whichever type of philosophy topic you choose, the choice of topic is always important.

If you are given the topic by your teacher or professor then you must make the best essay possible from the task assigned to you. If you are given a choice of selecting a philosophy topic, then you are strongly advised to choose something you are interested in or in which you already have some prior knowledge.

The enthusiasm you have for the project is largely determined by the topic. The degree of enthusiasm you have for the project directly corresponds to the quality of your writing and thus the mark you receive. Choose the right topic and you are well on the way to writing something relevant, interesting and eye-catching.

Here are some philosophy topics for essays.

  1. Is belief in God a good or a bad thing?
  2. There is no place for logic in a faith based religion.
  3. If there was a God, there would be no evil in the world.
  4. Humans behave according to their genetic structure.
  5. Ethics are designed by humans to suit their own ends.
  6. Without ethics, society would collapse.
  7. We create our own happiness by helping as many people as possible.
  8. Humans are born being selfish and never lose that characteristic.
  9. Ethics from feminists are unique.
  10. Knowledge is the ultimate tool to change human nature.
  11. Understanding duty and performing it is the best creator of wealth.
  12. There is no good and evil only an interpretation of behaviour.
  13. Understanding sexual desire is the key to understanding human nature.
  14. Truth is a pragmatic concept and changes according to circumstances.
  15. Freedom and prejudice are opposites which attract.

Remember that the choice of topic while being crucial doesn’t remove the fact that your planning, researching, writing and editing are all vital ingredients. You can’t get the best essay result from only some of the vital components.

Philosophy as well as being, well, philosophical, demands clear thinking and evidence to substantiate your theories and beliefs. Solid reading research is a cornerstone of your success.

Philosophy topics essays

Please e-mail me the topic of your paper and your thesis statement by April 14. The Topic of your paper is the general area or question you’ll be exploring, while your Thesis is the position you’ll be arguing for in that area. I have some suggested topics and sample thesis statements below.

The final paper is a position paper, in which you give arguments for a position; it is not a research paper. If you want to bring in additional material from outside the class readings, you may do so, but only if it contributes to your argument. (However, you might want to check with me to see whether the material is appropriate.) You don’t need to bring in additional material, and I don’t want this paper to be an exercise in finding out and explaining what other people thought about the philosophers and topics we’ve studied. Instead, this is your chance to give Your own arguments about the material we’ve studied.

I want you to give your opinion. However, you need to give Reasons for your opinions, and your discussion should take, as its starting point, the arguments of the philosophers we’ve studied this semester. In addition, it should demonstrate an understanding of these arguments.

As always, you should explain things clearly enough that somebody not already familiar with the class material, like your ignorant but intelligent roommate, would understand what you’re saying. Another good technique is to try to think of possible objections to what you’re saying and to reply to those objections. What would Plato, or Aristotle, or Epicurus say against you? Having an actual ignorant roommate (or a classmate) look over your paper to raise objections, and to spot obscure passages, can be very helpful.

Look at the list of reading response papers to get more paper ideas. Many of the topics listed there would be a suitable basis for a longer paper. Socrates’ arguments for how he benefits the citizens of Athens through his activity are unconvincing. Although he exposes people’s ignorance, having your ignorance exposed is not beneficial. Socrates’ arguments do not show that a divine command theory of ethics is correct. Although I am sympathetic to Aristotle’s overall ethical position, I think that he is wrongly overemphasizes the value of reason when he says that the life of theoretical reasoning is the best possible life for a human being. Using Aristotle’s doctrine of the «mean relative to us,» I will argue that, even within a broadly Aristotelian ethics, people with different natural talents can express human excellence in many different ways, and that it would be wrong to pick out one way of life as better than all others. Socrates’ proposals to censor the stories of Homer and Hesiod are cogent. Aristotle says that ‘virtue’ friendships are essential to achieving happiness, and that the highest good is your own happiness. I will argue that Aristotle’s ethics undercuts itself. Thinking that your own happiness is the highest good makes it impossible to be a ‘virtue’ friend, and without ‘virtue’ friends, you cannot achieve happiness. the correct solution to this problem, I will argue, is to admit that there are things that we value, that we do not value because we think they will bring us happiness. In this paper I will look at Plato’s, Aristotle’s, and Epicurus’ arguments for why being virtuous is necessary for attaining happiness and argue that none of them succeed. In fact, it gets in the way of attaining happiness, because it places burdensome restrictions on doing what is necessary in order to satisfy your desires. If this is true, I argue, then one should Not try to become virtuous. In this paper, I will argue that Aristotle is right to think that teleological explanations are necessary in order to understand natural phenomena, and that Epicurus’ attempt to dispense with them fails. Return to the Ancient Philosophy course web site.
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Philosophy topics essays

I’ll be asking you to e-mail me the topic of your paper and your thesis statement by April 14. The Topic of your paper is the general area or question you’ll be exploring, while your Thesis is the position you’ll be arguing for in that area. I have some suggested topics and sample thesis statements below.

The final paper is a position paper, in which you give arguments for a position; it is not a research paper. If you want to bring in additional material from outside the class readings, you may do so, but only if it contributes to your argument. (However, you might want to check with me to see whether the material is appropriate.) You don’t need to bring in additional material, and I don’t want this paper to be an exercise in finding out and explaining what other people thought about the philosophers and topics we’ve studied. Instead, this is your chance to give Your own arguments about the material we’ve studied.

I want you to give your opinion. However, you need to give Reasons for your opinions, and your discussion should take, as its starting point, the arguments of the philosophers we’ve studied this semester. In addition, it should demonstrate an understanding of these arguments.

As always, you should explain things clearly enough that somebody not already familiar with the class material, like your ignorant but intelligent roommate, would understand what you’re saying. Another good technique is to try to think of possible objections to what you’re saying and to reply to those objections. What would Plato, or Epicurus, or Descartes say against you? Having an actual ignorant roommate (or a classmate) look over your paper to raise objections, and to spot obscure passages, can be very helpful.

I’ve also posted additional paper writing guidelines; please look them over.

Note: These are only Suggestions for possible paper topics, to get you thinking, plus some of the questions it might be helpful to address during the course of your paper. However, these aren’t binding; feel free to adapt these to your own needs.

  1. Morality and the Desire for Happiness. Kant would say that the actions of somebody who acts ‘justly’ because of a desire for happiness or pleasure have ‘no moral worth.’ In fact, even if that person acts justly because of a desire for the happiness of others, Kant would still say that person’s actions have no moral worth. Why does he think this? How do you think Epicurus would respond to Kant? Evaluate what both Kant and Epicurus would say. With whom do you agree (if either), and why? What do you think is the proper place of desire in one’s motivations to act morally? (For this question, you can bring in Mill if you wish.)
  2. The Nature of Mind. What sort of thing does Epicurus believe the mind is, and why? Evaluate his position. In formulating your answer, try to think of the strongest objection against the position that you’ll be advocating, and respond to it.
  3. Material Goods and Happiness. Epicurus says that he can be as happy as Zeus if he has bread and water, and he thinks that the pursuit of luxury is incompatible with attaining happiness. Epicurus is down on ‘materialism’ (in the ethical, not the metaphysical sense). Why is that? Give his argument. Do you believe that the pursuit of material goods, wealth, etc., is an impediment to achieving happiness? Why or why not? If you disagree with Epicurus, make sure that you say why. What is the proper place of material goods (and the pursuit of material goods) in the happy life? Consider (and reply to) the strongest objections to your position that you can think of.
  4. The Possibility of Knowledge. Do Descartes’ Dreaming Hypothesis and Evil Deceiver Hypothesis successfully show that it is impossible to know whether one has a body and whether the external world exists? If they do, can belief that there is an external world and that one has a body be justified? (Along these lines, you could explore the motivation for Descartes’ program of radical doubt, and give an argument for whether his program is justified or not.) Along these lines, looking at what Hume has to say might be relevant.
  5. Epicurus’ ethics. Look at some area of Epicurus’ ethics in particular, and evaluate what he says. Some possible topics include:
    • Is one’s own pleasure the only thing with intrinsic value to oneself? Evaluate Epicurus’ arguments for this.
    • The nature of pleasure, and its connection with desire-satisfaction, according to Epicurus. Is he right? (tranquillity and lack of pain themselves being pleasures, the superiority of mental to bodily pleasures, the relationship between mental and bodily pleasures, etc.)
    • Epicurus’ account of the value (instrumental) and necessity of the virtues for obtaining a pleasant life. Are all of the virtues really just forms of prudence? Are they necessary for achieving a pleasant life? If Epicurus were consistent, should he recommend a vicious/’bad’ life?
    • Friendship. Does Epicurus correctly describe the necessity and nature of friendship? Is one truly a friend if one treats one’s friends well for self-serving reasons? Etc.
    • Justice.
    • Death.
    • The gods. Is believing that there are no gods/no God that take an interest in our affairs, that human existence has no purpose beyond what we give it via our desires, and that we are result of ‘blind’ forces, really conducive to having a tranquil life, as Epicurus believes?
  6. Other possible topics: Is death an evil, and should it be feared? Does the evil in the world show that there is not an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving God? What difference, if any, does God’s existence make to ethics (you can relate this to divine command theory, the Euthyphro, Epicurus, and Kant. )? Are freedom and foreknowledge comaptible? Are free will and determinism compatible? Should one trust one’s senses as a reliable source of information about the world? I haven’t filled these out, but the questions above should give you some idea of how to approach these topics in a way that grapples sufficiently with the course material. If you’d like to write on something else that came up over the course of the semester, please be my guest! However, please also come and discuss your paper topic with me beforehand.

Some sample thesis statements:

  • Epicurus is wrong when he argues that there cannot be justice with regard to non-human animals. Certain ways of treating animals are unjust, even if we have no agreements with them.
  • If death is annihilation, then it can indeed be a great evil, because an early death can cause one to accomplish much less in life than one would have otherwise.
  • If one does the morally right thing only because doing so in is one’s self-interest, then one’s actions have no moral worth.
  • In his ethics, Epicurus cannot account for the way that we should treat our friends. True friends do not treat their friends well just because doing so helps them to get pleasure for themselves.
  • There is an immaterial soul, that exists separately from the body and survives its death.
  • The Divine Command Theory of Ethics is not refuted by the type of question that Socrates asks Euthyphro. Actions can be right or wrong BecauseGod commands or prohibits them. In fact, without God’s commands, there can be no basis for ethics.
  • The Free Will Defense does not succeed in showing that God’s goodness can be reconciled with the evil in the world.

Return to the Great Questions of Philosophy page.

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