An essay on a philosophical topic can be challenging in several different ways. If you haven’t been assigned a topic, then you need to carefully consider both the type of philosophy you want to illuminate as well as the topic and the philosopher who originally championed the idea. This calls for a fair amount of research. If you need a place to start, there is an extensive list of topics below that are broken down by the schools of thought and/or the eras that inspired them.
Researching a Philosophy Topic
Philosophers are the embodiment of deep thinkers, and many of the best ones have offered up theories and perspectives that have gone on to influence the world. It helps to pick a specific school of thought, whether it is the classical Greek, Transcendentalism, Rationalism, or another, and then research the school of thought as well as the era that inspired them. This often calls for researching the specific philosophy and accomplishments of a specific philosopher.
While researching a topic or a school of thought try to think of examples you can cite in the body of the essay. This might be a historical example from the era the philosopher lived in or a real-world example that is pertinent today. A concept that was pertinent when it was originally written and is still relevant now will lend strength to your essay.
Tips for Writing a Philosophy Essay
Ideally, you want to choose a topic for your philosophy essay that has a strong and defensible position, as well as relevance in the present day. The research you have already done will provide you with an intellectual foundation to make a strong and well-supported argument.
When writing a philosophy essay, you want to compose it from a third-person point of view. This gives the essay an objective perspective that engages the reader while making it clear that the ideas being presented are not coming from your own personal bias. When providing supporting facts in your argument, make sure to quote them directly, include the source, and a relevant composition that it came from. You might also need to provide the date it was originally published.
How to Structure a Philosophy Essay
Depending on the required length of the philosophy essay, you can use a standard five-paragraph structure and expand the number of body paragraphs if necessary. This will give your philosophy essay a natural flow that makes it easy for the reader to follow.
This essay structure includes an introduction with a strong thesis statement, which might include a direct quote from a well-known philosopher. You then follow up with supporting body paragraphs that have their own distinct point that is supported by strong evidence, rather than flowing together into a single idea. Then you finish with a strong conclusion that illustrates the point or demonstrates its historical relevance or relevance in present times.
A philosophy essay needs to directly state the topic in the introduction while enticing the reader to want to learn more about the topic. It’s best to use authoritative language, while also making sure that you are speaking to the reader, rather than talking down to them about a subject that might be disagreeable.
A strong thesis statement is a critical component of a philosophy essay’s introductory paragraph. The end of the introduction should include a sentence of two that leads into the first body paragraph.
The first paragraph of your philosophy essay should have a strong connection to the thesis statement while also offering supporting evidence. This might include a direct quote from a philosopher or a well-known historical figure. Then make sure to document when it was said and who made the statement.
Each body paragraph should be its own idea and includes well-documented examples. If another philosopher argued against the thesis, you can include that information as well to demonstrate the counterpoint.
Each body paragraph should conclude with a sentence of two that leads into the next body paragraph’s point or central theme. If you are writing a topic that compares and contrasts two opposing opinions, you can give each view its own body paragraph.
The conclusion of your philosophy essay needs to have an assertive tone while providing a definite answer to the topic. This might be demonstrating why one view is more applicable to the modern world or why one view won out over the opposing view. If there is some lingering controversy about the topic, you should try to win encourage the reader to reexamine their own personal opinions on it.
160 Philosophy Essay Topics
Choosing the right topic for your philosophy essay can be challenging. There are many different schools of thought spanning thousands of years and historical eras. The following list of the topic below have been broken down into the schools of philosophy and relevant themes. They are a great jumping-off point for your research process.
Classical Greek and Roman Philosophy Topics
- Did Socrates really exist, or did Plato make him up to offer perceived validity to his own Philosophy?
- Does Aristotle’s concept of The Hearthless man have an equivalent in the modern age?
- Is Aristotle’s notion of Eudaimonia akin to the pursuit of happiness, or can Eudaimonia be accomplished like the Buddhist idea of Nirvana?
- In Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics he discusses the different forms of human friendship. Compare and contrast the differences between Telia Philea and friendships of convenience. Using modern-day examples.
- Was Socrates’ decision to drink the hemlock the correct moral choice, or was he driven to accept suicide by his ego?
- Does Plato’s Republic make sexism acceptable in his age, or was Plato uninformed about the importance of equality in ancient Greek society?
- Aristotle’s idea of Hexus notes that nature fits us with emotion for a reason and that no emotion is morally wrong. Instead, Aristotle notes that it is the reason or virtue behind that emotion that constitutes a good or a bad Hexus. With this in mind can you give real-world examples of when Anger was virtuous and Happiness was devoid of moral virtue?
- What did Socrates mean when he said that “The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living?
- Are the stoic philosophers the bridge between classical Roman polytheism and Christianity?
- Would the Renaissance Era have been possible, had it not been for the Golden Age of Islam preserving Greek & Roman philosophy during the European Dark Ages?
- What Did Plato Mean when he said “Those who tell the stories rule society.”
- Explain Aristotle’s view on the importance of intellectual virtue.
- Was Aristotle correct when he said, “The Moral Virtues Are Not Innate?”
- What did Plato mean when he said, “knowledge only comes when we are able to justify and account for our true beliefs.”
- Why did Cicero convalesce to stoicism?
- What is the Epicurean philosophy of life?
- What do epicureans believe about happiness?
- Does epicurean philosophy have a place in modern life?
- Compare and contrast the difference between how pleasure is valued in epicurean philosophy compared to how to is valued in hedonism?
- Compare and contrast the difference between epicurean happiness and Artistotle’s view on eudaimonia.
- What are the three main beliefs of stoicism?
- Did the stoics see Gods as omnipotent apart from nature, or integrated as an active element of the natural world?
- Why is self-control a critical component of stoic philosophy?
- How do the Stoics believe happiness is achieved?
- What are the two duties of stoicism?
- Does hedonism recognize other motivations besides please and pain?
- How does hedonistic philosophy define good and evil?
- What is hedonist moral philosophy?
- How does hedonistic philosophy interpret the appreciation of art?
- What is aesthetic hedonism?
- Does hedonism promote substance abuse?
- Does hedonism encourage the objectification of women?
- Does hedonism promote internet pornography?
- Is the drive to legalize marijuana a form of hedonistic philosophy?
- Does hedonism treat alcoholism as permissible?
- What are the four different types of nihilism and what makes them different?
- Is Nihilism inherently pessimistic or realistic?
- Can nihilism co-exist with religious belief?
- What did Nietzsche mean when he said “God Is Dead?”
- Why did Nietzsche believe that all imposed values and meanings need to be repudiated
- Explain the relationship between Anxiety and Authenticity through the lens of existentialist philosophy.
- Explain Irrationality/Absurdity through the lens of existentialist philosophy.
- What is Cartesian Dualism?
- What did Des Carte mean when he said “I think therefore I am?”
- Explain Kierkegaard’s writing in the context of his approach to Christianity.
- Why do existentialist philosophers believe that it is impossible to find the true reasons and explanations of events?
- Explain Jean-Paul Sartre’s Opinions on Existentialism and Human Emotions.
- What is the influence of existentialism in Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage?
- What is the influence of Existentialism in the Literature of Samuel Beckett?
- How did existentialism influence Psychoanalysis, and Behaviorism?
Topics on Transcendentalism
- What did Emerson mean when he said “The mind once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions?”
- Did the philosophy of Emerson influence John Muir’s views on naturalism?
- What did Thoreau mean when he said a higher law than civil law demands the obedience of the individual.
- What is the common thread between the transcendentalist concepts of individualism, idealism, and the divinity of nature?
- What is the significance of the battle between the red ants and the black ants in Thoreau’s book On Waldon Pond?
- What did Thoreau mean when he wrote “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”
- Compare and contrast the differences between Kant & Hume on the concept of transcendentalist idealism.
- Does transcendentalism offer a philosophy that promotes “The truest way of life?”
- Why is time in nature away from civilization a critical component of transcendental philosophy?
- What is the significance of Emerson’s “Consequences of Self-Doubt.”
- How does Transcendentalism make a link between philosophy and science
- Compare and contrast the differences between the American 19th Century version of transcendentalism and the Eastern notions of transcendentalism.
- Explain transcendentalism’s conflict with the industrial revolution.
- Was John Muir a transcendentalist?
- Are Luddites their own philosophical system or an extreme version of transcendentalism?
- Has the negative relationship with failed communism hindered Marxism as a contemporary school of philosophy?
- What is the relationship between Marxism and social science?
- Explain Karl Marx’s Theory of Alienation.
- Do the ideologies of Marxism affect 21st Century western culture?
- Why does Spencer believe that human nature is flexible and is in the process of advancement?
- How doe the concept of Surplus Value influence the division of social & economic classes?
- Why does Marxism devalue the importance of religion?
- Explain why the Young Hegelians refute religion in place of a philosophical system?
- Explain Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s view on the role of money in human life.
- Compare and contrast the differences between Marx’s view of socialism and the communism of Russia in the 20th
Eastern Philosophy Topics
- Compare and contrast Zazen and Rinzai Zen forms of Buddhism.
- Is the “Ah-Ha” moment of “Satori” a requirement in the pursuit of nirvana as it is recognized in modern-day Buddhism?
- Is Buddhism a religion, a philosophical life practice, or both?
- The philosophy of the Buddha and Jesus of Nazareth are very similar. Though they both came from a completely different upbringing. Does this affect the principles of the religions they founded or is the exposure to the poverty of Jesus’ childhood and the wealth of the Buddha’s early years merely background details in their stories?
- When the Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree he said “As the earth is my witness. Seeing this morning star, all things and I awaken together.”
- Why is begging for one’s meal an important tenant of classic Buddhist daily practice?
- How do Siddhartha’s four sights on the road influence the Buddha’s teaching about the four noble truths?
- What is the relationship between the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold path?
- When Siddhartha gives up asceticism he takes food from a peasant woman, what does this symbolize, and does it influence his eventual awakening as the Buddha?
- Does Herman Hess’ novel Siddhartha make Buddhism more or less accessible for Western culture to assimilate?
- What did the Buddha mean when he said “If you truly loved yourself, you could never hurt another.”
- Is the Caste system of India based on moral philosophy and religious beliefs or is it a form of discrimination and classism?
- In Hindu philosophy what is the difference between dharma, and karma?
- Can the concept of Karmic rebirth be used to forgive someone’s misdeeds in this current life?
- Compare and contrast the moral influence of reincarnation offered by many Eastern Religions and the concept of eternal life offered by Christianity. How do these different philosophical concepts affect the choices made in everyday life?
- Do the six systems of Hindu philosophy Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa, and Vedanta work together seamlessly?
- Is Sun Tzu’s The Art of War a philosophy text or an ancient military guide?
- What is the relationship of ren (humanity) and li (ritual propriety) in the philosophy of Confucius?
- Explain the Confucian concept of de “Virtue.”
- How did the philosophy of Mencius and Xunzi differ from the philosophy of Confucius?
- How does the philosophy of Confucius address Family, filial piety,and ancestor worship?
- Is Neo-Confucian critical of Daoism and Buddhism
- Does Neo-Confucian philosophy offer up effective solutions to the problem of evil?
- Explain the Cheng-Zhu theory of human nature.
- Explain Neo-Confucian theories of mind and how it applies to modern culture
- What are the main tenents of Taoism?
- How are currents interpreted in Taology?
- Does the Tao concept of Letting Go have value in modern western culture?
- In Taoism is there a connective relationship between simplicity, patience, and compassion.
- Does Daoism compete with Confucianism or stand beside it?
Philosophy in Modern Literature and Movies
- Is the novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance truly about the Metaphysics of Quality, or is it Robert Pirsig attempting to cope with his electroshock therapy experience?
- Does William Van De Wettering’s novel The Empty Mirror make the Zen practice of Koan study more feasible, or less accessible to Westerner modalities of thinking?
- In Kahlil Gibran’s book The Prophet he says “If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” What did he mean by this?
- In Primo Levi’s book Bear Meat, he said “the sea’s only gifts are harsh blows and, occasionally, the chance to feel strong. Now, I don’t know much about the sea, but I do know that that’s the way it is here. And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions, facing blind, deaf stone alone, with nothing to help you but your own hands and your own head.” What does he mean by this?
- Is Dan Millman’s book “The Way Of The Peaceful Warrior” a bridge between Buddhist philosophy and Western Culture or is it a standalone philosophy onto itself?
- Explain the existentialist philosophy of the Shawshank Redemption?
- In Into The Wild does Chris McCandless succeed in “Killing The False Being Within?”
- Does the philosophy of the Celestine Prophecy offer a realistic way of life, or is it better off being classified as fiction?
- Does the heightened compassionate approach to the medical philosophy of Patch Adams have a place in modern medicine?
- Is transcendentalism properly represented in the movie Dead Poet’s Society?
- Compare and contrast the differences between rationalism and empiricism.
- Is rationalism’s view of questioning everything tediously unnecessary?
- Is Des Carte truly a rationalist philosopher.
- Is there a difference between traditional rationalism and the Scottish Englightenment?
- What caused the Scottish Enlightenment.
- Compare and contrast the differences between the philosophy of David Hume and Adam Smith.
- Compare and contrast the differing philosophies of David Hume and Des Cartes.
- How does rationalism address the theory of knowledge?
- What is the conflict between rationalism and the romantic movement?
- Is constructivism a separate philosophy or a form of rationalism?
- Does humanist philosophy promote atheism?
- What are the three core beliefs of humanism philosophy?
- How has humanism philosophy influenced modern psychology?
- How has humanism philosophy changed over the last century?
- As a metaphysical doctrine, how does humanism related to the natural world?
- Does humanism reject the philosophical divinity of nature in transcendentalism?
- Humanism borrows many aspects of Aristotle’s notion of Eudaimonia, but not all of them, why?
- What is the importance of self-determination in humanism philosophy?
- Does humanism support scientific skepticism?
- How has humanism influenced modern politics?
Middle Eastern Philosophy
- Has the Koran discouraged the development of Middle Eastern Philosophy
- Is Islam a philosophy or a religion?
- Is Arabian philosophy a derivative of Classical Greek philosophy?
- Was the Golden Age of Islam bolstered by Classical Greek philosophy?
- What is Arabic Logic?
- Platos influence on Ab? Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyy? al-R?z?.
- How the philosophy of Saadia Gaon influenced Jewish Law.
- How did Yahya ibn Adi use philosophical knowledge to produce defenses of Christian theology that were grounded in classical thought?
- The influence of Aristotle on Avicenna.
- How did Aristotle influence Sohrevardi in founding the Islamic school of Illuminations?
- How did Fakhr al-Din al-Razi integrate philosophy into his model for the cosmos?
- How did the philosophy of Kâtip Çelebi influence 16th and 17th-century social change in the Ottoman empire
- How did the philosophy of Dara Shikoh find common underpinnings shared by Hinduism and Islam?
- How did the philosophy of Muhammad Abduh help introduce liberal thought to the Islamic world?
- How did Fatema Mernissi address the conditions for women in the Islamic world?
Political Philosophy Topics
- How do ethics affect socio-political policy?
- Is agrarianism philosophy represented in today’s political parties?
- How did the Federalist papers influence our modern democratic system?
- What is the difference between liberalism and socialism?
- What is the difference between conservatism and fascism?
- What is libertarian political philosophy?
- Does paternalism still affect political philosophy?
- What is progressivism in political philosophy?
- Is effective altruism necessary for globalism to thrive?
- How would Socrates view our current notions of Civil Disobedience?
Let us know if you would like us to help you with your Philosophy Essay – we are glad to make it easier for you to success in your classes.