Sample Critical Thinking Paper on Philosophy

What contributes the most to your sense of self-identity, i.e. what makes you certain that you are the same person today that you were in the past? Is it self-consciousness and memory as for Descartes and Locke, open to doubt as for Hume, something transcendental making experience of a unified self possible as for Kant, something you create for yourself through choice and commitment as for Sartre, an illusion which causes suffering as for the Buddhist, or something social as for Hegel and Marx? Does authentic selfhood require breaking away from conformism or can conformity supply a ready-made self-identity which is perfectly satisfactory for most people? Give reasons for holding your view.

Self-identity is the overall understanding an individual has about him or herself and includes relatively permanent assessments like personality attributes, knowledge/awareness of one’s skills, abilities, and physical attributes, as well as occupation and hobbies. These qualities of self often persist through time, which brings individuals to the conclusion that one is the same person today that they were in the past, as explained by Locke. He sought to distinguish the aspect of being a man (one understood by the biological body) and that of being a person (the thinking being who reasons and reflects about identity over time). The conscious self stays in place even if the body changes because if in case two people’s brains were switched, they would still go to their family members and friends to explain to them that they are still the same person, only that they are in a different body.

Human beings have self-consciousness, which is the factor that is critical to thinking and enables everyone be what they call themselves and to be able to distinguish themselves from all other thinking things. As far as this consciousness can be stretched backwards through time to bring up a past thought or action is evidence enough of the fact that it is the same person now as was then. They will also be able to reflect on the thoughts and events currently happening in the future. In remembering these past events, one can elicit similar emotions to the ones they had on the original experience, or react correspondingly when presented with a related circumstance in the present.

Authentic selfhood requires that a person breaks away from conformism, because if they are not able to and feel the pressure to join group thinking or norms, then they are exposed to unwarranted suppression of their individuality, which is core to their being and what is real to them. On the other hand, conformity can also be a sure way of supplying a ready-made self identity, which has been seen to be perfectly satisfactory to many individuals. People have a natural need to fit in to some group of sorts, which makes them vulnerable. Conforming to group ideologies assures the other members that you belong, follow their rules, and that you are not a threat, which leads to the formation of some behavioral consistency that is predictable amongst the members. Group members are expected to have some unique form of identity in terms of behavior, attitudes, a dress code or language that distinguishes them from other groups.

The need to conform can come to life at one time and disappear due to developmental milestones; for instance, during adolescence, many teenagers rebel against their parents and assume the behavior of groups they admire and would like to belong, which is often referred to as peer pressure. When they develop to become mature adults, they may leave these groups because they feel the groups no longer serve the intended purpose or it is no longer ‘cool.’ They may then decide to forge their own identities that represent their authentic selves or assume other identities to fit another group they feel lives to their new expectations. For instance, a young person may identify with pop culture in the way they dress, which may be subject to change with advancing age or join a gang and forever be members of it.

Define psychological egoism and altruism as well as ethical egoism and altruism. Do you believe that the basis of morality is altruism or egoism? Or is it perhaps an absolute moral code either handed down to us by previous generations from an original revelation by God? Or is it based upon self-evident moral principles which one should follow whether or not it furthers either our own interests or the interests of others? Should we do right simply because it is prima facie right? Give reasons for holding your view.

Psychological egoism refers to the thesis that human nature is completely self-centered and self motivated; therefore, individuals act exclusively based on their self interest. It also holds the descriptive view that people only offer to help others only if there are some perceived benefits, either directly or indirectly, that they expect to obtain; for instance public recognition or the gratitude of the people they help. Psychological altruism emphasizes that every person’s behavior is essentially other-centered and other-motivate. Therefore, an individual’s apparently selfish act may be reinterpreted by psychological altruists as an action that depicts pure selflessness like choosing not to display ungraceful actions to people.

Ethical egoism, in contrast, is normative and stresses the agent ‘ought’ to act out what is of an individual’s self interest, although not all persons may pursue the same. The ideology is also based on the assumption that it is always moral to search for one’s own benefit, and it is not immoral not to. Sometimes, the avoidance of personal interests and limiting oneself from seeking self interest may constitute a moral action. Ethical altruism holds the idea that individuals are bound by some kind of obligation to be of assistance to others, regardless of the effect it has on the executor of the action. This implies that helping, serving or benefiting others can go a long way to the extent of sacrificing self interest. It is basically living for others in a sense of making them comfortable or pleased at own expense. Altruism discourages the idea of rights and equates it to individualism, which cannot be tolerated because individuals are born with obligations of every kind that seem to accumulate as they grow.

Morality should be formed on the basis of self-evident moral principles that ought to guide one’s behavior, whether or not it enables them to promote either their own interests or the interests of others. Everyone should have a sense of impartiality whatever the situations they are faced with; that is, whether they stand to gain or lose. There are certain duties that present people with perfect obligations, which they cannot run away from. The fact that they cannot get away from these issues does not also imply that they have no other option out of them; for instance, meeting obligations and promises like paying debts. Consciousness internalizes moral values that people acquire from their immediate environments, be it from parents, peers or other forms of authority. It is on these bases that they can form sound morals to determine right and wrong, and it works best if these values are intelligent, empathetic, and fair-minded.

Individuals ought not to do right based on prima facie because first impressions could be deceiving. One should give themselves time to reflect on the situations they are faced with in order to have a sound judgment when making a decision. Failure to take some time into consideration may lead to impaired conclusions that may make one act unfavorably, thereby affecting their lives and those of others with far reaching consequences. For instance, falsely testifying evidence in a case because of the assumptions one has on another person may lead to the imprisonment of the accused and alter their lives completely, while the accuser/ witness that has given false evidence may live with a guilty conscience forever.

Give an account in your own words of the various views on social justice discussed in the text. What is the difference between procedural and distributive justice and which of these two types of justice should we attempt to attain? Which theory of justice do you think is preferable and why do you think it is superior to the others? Give reasons for holding your view.

Social justice advances the view that all people should be accorded equal rights and opportunities in their political, economic, and social settings. Advocates of social justice strive to open opportunities for all people, with more focus on those perceived to be in need the most. Issues concerning justice play a significant role in the creation, perpetuation, and solution to conflicts; therefore, the justice system in any state is supposed to ensure that all members of that society receive fair treatment because perceived injustices of these systems may lead to dissatisfaction, rebellion or even revolution.

Procedural justice is concerned with the creation and implementation of decisions that are deemed to meet the standards of ‘fair treatment.’ This means that the rules have to be impartially followed and applied with consistency to ensure unbiased decisions are arrived at. The people tasked with the responsibilities of ensuring procedural justice must exercise neutrality, whereas the people directly affected by the outcomes of those decisions should have some voice or better yet a representation in the decision-making process. If individuals believe that they have a fair process, they are more likely predisposed towards acceptance of outcomes, including the decisions they do not like. Therefore, the implementation of a fair process is central to the resolution of many disputes, including mediation, arbitration, and adjudication.

Distributive justice mostly leans on economic issues, and is concerned with giving all community members a ‘fair share’ of the available benefits and resources equally. On the other hand, as all people may agree that wealth should be fairly distributed, disagreements often arise with regard to what really constitutes and counts as ‘fair share.’  The suggested criteria of wealth distribution are equity, equality, and need, where equity implies that one rewards should be proportional to their contributions in the society, while equality implies that all people should be accorded the same quantity irrespective of their input, and need means that the people who need more will be given more and vice-versa. This type of justice is very crucial to the existence, stability, and wellbeing of a society and its members. When issues of distributive justice are not handled well or adequately addressed especially when the resource to be distributed is highly valued, intractable conflicts usually arise; for instance, as seen in European countries and United states politics over jobs, over taxation and rights of labor, among others.

From these explanations, it is clear that distributive justice is concerned with perceptions of whether a particular outcome is fair or not, while the procedural justice focuses on whether the process that was used to arrive at the decision is fair or not.

Societies ought to seek distributive justice since it takes care of equality, equity and the needs of everyone in the community. As the societies are highly dynamic and fragmented in social classes, there a big difference between the wealth, the poor, and their access to basic resources/ amenities differs a great deal. In the end, people are more concerned with the end result and not the process, so if it serves them to their expectations and majority is happy, then there will be peaceful coexistence.  Only distributive justice has the tenets that may be used to deny the rich what they already posses or enjoy and give to the poor who have none of it. For instance, poverty is the worst classified social problem that leads to the rise of many social ills that can only be effectively addressed with distributive justice.

Is morality relative to time, place, and cultural situation in which the person finds him/herself? Or is there an absolute or at least more objective standard of morality from which we can judge other society’s moral values or codes as being right or wrong, or perhaps progressive or backward? Take the example of how women are treated as second-class in other cultures, which are more conservatively patriarchal than ours. Are we right to condemn such practices as clitoral circumcision because they discriminate against women and violate their rights? Or is the fact that they think this practice is moral from their own perspective mean that we should tolerate it and not condemn it or try to interfere with it? Give reasons for holding your view.

The time, place, and cultural situation in which a person finds him/herself influence their morals. Cultural relativism illustrates the fact seen across different parts of the world that there are diverse cultures that have their unique ways of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings that are passed through generations. People from different places of the world do things differently, such as dressing, eating styles, language diversities, music, and dances, as well as customs. It is on the basis of these cultural differences that variations in the sense of morality exist, leading to the fact that what is thought to be moral in one part of the world may be thought to be illegal or moral in another part of the globe. For instance, consuming beef is moral in the US, but morally wrong in India; women in learning institutions and business in the US, but morally wrong in Afghanistan. On the other hand, killing newborn females is immoral and illegal in the US, but the same practice is moral or acceptable in China and India. Over the years, cultures have carried along the basic values and principles that they laid as the foundation for their morality.

There are no globally acceptable set of moral values; there will never be a single time that a moral principle of rightness or wrongness that can bind all people; rather, they act based on gain or loss. People are inclined to condemn or try to interfere with what they feel is immoral, especially the issue of killing, but there are several variations amongst different cultures on the basis of why a person is killed; for example, a cheating spouse, self defense or unwanted children at birth. Therefore, it is evident that the justification for killing is what is of importance and not that the basic rules for killing is very wrong, making the whole idea relative. This notion has always been embedded in cultures over the past centuries to the present day, and will continue to be like that for many decades into the future.

Ethnocentrism gives the view that one’s way of life or culture should be preferable to the others. This gives a sense of identity as people embrace their cultural values, especially if these values are implicitly accepted as best or all-important. That is why some cultural practices are documented through films and distributed to other cultures across the world. Attempts to change the values and principles held by people of a particular culture have been met with resistance as they have been viewed as a political move and an assertion of power. Issues to do with military invasion or criminal thugs are universal, in that every culture has it or has had an experience with it.

However, practices that are meant to degrade women like female genital mutilation or killing of the girl child in honor of families as seen in some cultures must be condemned because there is no real value FGM adds to the lives of those women who go through it and that everyone has the right to life. Education and technology have been used as an instrument to enlighten people from various cultures to make them discern what is moral and acceptable from other cultures. Nevertheless, cultures all over the globe ought to inculcate the desire to be tolerant and appreciative of the values of the multicultural world.


Give an account of Marxism, anarchism, and fascism by going online. What are the pros and cons of each? Consider both the assumptions behind the ideology and the general conclusions they draw about social and political action. Which one of these ideologies do you tend to agree with most?  Give reasons for holding your view.

Marxism refers to the ideology that views the government as an instrument of class oppression, and therefore calls for a revolutionary overthrow of a capitalist system by the oppressed people, to have rule by the people. Marxists consider that it is the responsibility of the oppressed persons to fight their way to freedom other than trying to pressurize capitalists to reform. The advantage of this ideology is that it leads to the rise of completion among firms, which sparks the need for specialization and technical skills that are good for the economy. The disadvantage is that the high competition can lead to unethical practices while striving to make profits and be ahead of competitors in business. It also leads to increased gap between the rich and the poor, thereby, creating room for social ills like theft and prostitution.

Anarchism presents the ideology that eradication of the government is indispensable to have a free and just society. Therefore, it rejects all kinds of hierarchical authorities in the social, economic, and political realms and advocates for a society that is based on voluntary cooperation and free association between individuals and groups of people. Anarchists’ goal is to put principles that foster non-authoritarianism into practice, even in the smallest governance structure. They employ several forms of decision-making to advance their course that include consensus, direct democracy, affinity groups, as well as federations and networks.

The advantage of anarchism is that it is mostly ideological and promotes individualism to the extreme levels that brings about self discovery and the idea of rights that every person deserves as a human being. The disadvantage of this ideology is that anarchists have been branded as terrorists over the years, even though they do not engage in the form of political violence identifies with terrorism. This is supported by the fact that they do not have any strategy of preventing crime. However, it can be noted that the majority of anarchists believe in the philosophy of nonviolence, but others engage in violence often directed at specific political factions, like police officers. Another con of this ideology is that it is often difficult to gather many people to forge a common goal.

Fascism is the ideology that champions the belief that governments have to rule with a hard hand, which is often referred to as state that is one man’s show. The rulers focus on the things they believe are best instead of the wants of the people. The only advantage is that this system can lead to the formation of strong economies if the ruler is focused on the right course because the system is not easily alterable. The disadvantage of this system is that it leads to dictatorship, a stratified class system leading to wealth inequality and unhappy people especially if the decisions by the ruler do not favor them. Additionally, this system is militaristic in nature and the ruler is usually the commander in chief; therefore, people suspected to oppose the system of the government are often tortured or even killed and it also promotes other forms of human rights violations.

Based on the general conclusion that these ideologies make on the political and social action, there is a tendency to lean on the side of anarchism as the one that offers an almost complete solution is dealing with the problems of bosses and the general world. It is a revolution that looks at things from a working class perspective, and as they are the people whose sweat runs the economy, they need to have power and control, both individually and collectively.