Ethics is such a discipline where there cannot be a single correct opinion and answer. This is its main difference from mathematics – ethics gives you the right to give your answers yourself, based on your arguments and life experience. A critical essay on ethics offers you to consolidate all your knowledge in one paper, combine scientific research with a personal vision, modern ethical concepts with the most ancient views of people before our era, your life experience and reality around you.
In this article, we talk about how to write a critical essay on ethics, preserving the most correct structure, comprehensively analyzing sources, applying your critical thinking skills, and most importantly – without losing your personal vision and attitude at the same time.
As the name suggests, a critical essay includes a critical assessment of a particular ethical concept. However, here you need to understand a clear line between criticism and condemnation.
Criticism is when you keep a balance, and at the same time scientifically and politely explain the weak points of a certain ethical concept.
Condemnation is when you build the entire paper structure on your personal beliefs and personal experience, and as you know, even the personal experience of scientists of all times like Aristotle was not enough to come up with an ethical concept that would be ideal for everyone.
Therefore, before you begin writing your critical essay, you need to turn off the internal critic and turn on the internal scholar. You need to feel this fine line between science and reality, but at the same time refrain from condemnation and groundless criticism. Your criticism should be justified by strong arguments that would not touch personalities and do not offend people who may hold different views.
If your teacher has given you a direction to criticize ethical issues, well, this action has already solved one of your tasks. You at least do not need to search for a topic yourself. Another plus is that most likely your teacher likes this topic as a direction for research, so you get a good chance to show your critical thinking skills and not touch any personal convictions of your professor.
But there is another situation when you need to choose a topic for criticism yourself. And here you need to be very careful. As we said, ethics does not have the only right opinion and here you need to be very careful with the selection of topics, thesis, arguments and even words for your critical paper.
Therefore, try to choose something as neutral as possible. Try to bypass the hottest and most controversial topics so as not to provoke your teacher’s internal conflict and too much external discussion among your classmates if you have to talk about your essay in public. Below we give some tips.
If you have to choose a theme yourself, then here is another clue. Ethics is so vast and multifaceted that this discipline is perfectly combined with most other sciences. And when you choose a topic at the intersection of ethics and medicine, ethics and political science, ethics and sociology (then continue this list yourself), you simultaneously get cool research opportunities, since you can choose scientific materials that are developed right away for two disciplines and by different people who look at a particular problem for their part.
Plus, it’s an additional opportunity to show your knowledge, research, and critical thinking skills by analyzing more materials and coming up with a more unique and strong thesis statement.
Here are a few modern topics that span several fields for research.
Once you have decided on a topic, it’s time to start looking for materials for your critical essay. On the one hand, ethics is eternal and draws its origin from the pre-religious beliefs of mankind. Ethical concepts, on the other hand, have evolved over time. For example, burning a person at the stake was a normal practice in the Middle Ages, while now the whole civilized world believes that if legislation already allows the death penalty, then it should be painless and quick. And by the way, here’s another topic for criticism, personal opinion, and comparison.
Therefore, in the case of a critical essay on ethics, you will need to build on two main sources of information.
Start your research with sources that have not been changed for centuries. Yes, you are right. These are the scientific works of philosophers who have developed their views over the centuries. These are the primary sources of any ethical views, and they will help you to trace the train of thought of the person who developed and defended a certain concept.
However, in your case, your task is criticism. Therefore, it is also important to turn to the primary sources to find weaknesses in the argumentation of a certain ethical theory and build your counter-arguments on this basis.
Yes, the work of the philosopher and ethical thinkers that we just talked about is eternal, but each scientific generation interprets their thoughts in their own way, depending on the realities of life at a certain stage. It will be useful for you to analyze current views on philosophical and ethical concepts in order to form a complete picture in your head.
Plus, when analyzing modern scientific works, you can see how modern scientists criticize philosophical views, what arguments they give, how they build the logic of their work and how they lead the reader to a certain thought. This will help you do the same in your critical paper on ethics.
Now you need to complete the most difficult task. You need to collect all this data into a single whole and form a complex picture. To do this, you can answer the following questions.
Find competent answers to these questions and you can be sure that the skeleton of your critical essay on ethics is ready. All that remains for you is to write down your thoughts on paper, give them a logical look and check your grammar. We will talk about this further.
You already have a skeleton, and you already understand what it means to think critically, not offensively. Now it’s time to create the final version of your paper. By the way, it’s better to start writing with paper and pen — all the same, your first version will be trial, and having paper will make it easier for you to edit your text and immediately see your improvements.
Important! Leave this part for later. Practice shows that it is better to start with the essence. In this part, you will need to smoothly bring the reader to the main point – say a few words about the concept that you will criticize.
This is the main idea of your essay – that key phrase from which you will build on. Important! Avoid extremes like ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in your thesis. Replace them with ‘applicable,’ ‘modern,’ ‘worked out to a certain extent.’
Here you need to argue your thesis following the algorithm above. Just put this algorithm into words and the task will be completed.
Here you briefly repeat your thesis and can add a few words about how a particular ethical theory has changed under the influence of time or it can be improved in modern conditions.
So, at this point, you are almost there. Now you need to check your essay again and make sure that you have not made grammatical and lexical errors. You can start with universal applications that will help you cope with this task.
Now re-read the result and most likely you will feel that you are completely satisfied with your essay.
As you can see, thinking critical does not mean condemning. To think critically means to gently point out the weaknesses in the theory and argue your decision on why these places are weak in modern realities. When writing your critical essay on ethics, you need to solve several problems at once – analyze many sources, get to the bottom of a certain ethical theory based on the views of its creator, control your tone of voice so that you don’t accidentally offend people who have different views, and adhere to the academic rules and logical structure of your essay. However, we are sure that you will cope with all these tasks with our guide.