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I'm struggling to refine my ideas for an extended project qualification to a topic which is more focused. I've decided to base my EPQ around Philosophy, possibly with hints of politics and moral ethics, but mainly philosophy as it is my desired university course. Due to philosophy being such a broad subject, as it is my EPQ my debate question cannot be too similar to my AS philosophy syllabus. Could anybody generate some initial ideas for Philosophy ? Thanks
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Report 7 years ago
For my Extended Project I chose the title, 'To What Extent Was John Locke a Revolutionary Political Philosopher?' and I received 49/50 for the entire project. It's a really good experience doing an EPQ, especially on philosophy. The key to a Philosophy EPQ is to critically evaluate the ideas you're putting forth. What's significant about the ideas? Are they coherent? Consistent with what philosopher x usually says?

I did philosophy for AS (and am doing A2, have received an offer from Durham University to study Philosophy starting September 2014) and so it was really important I didn't just regurgitate the syllabus. You have to explore the question in so much more depth. For example, the Why Should I be Governed module in PHIL1 features Locke heavily, so I had to go far in-depth in Locke's views, contrasting with Hobbes, Machiavelli, Plato, Rousseau, Thoreau, Russell, even Aquinas.

Some titles you might want to explore if you're particularly interested in political and moral philosophy (and these are just off the top of my head whilst I type this reply haha):
'To What Extent was Thomas Hobbes a Revolutionary Political Philosopher?'
Basically along the lines of my project, but considering a different philosopher.

'Was Thomas Hobbes realistic or pessimistic about human nature?'
Hobbes described life in a state of nature as 'nasty, brutish and short', but was he justified in saying this? Is it really the case that we'd all gang up on each other? Would rape, theft and murder really be commonplace? Scope to talk about the Civil War influencing him (as he was writing during this time) and how he asserted that this didn't influence him.

'To what extent, if any, should the government interfere with our liberty and on what grounds?'
Scope for both political and moral philosophy, particularly focusing on John Stuart Mill. Might not be the best idea, however, if you're going to study Mill for your set text in A2 PHIL4.

'Should the ad hominem fallacy be considered a fallacy when evaluating political theorists?'
Ad hominem fallacies are fallacies that attack the theorist and not the argument. E.g. 'You smell, therefore your theory of how we acquire ideas is wrong' - that's not attacking the argument, it's attacking the theorist.
You'll often find that political theorists were writing during the time of some event, and if they're not, their philosophy might be more optimistic. So for example, Hobbes was writing during the Civil War and his writing was pessimistic (arguably), but Locke wasn't and his writing was pretty optimistic. So the question's basically asking whether attacking the man (i.e. the situation in which they were writing) is really a fallacy if it has some substance in influencing the theorist.

'Should Spinoza's Ethics be considered one of the best philosophical masterpieces ever written?'
Spinoza basically lays out premises at the start of the book and then constantly refers to them in the main text and his arguments and it builds into some impressive and intriguing logic - so this might be interesting to explore. Universities would be impressed with this because you'd do some serious logic evaluation, which is tough!

'Is there any real distinction between negative and positive freedom?'
Positive freedom is when an individual or group is free to do something, whereas negative freedom is when an individual or group is free from something (e.g. government restriction). But is there any real distinction? Surely if I have freedom in the negative sense where something doesn't restrict me, I then have the freedom to do something because of the lack of restriction.

'Does democracy carry with it more dangers or benefits?'
Here you can explore whether the dangers of democracy outweigh the benefits, and also consider whether some dangers are actually benefits and vice versa, which will lead to some good quality critical analysis and evaluation. For example, current liberal democracies see diverse cultures, is that good or bad? You can argue either way. So in these diverse cultures we get to discuss our views, beliefs and practices with other cultures which shows both the truths and faults found within our belief system. Yet on the other hand, the diverse cultures found here in Britain could be argued to be spoiling our culture - e.g. some schools in the UK are now teaching English as a Second Language at GCSE, not English Language - surely if people are in ENGLAND they should learn English? That's a valid position, but surely if we're a tolerant, caring society we'll accommodate for others? So there's a lot of scope for discussion in this one. Can also talk about 'tyranny of the majority' and the 'inherent danger of custom'.

All in all, there's a lot to do an EPQ on in political philosophy. Those ones there I thought of and explained off the top of my head, so if you take them as a place to start and start reading around them I'm sure you'll come up with a really good topic to discuss.

I'd love for you to keep me updated though! I loved doing my EPQ on political philosophy and it was great to see I got 49/50!

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