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.
How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay in Ethics – the Main Thing You Need to Know
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.
What Should You Do with Your Topic
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.
Ethics and Other Sciences – Ideas for Choosing a Topic
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.
Some Topics to Choose from
Here are a few modern topics that span several fields for research.
- Ethics in Modern Marketing: Is It Fair to Collect Customer Data to Sell Them More?
- How to Teach AI Systems Ethical Thinking and Is It Worth It?
- Kant And Modernity – Are There People In The World Who Still Follow Its Imperatives?
- What Do People Who Lose Their Jobs Due To AI Have To Do Now?
- Marketing-sales-consumerism-ecology – Criticism Of The Modern System
Where to Look for the Sources for Your Critical Essay
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.
Eternal Books and Researches
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.
Where to Look for These Sources?
- The library of your college or university. You won’t believe it, but going through several floors and getting into the library is even easier than looking for the book you need in Google. Plus, it is still convenient to work with paper – you can quickly find the paragraph you need on the table of contents, make bookmarks and write short abstracts.
- Google Books. It is also convenient enough to find the work of philosophers and thinkers in Google Books. And by the way, it is also very convenient for compiling your reference list – all the information about the book will be right before your eyes, and you can simply copy the name, author, and year of publication. Plus, many teachers also require a literature to be fresh. This is a formal requirement, since the original content of Kant’s works, for example, has not changed since his death, but still, your reference list will contain the latest edition, which can be found in Google Books.
- Your textbooks. Your textbooks may also contain excerpts from works on ethics, but keep in mind that these are just excerpts, abstracts, and summaries. They will not display the full picture. Therefore, use them to determine the direction of movement, but look for all the information in the full version of the work.
Modern Scientific Articles
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.
Where to Look for These Sources?
- Google Academia. This is an endless pool of scientific information that is constantly updated. In addition, you can filter scientific articles by date, discipline, and keyword. However, keep in mind that sometimes articles come out with paid access, but in general, for the college or university level, it will be enough for you to use free materials.
- Google Search. The easiest way to find free scientific articles is to enter a search query in Google, which will consist of several keywords on your topic, plus pdf, or plus critics if you want. Here, too, be sure to pay attention to the freshness of publications, but we recommend that you look at all the sources to form a complete picture – you simply may not include them in your reference list if you do not use direct quotes.
Let’s Combine Them
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.
- What ethical theory or concept will I criticize?
- What is this concept based on?
- What are the weaknesses here?
- Weak spot 1
- Weak spot 2
- Weak spot 3
- Why are these places weak?
- Argument 1
- Argument 2
- Argument 3
- How does this ethical theory relate to modern attitudes and what makes it weak or strong in modern realities?
- How can this theory be improved?
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.
Let’s Structure Your Essay
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.
Finalizing Your Paper
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.
- Add your text to Grammarly to remove typos, unnecessary prepositions (or vice versa to add missing ones), and make your text less wordy and more clear.
- Next, add your text to the Hemingway app to get rid of passive voice, adverbs and make long sentences more short and readable.
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.