How To Come Up With Philosophy Term Paper Topics


It may well strike the layperson as ironic that philosophers, for all that they have a reputation for being the deepest of human thinkers, struggle to gain even a superficial agreement as to what, ultimately, philosophy is. One definition—that draws attention to the sheer scope, focus, grandness, smallness, importance, and triviality of the field—is that philosophy is what philosophers do. That definition is a liberating point of departure when brainstorming ideas for topics for your term paper in philosophy.

Get Excited

Across the typical philosophical domains, such as epistemology, logic, metaphysics, ethics and aesthetics, you may well find that you have always been drawn to the thought, the characters, and the unsolved problems that lie there. If so, let your excitement guide you to the particular topics that interest you, or where the consensus view has just never ‘gelled’ for you. Don’t be afraid to tackle the big questions that seem already to have big answers in your own term paper.

Get Creative

Combine radical different ideas, concepts, or domains in philosophy to trigger new insights and problems at their intersection in your term paper. For example, combining epistemology and aesthetics can yield the interesting proposition that ‘we know what is beautiful’. Indeed, John Keats made just that observation, noting “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”… And perhaps he identified an underlying linkage that would make for fascinating exploration.

Get Angry

Though it may not rank popularly as a noble emotion, anger as a driver to philosophical challenge can unleash furious creativity. If any particular viewpoint you’ve heard has rankled you, jump into the specifics of why, what nonsense you find, and what would make more sense. Even some philosophical concepts, such as Descartes ‘I think, therefore I am’, have yielded to a natural skepticism. Carry similar passion through to your own work, and you will touch on writing brilliance.

Get Going

Finally, if you still seem to be somewhat stuck with “the perfect topic” for your term paper, or a topic that “grabs you”, leave it be for a while, and just start writing. In the tradition of philosophers such as Montaigne, philosophy can so often be found in what seems to be mundane, even banal. As you reflect on your experience and engagement with that, you may well find deeper truths and insights, or a notable lack of the same, even if the humdrum routine of everyday existence, as have the great thinkers over thousands of years, coming, even as they have, from different times, different worlds, and different lives.