Year 12 pupil receives Finalist Award for Philosophy essay

Posted on: April 20th 2023School News

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Well done to year 12 pupil Ronak who received a Finalist Award for his essay submitted for the Northeastern University London Essay Competition. This award meant that his essay was placed in the top 6% of his category, which is a very impressive achievement given that the competition recieved around 4500 entries from across the world.

Ronak commented: "I was quite proud of being among the few entrants to be invited to the awards celebration on their campus in London, and to receive a medal and certificate of achievement. I originally found out about the competition from Dr Kilheeney, who sent out an email notifying the year a few days before the deadline. I thought it would be useful practise for producing competitively ranked essays in future competitions, which I would hopefully have a little more time to prepare for; I certainly did not expect to be placed so highly in this one.

"The question I answered was whether it could ever be morally acceptable to sacrifice an innocent person for the greater good. Without extensively explaining my argument I constructed, I’ll just give a brief outline, and then explain why I thought the argument was given a finalist commendation. I argued that actually sacrificing an innocent person was ultimately unjustifiable, on the grounds that the conditions for such a ‘just sacrifice’ to be fulfilled were unachievable in real life. I explored the difference between so-called negative and positive duties, questioned the ethics of consequentialism, and asserted that ‘utility theory’ was, ironically useless".

He added: "In all honesty, while my argument was researched and encompassed some interesting areas of the ethical debate, I don’t think it was particularly special on its own. Looking back, I see how I missed critical areas of the problem which could have created a much more interesting and compelling argument, and I don’t really like my conclusion (!). Yet what I believe set me apart was the structure of my argument, and the imaginative use of cases to effectively illustrate my argument. I created original cases and addressed established ones, like Foot’s Trolley Problem, which I used to add depth and support to my argument. I think the judges valued this creativity, and probably influenced their decision more than my acceptable argument. Also, taking time to work out a coherent structure, and experimenting with a new style of essay-writing that I don’t use at school formed a fundamental part of my essay, and I think this also had a big influence on its quality".

Ronak concluded: "The awards celebration during the Easter Holidays was fun, and I enjoyed talking to the people who worked at the University and seeing the other finalists and prize-winners. We took part in a subject masterclass which went through the process of applying to university for the courses most appropriate for the categories we won awards in, and learnt more about the University itself. All in all, the competition experience was immensely useful in developing my skills as an essay-writer and researcher, and I look forward to utilising my developed skills in the next one".

Congratulations Ronak from everyone at MGS!

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