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Philosophy Summer Activity

Write your own Philosophical Story

Take one of the following prompts and use as the basis for your own philosophy-themed short story. Try to keep your story to no more than 500 words and remember, as Aristotle famously pointed out, all good stories need a beginning, middle and end!

1. Genetic enhancement

Imagine scientists have developed the ability to genetically modify the traits of future children. Parents can choose any physical, moral or intellectual characteristics that they like for their unborn children.

  • Is it right for parents (or anyone else) to choose such characteristics for their children? Should it be left up to chance?
  • Is the selection of some traits uncontroversial (you might consider screening for certain health issues)? Is the selection of other traits morally problematic? (which ones?) You might use your answer here as the focus of your story. What does that mean for the resulting child? What might it mean for society? What might it mean for diversity and inclusion?

2. Personal identity and memory

Imagine that we have the technology to remove unpleasant memories (like in the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where you can remove memories of failed relationships).

  • Why would anyone choose to have such a procedure? What are the negatives?
  • Does having such a procedure make your life better?
  • Who was it that experienced the bad events? Can you be held responsible for anything that happened during those episodes even though you can’t remember them?

Trailer for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind:

    3. Being human

    Imagine your best friend tells you that there are some who look like people but are in fact well-designed androids. Your friend is completely trustworthy and everything that have told you before has been true. Imagine you start investigating this and come across someone who you suspect is not entirely human.

    • What do they look like?
    • How do they seem?
    • What are you looking for in trying to work out if they are human? Are there particular tests you might use to try to catch them out?
    • How ought we treat such androids?


      4. Virtual Reality

      Imagine you had access to a virtual reality machine that was so realistic, it was hard to tell the difference between reality and the virtual reality space. One day something happens in your ‘ordinary’ experience that makes you wonder whether what you took to be ‘ordinary’ experience is also a constructed, virtual reality simulation as well.

      • What sort of tests might you introduce to work out whether what you are seeing now is actually there and not the product of a simulation?
      • How far does doubt about what you know spread?
      • What difference does it make if it turns out that you are living within a simulation? Can you still enjoy your life in the simulation?

      David Chalmers on VR:

      Tips on writing a story

      1. Create your beginning: Where is your story set? Who are the main characters? Begin your story by setting the scene and introducing the main characters.

      2. Show don't tell: a story is supposed to dramatise events. So think about how you will show your reader what's going on. You can use dialogue and description to bring your story to life.

      3. Conflict/twist: Think about the direction of your story. Will it focus on some sort of conflict that will get resolved or will there be a twist that reveals something unexpected for the reader? The questions above under each scenario will be helpful in guiding you to develop the complexity of your story.

      4. Decide on the ending: what's a great way to end your story? Where you do want to end up? Do you want a cliffhanger ending or a nice, neat resolution? Can you come up with an ending that will make your reader think about the philosophical issues some more?

      5. Find a space to write and enjoy the process! You might begin by jotting down a few ideas and planning what will go in your story. Experiment and then edit into the final 500 words.

      Submit your story!

      Please submit your story by Friday 16th September 2022. You can submit up to two stories. The winners will be announced during welcome week. All submissions will be read carefully and we will give you some feedback on your work.

      Use this form to submit your story when you're ready: Submit your story (

      If you encounter any difficulties or have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.