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Cheltenham Girls' High School

Cheltenham Girls' High School

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School Philosophy Competition

About the Competition

In 2015, the CGHS Philosophy Club (aka The Sokratic Society) presented a competition open to all 7-12 students at Cheltenham. This competition invited students to consider a philosophical question and submit a 300 word response to the question. The entries were judged by three teachers and two winners selected in two categories: School Entrant and Philosophy Club Entrant.

Due to the interest in this competition and the great entries, we are hopeful this will be an ongoing annual challenge for CGHS students!


2016 Philosophy Club Competition


In 2016, Philosophy Club members participated in a Club competition to consider and respond to the question: "What is beauty?". Maya of Year 10 won with her entry printed below. 

The school competition for any interested 7-12 students will be offered and run by the club in Term 3.


What is beauty?

I believe that the popular saying "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is inaccurate. In general, I think it is not the individual who chooses what is beautiful but society itself. Beauty is an abstract concept that has been ingrained into us from the second we are born. This can be seen through the constantly changing view of the ideal woman/man through history. For example, in ancient Greece and Rome, women with uni-brows were considered extremely beautiful. Women who did not have uni-brows would usually glue goat hair or draw it on themselves. Now, if a woman has a uni-brow, she would be considered ugly. Another example is ancient Japan. The ideal Japanese woman was someone with small fox-like eyes, a long nose and a round chubby face, while the ideal man had the same features except for a thin oval face. Both of these ideals have changed, and now people who look like a foreigner are in favour.

It is also extremely easy to see how different societies view beauty from their music and art. This can bee seen through the difference in colour, shape and design in art. It is the same for music. Minor scales were favoured in traditional Spanish and Japanese music while in places like China, brighter music was traditionally considered to be beautiful. Although many cultures are globalising and changing, beauty standards still vary around the world.

Beauty has also been described as something that is good, such as love. However, beautiful concepts are also mostly society's choice.

In conclusion, I believe that beauty is not in the eye of the beholder but something that society dictates (like the difference between good and evil). Although some people are exceptions to this view, most people agree with what society dictates.



2015 Philosophy Competition


The 2015 question was taken from the international philosophy magazine 'Philosophy Now':

Which is more important: truth, justice, freedom or happiness?

Cheltenham Girls overwhelmingly argued in favour of happiness, although special mention goes to Sharanya of Year 8 who presented a clear argument that justice is most important and Georgia and Fiona of Year 9 who both argued in favour of truth.

  • School Winner 7-12: Lauren Sharp, Year 10
  • Philosophy Club Winner: Sandra Brand, Year 11


Excerpts of Entries from 2015


Winning Entry 2015 - Lauren

Which is more important: happiness, freedom, justice or truth? For the past few days, this question has plagued me as the answer never seeming to be clear. Finally, after much deliberation, I have my answer: happiness. I managed to come to my decision by eliminating the other possible choices, the reasons for this being presented below.

Truth: While you may not always not the truth about something, often ignorance is bliss and we can be happy without knowing everything. All too often, the truth hurts, not only us but others around us. Sometimes a tiny lie can be better than a harsh truth and it doesn't hurt us to sometimes conceal our true thoughts and opinions for the sake of someone else's feelings.

Justice: I acknowledge that justice is important to keep our society running smoothly, however I feel that sometimes there is someone who deserves mercy instead of justice. We should not allow justice to prevent empathy for others and often people deserve a second chance instead of being condemned for a mistake.

Freedom: Our freedom often contributes to our happiness, this is true but there are some freedoms that shouldn't be allowed. We should not be given the freedom to torture or kill someone. We should not be allowed to persecute or steal another person. Freedom is important but there are some freedoms that shouldn't be allowed.

This of course leaves me with happiness. Happiness is something that I could not live without and ultimately, this is what determined my choice. Whilst freedom, justice and truth are all things that I value most highly, happiness is what I personally aim for in my life and if I was not happy, freedom, justice and truth would not matter.


Winning Entry 2015 - Sandra


Each of these are inter-related, which is most likely why they are in a question together.

They lead to one another: Freedom, truth, and justice lead to happiness. Truth leads to justice. Justice leads to freedom.

Only happiness seems to have a prominent stop, which is why it is commonly considered most important - it is often the answer that people suggest to 'meaning of life' questions (however I do believe there are many out there who would most probably disagree)

From an individual/personal perspective, happiness  overrides everything else.



Freedom is an illusion. Everyone believes that they have freedom, however in truth, nobody does. Is it important to realise that the truth of freedom is that it is non-existent? You only have as much freedom as the constraints within a context provide. (From a legalistic point of view) No one ever really has total freedom.



One person's justice is not the same as another persons justice. Justice is dependent upon the individual.

Personal freedom and the rights of the community can clash. For example, if someone decided to play the tuba at 4am in the morning, it would be a demonstration for their right of freedom, however, it would also annoy the heck out of everyone else in the neighbourhood.

Who is right? And who is wrong? That is dependent upon who you ask. See, the individual would argue that it is their right to have the freedom to play the tuba, however, if you ask the community, they would obviously state that the individual ought to be more respectful to their sleep.



The importance of truth is up to the individual to decide. Does truth really get rid of 'burdens' on the soul? What one person may believe is the truth, could be a lie. People often lie to themselves, occasionally in such quantities that they begin to believe them.

This brings us to the example of the Matrix - is it better to live in ignorance? Or to know the harsh reality/truth? And how do the 'freed' people know that they aren't just trapped in another Matrix?



To be happy seems to be the meaning of life according to the majority of the population. Now comes the next question for us to ponder:  What is happiness? Ultimately, it is a relative state. Two people in the same situation can have very different experiences.

Happiness, truth, justice and freedom are all dependent upon one's point of view, leading us into an endless cycle of discussion and opinion.  Welcome to the world of philosophy. 


Other Entries

Year 8 Entry: Sharanya

There are four main aspects of human life that lead to overall good health and joy: truth, justice, freedom and happiness. All of which are equally important and should be made present in equal balance throughout life. But if there is a slight tip of the scales in one aspect overpowering another, serious catastrophes could occur; too much freedom can lead to major crime and empowerment, truth being spoken so often can lead to exploitation and mistreatment and happiness cannot simply be achieved without having to go through many processes and rules engaged; but too much justice is never a bad thing.

I believe that justice, meaning fairness, is the most important aspect of human life and should strongly be enforced in this day and age. Now, if we think about things in life, some of them are very unfair, small things such as cutting in the line or not putting in as much effort as others in a group assignment, to big things, like political corruption causing poverty and destruction in countries all around the world. All of these things are caused by injustice.

Justice can lead to all aspects of the human life. It can contribute to happiness and freedom, by using the right laws to set the innocent free and justice can construct truth, as by doing the right thing, you are forced to speak the truth.

Justice is fairness in words or actions, which can serve as a way of freedom, happiness and truth; justice can change somebody's life.




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