Philsoc instituted this essay competition in the Hilary term 2012. Its
objective is to promote a serious interest in philosophy and to encourage and
stimulate students participating in Oxford University's Department of
Continuing Education (OUDCE) philosophy on-line courses, weekly attended
classes and summer schools (OUSSA). Entry for the Prize is very simple, since
all a student needs to do is submit an essay of 750-1,500 words already
written as part of required coursework. The full rules governing the
termly essay prize and submission are found here.
Each term all prize-winners (1st, 2nd and 3rd prize) will receive diplomas
and prizes of Amazon vouchers (£25, £15 and £10). They will
also be awarded one year's free membership of Philsoc and their essays will be
published here on the Philsoc website. Essays winning a First Prize will also
appear in Philsoc's annual Review. Prize-winners will receive private comments
on their essays from the judges.
There can be as many as twenty qualifying OUDCE philosophy courses in a
term, so to achieve a win or place will be something to be proud of. The
essays will be judged by philosophically well qualified members of the
Philosophical Society, who do not know the identity of the authors, only the
titles of the courses they are pursuing.
9 essays were entered for the Prize, 8 from OUDCE's online courses and 1
from OUDCE's weekly, attended classes. On this occasion the judges only
awarded a 2nd and a 3rd prize (see General Comments below). The essays may be
read by clicking on the essay titles.
We shall send our comments privately on their individual essays to the
essayists above. At the time of marking, of course, we judges have no notion
of the authors' identity. Our general comments on all the essays entered for
the Prize this time appear immediately below. Also see the guidelines on what
we judges are both looking for and hoping not to see in the essays we mark.
The link to these Judges' Guidelines is here.
Judges' General Comments
Though the two prize winning essays fully deserved their 2nd and 3rd
places, no essay came up to the rather high standard established over the
duration of the competition as being worthy of First Prize. In fact, despite
commendable aspects of some of the essays, the general quality of those
submitted in the Hilary term was not as high as we have come to expect. Some
essays impressed by the freshness and clarity of their writing, some by their
authors' excellent grasp of the subject matter, and some through refreshingly
Unfortunately, such virtues tended to be offset by deficiencies that pulled
down total marks. These included poor argument; or reliance upon the
conclusions of quoted philosophers without giving the supporting arguments;
sometimes failure to stick to answering the essay question, while wasting
valuable word allowance on 'interesting' but minimally relevant digressions. A
few of the essays contained sweeping generalisations, which may have seemed
self-evident to the authors, but were in need of well argued justification as
grounds for the essays' conclusions. And all too often referencing was poor
and sometimes entirely absent. We implore anyone entering the Student Essay
Prize to study the Judges' Guidelines (see link above) for the avoidance of
these basic errors.
Once again we give strong thanks to the hardworking tutors for inspiring
their students to tackle the difficult but rewarding study of philosophy.
Set out logic-book
style the argument that follows, saying what type of argument it is,
and using the methods you were taught in the course, say whether or not
you think it is a good argument, where 'good' is appropriate to the type
of argument you have decided it to be. 'Every time I have played chess
with James he has been so irritating that I have been unable to
concentrate, and in losing to him I have lost a lot of money. Tonight I
am playing chess with Tom rather than James, but Susan tells me that Tom
is as irritating as James. I am probably, therefore, going to lose
concentration, and therefore money tonight.'