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) on-line
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
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
There can be twenty or more 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.
The winners of the past Michaelmas term 2016 (September -
December) are shown below. The submission deadline for the current
Hilary term 2017 (January-March) is 6th May. We aim to announce
the winners by mid of June.
Judges' Report for Michaelmas Term 2016
11 essays were entered for the Prize, one from a weekly course, the
others from OUDCE's online courses. Unusually, we awarded three 2nd
Prizes and no 1st Prize. We comment on this below. The three joint 2nd
Prize-winners are listed below. Their essays may be read by clicking on
the essay titles.
2nd Prize (joint) to Marija Kirjanenko for
her essay entitled Why
did Plato believe in Forms? Marija participated in the online
course entitled 'Reality, Being, Existence', tutored by Shlomit Harrosh.
2nd Prize (joint) to David Heslop for his
essay entitled Did God
create morality? David participated in the online Philosophy of
Religion course tutored by Shlomit Harrosh.
We will send our comments privately on their individual essays to all
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
The first thing we must explain is how we could possibly come up with
three joint second prizes! Several factors contributed to that outcome.
One was that, while all three prizewinning essays had considerable
merits, we found that for different reasons they all just fell short of
the standard needed to win a 1st Prize. As for then ranking them all the
same, that is because, in the very different topics they treated, which
made direct comparisons impossible, we found all were in fact equally
Every single essay that was submitted last term held our interest for a
variety of reasons: some for their quite novel subject matter or their
novel approach to an old question, some because of the clarity of the
writing or interesting vocabulary, some for an originality that, perhaps
for good reasons (!), represented an approach that no philosopher had
tried before. But most of all we enjoyed those that demonstrated a good
understanding of the essay question and the issues it raised, and
applied intelligence to arguing for the author's conclusion and giving
well argued reasons to reject alternative views.
We were disappointed by the need to disqualify one essay for
significantly exceeding the word limit. We beg participants in the Prize
to read the rules and guidelines thoroughly, particularly as regards
word limit, references and bibliography, and note carefully what
contributes to the word count and what doesn't.
We thank the hardworking tutors for their efforts in inspiring their
students to take an interest in this rewarding study, and for drawing
attention to the opportunity to enter their course essay for Philsoc's
Student Essay Prize.