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 maximum length 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 15 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 prize winners of the past Hilary term competition (2019) are
shown below. The submission deadline for the present Trinity term
(April-June) is 26th August. We aim to announce the winners by
19th October 2019.
Judges' Report for Hilary Term 2019
17 essays were entered for the Prize, 16 from OUDCE's online courses and
one from OUDCE's weekly, attended classes. In addition to awarding 1st, 2nd
and 3rd Prizes, we highly commended a fourth essay. All these essays may be
read by clicking on the essay titles.
We shall send our comments privately to the essayists above on their
individual essays. 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 click HERE to see the important
guidelines on what we are both looking for and hoping not to see in the
essays we mark.
Judges' General Comments
The large number of essays entered for the Hilary term Prize (from 7
different countries!) really had us thinking, not just because of their
quantity, but because a number of them tackled topics that have caused some of
the world’s greatest philosophers a good deal of puzzlement and controversy.
It was heartening to see these topics tackled with verve and, in some cases,
admirable insight and clarity of thought by the essayists. We also liked the
originality shown by some competitors in attacking old topics from new angles
that illuminated aspects not often given the light of day. In that, could we
be detecting some stimulating teaching from tutors who have encouraged their
students to ask new questions? It certainly presented a challenge to us
judges, who sometimes had to resist the temptation to be over generous in
awarding marks for delighting us with fresh approaches, even though they were
sometimes insufficiently supported by disciplined arguments, explicit source
references or clear essay organisation.
Generally, there were nevertheless some noticeable improvements over past
submissions in terms of sticking closely to answering the essay question,
strictly respecting the word limit (apart, alas, from one over-length essay),
and refraining from unargued expressions of personal opinion (‘I believe …’,
‘in my opinion …’) and irrelevant digressions. Close attention to the judges’
guidelines really does pay off.
As usual, we congratulate the hardworking tutors for inspiring their
students to tackle the difficult but rewarding study of philosophy. The essays
we read truly demonstrate a combination of great tuition and an enthusiastic,
intelligent response from the students.
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.'