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.
The winners of the past Trinity term (April - June 2017) are shown
below. The submission deadline for the current Michaelmas term 2017
(October-December) is 31st December. We aim to announce the winners by mid
Judges' Report for Trinity Term 2017
9 essays were entered for the Prize, 7 from OUDCE's online courses,
two from weekly classes. The three prizes that were awarded are set out below.
The essays may be read by clicking on the essay titles.
1st Prize to Jeff White for his essay entitled The
Socratic method in Meno. Jeff participated in the online Philosophy of
Plato course tutored by Peter Wyss.
We congratulate the prize-winners above. We found their essays, each with a
different mixture of admirable qualities and some weaknesses, exceptionally
difficult to rank. Consequently, it took much discussion to reach a consensus,
and we apologise for the resulting delay in getting the results out.
In fact, about half the essays were in strong contention for a prize.
Aspects of the essays that impressed us included strict adhesion to answering
the essay question without being distracted down possibly interesting but
irrelevant pathways; strong argument for the author's case, even if we didn't
always think it outweighed possible counter arguments; good structure,
including a concluding paragraph or two that rested upon the preceding
arguments to give a clear answer to the essay question; and avoidance of such
phrases as 'in my opinion', or 'I believe'. It is the arguments that should do
the convincing to make the reader believe, not the unsupported beliefs
of the author.
Unfortunately, we had to disqualify two of the submitted essays for
exceeding the word limit by more than 5%. Even if an essay submitted to the
class or course tutor exceeded 1,500 words, it is essential that essays
submitted for the Prize are edited down to fall within the word limit clearly
prescribed in the competition rules.
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 essays for Philsoc's
Student Essay Prize.