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 Michaelmas term competition (2018) are
shown below. The submission deadline for the present Hilary term
(January-March) is 30th April. We aim to announce the winners by
the end of June 2019.
Judges' Report for Michaelmas Term 2018
11 essays were entered for the Prize, 10 from OUDCE's online courses and
one from OUDCE's weekly, attended classes. We awarded a 1st Prize and two 2nd
equal prizes, and also 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 see the important
guidelines on what we 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
First a sincere apology. We originally published here, as a
prize-winner, an essay which significantly exceeded the word limit. That was
our mistake and most regrettable. Upon discovery of our error, that essay has
been disqualified and no longer appears here.
Another, unpublished essay had to be disqualified for the same reason.
Competitors must carefully check the word count, as indeed must the
judges! See link to the rules at end of first paragraph above.
The high general standard of the essays entered for the Prize in the
Michaelmas term ensured that we judges had a tough time ranking them, with
much deliberation and rethinking of initial impressions. We were pleased to
note a widespread improvement in referencing over some past terms, and to read
bibliographies that were pertinent and demonstrated time spent on research in
precisely the right areas for the essays’ subject matter. There was extremely
good argumentation in some of the essays and sometimes a fresh approach to old
issues with ideas showing an originality that truly kindled our interest, for
which we thank the contestants. We also appreciated the clarity of expression
which shone through many of the essays, reflecting their authors’ clarity of thought.
At the same time, none of the essays was entirely above some criticism,
whether for failure to concentrate strictly on the essay question, or for
lapses of logic in tricky areas that invited facile conclusions. Several
essays slipped above the limit of 1,500 words, a risky kind of carelessness in
a term when the essays competed as closely as these did. It is essential to
stick to the rules of the competition, which are strictly enforced in fairness
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.'