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
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 Hilary term (January - March 2017)
are shown below. The submission deadline for the current
Trinity term 2017 (April-June) is 31st August. We aim to announce
the winners by mid October.
Judges' Report for Hilary Term 2017
14 essays were entered for the Prize, all from OUDCE's online courses.
Four prizes were awarded, as set out below. The essays may be read by clicking
on the essay titles.
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
We congratulate the four prize-winners above and also Rachel Paine, who
tutored all the prize-winners on her three online courses, Philosophy of Mind,
Romp Through Logic and Introduction to Philosophy.
We judges were impressed by the high standard of the best submissions for
their understanding of the problems they tackled in some extremely tricky
areas of philosophy, and for the clarity of analysis shown in their
argumentation, often with the great economy of expression that is necessary
within a tight word limit.
At the other end of the scale, shortcoming that lost marks included diffuse
language and repetition, failure to stick closely to answering the essay
question, and all too often poor referencing in footnotes and/or lack of a
bibliography. Adherence to the Judges' Guidelines (see above) would help to
avoid many of these deficiencies.
Sometimes an essay is over ambitious, when the author chooses to expound
their own theory rather than to defend or critique the writings of
professional philosophers. We can be favourably impressed by such 'free
thinking', but usually it comes at a cost. Essays should at least be in the
context of a tradition of others' attempts to grapple with the issue under
discussion and demonstrate familiarity with those attempts, and 1,500 words
are rarely sufficient to propose and defend new theories that can challenge
effectively established works that have taken years to achieve significant
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.