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 submission deadline for entry to the present Michaelmas term
(October-December) Prize is 6th January. We aim to announce the winners by
The prize winners of the past Trinity term competition (2019) are
Judges' Report for Trinity Term 2019
20 essays were entered for the Prize, 15 from OUDCE's online courses and
five from OUDCE's weekly, attended classes. In addition to awarding
1st, 2nd and 3rd Prizes, we highly commended
a further two essays. All these essays may be read by clicking on the essay
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.
Click HERE to see the
important Judges' Guidelines. They explain both what we are looking
for and what we are hoping not to see in the essays we mark.
Judges' General Comments
More essays than ever before were entered for the Trinity term Prize, when
OUDCE run fewer courses than in the other two terms. The 20 essays came from
authors in 10 different countries. What’s more, the average quality of the
essays was particularly high. It is encouraging to see the Essay Prize so
popular, and also to find a student on the online Introduction to Philosophy
course winning 1st prize, and another from the same course submitting a Highly
The essay topics included some ‘old favourites’, but also, with the advent of
new course subjects such as ‘Economic Inequality’, fresh and exciting titles
are increasingly being tackled by students. Most of the essays demonstrate
real thoughtfulness, and many of them an intelligent insight when tackling
difficult areas of philosophy. It was good to see authors sticking closely to
the essay question and providing relevant, well-argued answers.
On the negative side, we were disturbed that three essays had to be
disqualified for exceeding the word limit; and too often referencing was
inadequate. It is essential that, where primary or secondary literature is
(very properly) referred to, precise references are provided. The source works
should be listed in the bibliography with author, publication, date etc, and
the relevant passages identified in the text or footnotes by page or section
number. It is not only we judges, but also other interested readers, who may
want to read the relevant parts of cited works.
We strongly advise students to read and closely follow the Judges’ Guidelines
(see above). Read them again before submitting your essay, if only to
eliminate irrelevancies and phrases such as ‘I believe’, ‘in my opinion’ etc.
We thank and congratulate the hardworking tutors for inspiring their students
to tackle the difficult but rewarding study of philosophy. The essays we read
demonstrate a combination of expert and conscientious 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.'