Philsoc instituted this essay competition in the Hilary term 2012. Its
objective is to promote a serious interest in philosophy by encouraging and
stimulating students who participate in Oxford University's Department for
Continuing Education (OUDCE) philosophy on-line courses and weekly attended
classes. 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 2020) Prize is 10th January 2021. We aim to announce the
winners by the first week in March.
The prize winners of the past Trinity term competition are
Judges' Report for Trinity Term 2020
25 essays were entered for the Prize - all from OUDCE's online courses,
since the weekly, attended classes had to be cancelled because of coronavirus.
Prizes were awarded as follows. The essays may be read by clicking on the
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 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
Whatever other effects resulted from the coronavirus pandemic, it seems to
have given OUDCE’s philosophy students plenty of time to think about and
submit coursework essays for Philsoc’s Student Essay Prize. We received a
record number of 25 essays of generally good quality in the Trinity term, when
in the past there have usually been fewer entries than in the other two terms.
Moreover, it was a truly international spread of entries from authors in 14
different countries: UK (11), Singapore (2), and one each from USA, Russia,
Australia, India, France, Greece, Netherlands, UAE, Turkey, Bulgaria, Saudi
Arabia and Brazil.
The previous term’s improvement in explicit referencing of sources, which
we judges are always banging on about, was maintained, along with
conscientious adhesion to answering the essay question, and pretty good
compliance with the word limit.
If those disciplines appear somewhat petty compared with the intellectual
task of writing a good philosophy essay, it was encouraging that the essays
exhibited a generally strong grasp of the subjects studied and thoughtful
argument in delivering answers to essay questions on a plethora of topics.
These ranged from ‘old chestnuts’ that the ancients have grappled with (Plato
and Aristotle), to philosophical issues in science that are peculiarly
Thanks to the students’ interest and application, as well as that of the
dedicated tutors, the Essay Prize is thriving. We thank the tutors for their
hard work in mentoring and stimulating their students to produce so many
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.'