Philsoc instituted the Student Essay Prize 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.
Upon the retirement in October 2021 of Marianne Talbot, as OUDCE’s director
of philosophy and president of Philsoc, the Student Essay Prize has been
renamed in her honour. This is in recognition of her great services to
Philsoc and her strong support for the Prize, which was inaugurated in her
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 (£50, £30 and £20). They will also be awarded
one year's free membership of Philsoc, and their essays will be published
here on the Philsoc website. The essay winning 1st prize will also appear in
Philsoc's annual Review, a copy of which is one of the benefits of Philsoc
membership. All 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 2021) Prize is 10th January 2022. We aim to announce
the winners by the first week in March.
Please note that students enrolled for OUDCE’s online course, Introduction
to Political Philosophy, which took place during the 2021 summer vacation,
may enter their essays for the Marianne Talbot Essay Prize for assessment
alongside entries to the Michaelmas term 2021 competition.
The prize winners in the past Trinity term competition are shown below.
Judges' Report for Trinity Term 2021
11 essays were entered for the Prize – all from OUDCE's online courses,
since the weekly, attended classes were again cancelled because of
coronavirus. Prizes were awarded as follows. The 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 Hilary term Prize 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
We received 11 essays from students on just three different philosophy
courses, far fewer than usual. These courses were Philosophy of Science,
Introduction to Philosophy, and Political Philosophy. 9 of the students came
from the UK, plus 1 each from Australia and Germany.
The general standard of the submitted essays was quite high in the qualities
we look for in a good philosophy essay, with less separating the highest
from the lowest ranked essays than in previous competitions. These include
good structure; sound, persuasive argument; depth of relevant knowledge;
clarity and economy of expression.
That closeness in quality not only made fair ranking of the essays
difficult, but it meant that factors like readability, avoidance of
irrelevancies, good referencing and sparks of originality could have more
effect on deciding between closely ranked essays than in many past
competitions. It also meant that relatively minor deficiencies like
typographical errors, and failure in giving page numbers of referenced
passages from cited authors, could pull the ranking of an essay below
another of otherwise very similar quality.
Adhesion to the word limit was mostly excellent, with just one essay
disqualified for going well over 1,500 words, and most authors purveyed a
sense of familiarity with their subject matter that gave the reader
As always, we thank the tutors for their hard work in mentoring and
stimulating their students in the 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.'