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 Trinity term
(April-June 2020) Prize is 13th August. We aim to announce the winners
by 5th October.
The prize winners of the past Hilary term competition are
Judges' Report for Hilary Term 2020
8 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
The 8 essays came from authors in 5 different countries: UK, Australia,
Peru, Switzerland and USA. There has been a surge in the number of students
entering the Essay Prize recently (17-20 in the previous three terms), and it
was a shame to see the entries plummet, doubtless owing to the coronavirus
pandemic. We’re hoping it won’t have the same dampening effect on the present
The essay titles included questions on ethics, metaphysics and
epistemology, and produced three worthy prize-winners. It was good to see a
generally improved standard of referencing in almost all the essays, and
pretty good adherence to answering the essay question without wordy digression
to irrelevancies. The limit of 1,500 words is a tight discipline that does not
allow such luxury.
We congratulate all the essayists for the effort they put into their work
and for their courage in entering their essays for the Prize. There were some
near misses, and we would encourage all students to ‘have a go’, not only for
the chance to win a prize, but because the revision and thought needed to
compose an essay doubles the value of ‘mere’ course participation. It cements
the knowledge and can stimulate new ideas.
Many thanks too to the hardworking tutors for inspiring their students to
tackle the difficult but rewarding study of philosophy. Most of 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.'