Update 9 May 2019: The Sanders Foundation is committed to the value of public philosophy but under new management is re-evaluating what might be the best way to support it. For future announcements, please see the MSF homepage.
The Third Marc Sanders Award(s) for Public Philosophy
Update: the winners and two honourable mentions for these awards have been announced. Congratulations to Amia Srinivasan, Regina Rini, Laura Callahan, and Lee-Ann Chae. Full details here.
...We are pleased to announce that there will be two prizes available this year, one for an unpublished essay, and one for a previously published essay. The deadline for both is 15 September 2018. The award for each prize is $4,500. In addition, the top three unpublished essays will be passed to the Editorial Director and a Senior Editor at Aeon and will be considered carefully for publication. Any essay which is not accepted for publication will be given a written report from the senior editor about its strengths and weaknesses, with suggestions for alternative publication venues. No more than one essay per author will be considered across the two prizes.
To be eligible for the prize for a published essay, please submit a copy of your essay, together with publication details, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions for this award need not be anonymised. An article counts as ‘published’ so long as it is published between 16 September 2017 and the deadline for the award, 15 September 2018. An article featured on a personal website does not count as published. However, an article on a public website may count as published; decisions will be made on a case by case basis; feel free to include any qualifying information in the body of the submission email. Long-form submissions will be preferred, but articles of any length will be considered. There is no restriction to any area of philosophy. This prize is not restricted to junior candidates.
Please submit your unpublished essays, anonymized for blind review, to email@example.com. For this prize, we will only consider long-form essays (minimum 2,500 words, maximum 7,000) with significant philosophical content or method by authors with significant philosophical training. The most important condition is that essays should be written to engage the general reader. There is no restriction to any area of philosophy. For this prize, there is no restriction to junior candidates. Philosophers at any career stage are encouraged to submit. Previously published essays will not be considered for this prize.
Judging public philosophy is challenging, for various reasons. One is that writing good public philosophy combines both the skills of good writing and the skills of well-written philosophy. Another is that there is a variety of different styles of public philosophy: interpretation, application, and inquiry, for example; and a variety of different target audiences, from local news editorials, to Buzzfeed readers, to Paris Review readers. Another reason is that different people want different things from public philosophy, and, in particular, philosophers and non-philosophers may have rather different understandings of what constitutes good public philosophy. To respond to these challenges, we will have among our judges both professional non-fiction writers and philosophers, and within the latter a number with significant experience with public philosophy. Whatever the style or genre, essays will be judged on the cogency of the argument, the fluency and persuasiveness of the writing, and the sure-handed structuring of an argument across the allotted word limit.
In case it is helpful, we include below the information that will be sent to our first-round judges. They will be invited to submit scores across the following criteria:
Philosophical Importance: Essays that score well on this criterion will tend to focus on questions/topics that are either more "central" to philosophy, or include a more robust set of implications. It should be clear what is at stake, philosophically. Essays that score poorly will focus on questions/topics that are of interest primarily to experts in highly specialized subfields. It may be unclear to the general reader what, exactly, is at stake, philosophically, in this essay.
Accessibility / Clarity: An essay that scores highly will likely include little to no jargon, or adequately explain what (sparse) technical terms it requires; it will be well-structured, to an extent that a relatively sophisticated reader could follow along without losing their place; it will rely on little to no background technical knowledge, and little to no expert pop culture knowledge; and it will have a clear point. An essay will score badly that relies on jargon or highly specialized knowledge; is oddly structured, or otherwise difficult to follow; relies on background knowledge which sophisticated readers of a variety of "public" media (from local newspaper editorials, to BuzzFeed readers, to New Yorker readers) may not have; is vague, ambiguous.
Interestingness / Pertinence: An essay that scores highly is likely on a topic that is familiar or at least accessible to most people, one with which most people can easily connect; is lively and unacademic. An essay that scores poorly is on an extremely narrow topic that is unfamiliar to many people; is on a topic with which very few people are likely to have a personal connection, or to see the relevance to their own life; is boring, dull, or otherwise dry.
Aesthetic merit: An essay that scores highly will have lively prose; is imaginative, evocative, and perhaps causes you to sit back in wonder; evinces a witty, pleasantly despairing, teasing, snarky, or enticing voice; includes sentences that you want to carry with you throughout the day, or at the very least reread, out loud, just for the joy they provide in speaking them. An essay that scores poorly likely includes very dull prose; is unimaginative, evokes little wonder; has no spice, kick, oomph -- doesn't punch you in the gut; includes little to any sentences that you wish to reread.
Overall: An essay that scores highly likely includes primarily high scores. Essay might be slightly weak in one category, but is strong enough in too many other categories (or particularly strong in one category) to make up for it. Perhaps it has further features not captured above that endear it to the reader. An essay that scores poorly likely includes mostly low scores. Essay might be very strong in one category or another, but has too many weaknesses along other criteria to make up for it.
Some favourite examples of long form public philosophy:
Amia Srinivasan, Would Politics Be Better Without Anger?
An 18th Century philosopher cured Alison Gopnik’s mid-life crisis
Jerry Fodor on Analytic Philosophy
Galen Strawson on whether life is a narrative
Amia Srinivasan on the Robot Apocalypse
Tim Maudlin on Astronomy and Fine-Tuning
Mark Johnston on whether life is a Ponzi scheme
Ta-Nehisi Coates making ‘The Case for Reparations’
Public Philosophy Workshop
at UNC Chapel Hill, May 18-19, 2018
Keynote speakers will include Anita L. Allen (Henry Silverman Professor of Law and Philosophy, and Vice Provost for Faculty at UPenn), David V. Johnson (Senior Editor at Stanford Social Innovation Review; former Opinion Editor at Al Jazeera and Web Editor at the Boston Review), Myisha Cherry
(UC Riverside; contributor to Salon, HuffPo, and LA Times; hosts popular UnMute podcast), and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics at Duke University and editor of OUP’s monograph series in public philosophy).
The event centrally consists in workshop sessions in which participants will offer critical responses to each other’s work with the assistance of our keynote speakers. There will be down-time for redrafting material, and subsequent workshops to address improvements.
In between times, our keynote speakers will offer presentations on different aspects of public philosophy. We will round up the workshop with an ‘open slather’ panel session — an informal Q&A with workshop participants and keynote speakers, addressing questions that emerged throughout the workshop.
We will offer several fellowships: three for graduate students and two for pre-tenure philosophers. These fellowships will cover a portion of the cost of travel to the workshop. Fellowships will be awarded on the merits of a piece of unpublished public philosophy, of any length, submitted to ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ by 1 March 2018. While we welcome entries in all areas of philosophy, we are particularly interested in entries that engage with issues at the nexus of ethics, social, and political philosophy.
Please include the following information with your submission. In the subject, write “[SUBMISSION] UNC Public Philosophy Workshop”. In the body, list the following on separate lines: name, institutional affiliation (or ‘unaffiliated’), professional status (tenure, pre-tenure, graduate student, n/a). Attach a PDF, DOC, DOCX, or RTF.
(This workshop is made possible by generous support from Duke University, UNC Chapel Hill, the Parr Center for Ethics, UNC-Duke Philosophy, Politics, & Economics (PPE) program, the Marc Sanders Foundation, and the American Philosophical Association.)
Philosophy Café at Mystery Brewing Company
Hillsborough, North Carolina
starting 25 October 2016
with Professor Marc Lange discussing
the paradox of the ravens
continuing on 24 January 2017
with Professor Mariska Leunissen discussing
an ancient paradox or two
and then on 25 April 2018
Professor L.A. Paul and Chris Blake-Turner will discuss
for subsequent event information, please contact Joanna Lawson (UNC).