Metaphysics

photo of David SosaThe Sanders Prize in Metaphysics is administered by Dean Zimmerman, Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University and co-editor of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics.

Submissions are due January 31st, 2018.

Current Competition Details

The Marc Sanders Prize in Metaphysics is an annual essay competition open to scholars who are within fifteen (15) years of receiving a Ph.D. or students who are currently enrolled in a graduate program. Independent scholars may also be eligible and should direct inquiries to Dean Zimmerman at dwzimmer@nullrci.rutgers.edu.

The award for the prizewinning essay is $10,000 and winning essays will be published in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics.

Submitted essays must present original research in metaphysics. Essays should be between 7,500 and 15,000 words. Since winning essays will appear in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, submissions must not be under review elsewhere. To be eligible for this year’s prize, submissions must be received, electronically, by January 31st, 2018. Refereeing will be blind; authors should omit remarks and references that might disclose their identities. Receipt of submissions will be acknowledged by e-mail. The winner will be determined by a committee of members of the Editorial Board of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics and will be announced by late-March. Inquiries should be directed to Dean Zimmerman and Karen Bennett, co-editor of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, at dwzimmer@nullrci.rutgers.edu.

Prize Winners

2017 Winner

photo of Scott DixonScott Dixon, Ashoka University
Title: “Plural Slot Theory” (PDF forthcoming)

The Marc Sanders Foundation wishes to congratulate Scott Dixon, the 2017 winner of the Sanders Prize in Metaphysics for his paper “Plural Slot Theory”.  This year, there was a particularly large and strong pool from which to choose.  The judges (Karen Bennett, Ted Sider, Laurie Paul, Ross Cameron, and Jason Turner) had their work cut out for them.  In the end, four essays were offered publication in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics or given invitations to revise-and-resubmit — more than usual for this competition, indicating the strength of the field. The first runner-up for the prize was Jonathan Simon, a post-doctoral associate and research fellow at NYU.  His essay, “Fragmenting the Waves”, will also be published in the next volume of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics.

Scott Dixon is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Ashoka University. His primary research interest is in metaphysics, particularly in grounding. He also has interests in logic (especially plural logic and infinitary logic) and the philosophy of mathematics.

Abstract: Fine (2000) argues, pace Russell, that relations have neither directions nor converses.  He considers two ways to conceive of these new “neutral” relations, positionalism and anti-positionalism, and argues that the latter should be preferred to the former.  Gilmore (2013) argues for a generalization of positionalism, slot theory–the view that a relation is n-adic if and only if there are n slots in it, and, roughly, that each slot may be occupied by at most one entity.  Slot theory bears the full brunt of Fine’s (2000) symmetric completions and conflicting adicities problems. I develop an alternative view, plural slot theory, which avoids these problems, key elements of which are first considered by Yi (1999).  Like the slot theorist, the plural slot theorist posits entities in properties and relations that can be occupied.  But unlike the slot theorist, the plural slot theorist denies that at most one entity can occupy any one of them.  As a result, she must also deny that the adicity of a relation is equal to the number of occupiable entities in it.  By abandoning these theses, however, the plural slot theorist is able to avoid Fine’s problems, resulting in a stronger theory about the internal structure of properties and relations.  Plural slot theory also avoids a serious drawback of anti-positionalism.

2016 Winner

photo of Andrew BaconAndrew Bacon, University of Southern California
Title: “Relative Locations (PDF)

This year’s winner is Andrew Bacon (USC) for his essay “Relative Locations” which will be published in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics next year. There were 45 entries for the prize, many of which were excellent. The panel of judges included Karen Bennet, Cian Dorr, Bradford Skow, Meghan Sullivan, Jason Turner, and Jessica Wilson.

Abstract:The fact that physical laws often admit certain kinds of space-time symmetries is often thought to be problematic for substantivalism – the view that space-time is as real as the objects it contains. The most prominent alternative, relationism, avoids these problems but at the cost of giving abstract objects (rather than space-time points) a pivotal role in the fundamental metaphysics. This incurs related problems, I shall argue, concerning the relation of the physical to the mathematical. In this paper I will present a version of substantivalism that respect Leibnizian theses about space-time symmetries, and argue that it is superior to both relationism and the more orthodox form of substantivalism.

2015 Winner

photo of Jon LitlandJon Litland, University of Texas at Austin
Title: “Grounding Ground (PDF)

With the help of a panel of judges including Louis deRosset, Daniel Nolan, Kris McDaniel, and Karen Bennett, the editorial board of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics has awarded the 2015 Sanders Prize in Metaphysics to Jon Litland for his essay “Grounding Ground.” Jon Litland is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin.

Abstract:The Problem of Iterated Ground is to explain what grounds truths about ground: if Γ grounds φ, what grounds that Γ grounds φ? This paper develops a novel solution to this problem. The basic idea is to connect ground to explanatory arguments. By developing a rigorous account of explanatory arguments we can equip operators for factive and non-factive ground with natural introduction and elimination rules. A satisfactory account of iterated ground falls directly out of the resulting logic: non- factive grounding claims, if true, are zero-grounded in the sense of Fine.

2014 Winner

photo of Nick KrollNick Kroll, Franklin & Marshall College
Title: “Teleological Dispositions” (PDF forthcoming)

With the help of judges Laurie Paul, Karen Bennett, Ross Cameron, and Elizabeth Barnes, the editorial board of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics has selected Nick Kroll as the winner of the 2014 Sanders Prize in Metaphysics for his essay “Teleological Dispositions.” Nick Kroll is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Franklin & Marshall College.

AbstractI propose a teleological account of dispositions.  Details aside, the view is that to have a disposition is to be in a state with a certain telos.  I argue that such an account of dispositions provides exactly what those working on dispositions have been searching for: (i) a robust explanation of the sense in which dispositions are directed at their manifestations, and (ii) an interesting and counterexample free connection between dispositions and conditionals.

2013 Winner

photo of Louis deRossetLouis deRosset, University of Vermont
Title: “Analyticity and Ontology” (PDF)

With the help of judges Kathrin Koslicki, Jonathan Schaffer, and Jason Turner, the editorial board of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics has selected Louis deRosset as the winner of the 2013 Sanders Prize in Metaphysics for his essay “Analyticity and Ontology.” Louis de Rosset is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Vermont and interim Department Chair.

AbstractAnalyticity theorists, as I will call them, endorse the doctrine of analyticity in ontology: if some truth P analytically entails the existence of certain things, then a theory that contains P but does not claim that those things exist is no more ontologically parsimonious than a theory that also claims that they exist. Suppose, for instance, that the existence of a table in a certain location is analytically entailed by the existence and features of certain particles in that location. The doctrine implies that the table’s existence requires nothing more of the world than that those particles exist and bear the features in question. Analyticity theorists have alleged that this idea may be used to defend controversial existence claims against a battery of objections. I argue that this style of defence fails, because the doctrine faces counter-examples. An existence claim may be analytically entailed by some truth and still report a substantial further fact. These counter-examples suggest a picture according to which the theoretical utility of analyticity in the investigation of extra-linguistic reality is virtually nil.

2012 Winner

photo of Nicholas JonesNicholas Jones, Merton College, Oxford
Title: “Multiple Constitution” (PDF)

Jonathan Schaffer, Karen Bennett, and Jason Turner served as the 2012 judges for The Oxford Studies in Metaphysics Younger Scholar Prize. This year there were a total of 49 essays competing to be included in a future Volume of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics. The judges identified several excellent candidates, including three runner-up essays: “Vague Existence” by Alessandro Torza (UNAM), “Half-Hearted Humeanism” by Aaron Segal (Notre Dame), and “Paraphrase, Semantics, and Ontology” by John Keller (Niagra University). Ultimately, the judges determined Nicholas Jones’s essay “Multiple Constitution” be awarded first prize.

2011 Winner

photo of Shamik DasguptaShamik Dasgupta, Princeton University
Title: “Absolutism vs. Compatativism About Quantity” (PDF)

This year the Oxford Studies in Metaphysics Younger Scholar Prize attracted 44 essays, submitted by scholars at various stages in their careers. Most participants were recent Ph.D.s, but there were many graduate students, and a few tenured associate professors as well. The judges, Kris McDaniel, Laurie Paul, and Hud Hudson, found much to like in the submissions, and several runners-up were identified as good candidates for inclusion in a future volume of OSM, including “Composition is Identity” by Aaron Cotnoir and “Fundamental Properties of Fundamental Properties” by Maya Eddon. The judges eventually converged upon Shamik Dasgupta’s paper, “Absolutism vs. Comparativism about Quantity.”

2010 Winner

photo of Rachel Briggs and Graeme A. ForbesRachel Briggs and Graeme A. ForbesRachel Briggs, University of Sydney, and Graeme A. Forbes, Sheffield University
Title: “The Real Truth About the Unreal Future” (PDF)

With over 50 essays to choose from, the judges of the 2010 Oxford Studies in Metaphysics Younger Scholar Prize once again faced a difficult decision. The winning essay was “The Real Truth About the Unreal Future,” by Rachael Briggs (a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Sydney) and Graeme A. Forbes (a graduate student at Sheffield University). Several other excellent essays from this year’s competition will, along with the winner, be published in volume 7 of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics; including Troy Cross’s “Goodbye, Humean Supervenience” and Joshua Spencer’s “All Things Must Pass.”

2009 Winner

photo of Jason TurnerJason Turner, University of Leeds
Title: “Ontological Nihilism” (PDF)

The record number of 30 submitted entries in 2008 seemed small compared to the new record-number of 55 submitted entries in 2009. The Marc Sanders Foundation and Editorial Board of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics wish to make special note of the remarkably high quality of essays for 2009, and in particular to highlight the University of Leeds, with whom are associated not only the winning author but also, remarkably, the authors of both exceptionally strong runners-up. We congratulate runners-up Elizabeth Barnes (Lecturer, University of Leeds) and J. Robert G. Williams (Reader in Theoretical Philosophy, University of Leeds) for their essay “A Theory of Metaphysical Indeterminacy,” and runner-up Ross P. Cameron (Lecturer, University of Leeds) for his essay “Truthmaking for Presentists.” The Editorial Board and The Foundation congratulate Jason Turner, also University of Leeds, as winner of the 2009 Younger Scholar’s Prize. His winning essay, “Ontological Nihilism,” will (with those of his colleagues) be published in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Vol. 6 (D. Zimmerman, ed.), forthcoming 2010.

2008 Winner

photo of Jeff RussellJeff Russell, New York University
Title: “The Structure of Gunk: Adventures in the Ontology of Space” (PDF)

After a difficult review of a record 30 submitted entries, The Marc Sanders Foundation and the Editorial Board of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics are pleased to announce Jeff Russell, NYU, as winner of the 2008 Sanders Prize in Metaphysics. Jeff Russell’s winning essay, “The Structure of Gunk: Adventures in the Ontology of Space,” is published in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Vol. 4 (2008, D. Zimmerman, ed.), pp. 248-274.

2007 Winner

photo of Bradford Skow,Bradford Skow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Title: “Extrinsic Temporal Metrics” (PDF)

The Marc Sanders Foundation congratulates Bradford Skow, MIT, for winning the 2007 Oxford Studies in Metaphysics Sanders Competition. Bradford Skow’s winning essay, “Extrinsic Temporal Metrics,” is now published in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Vol. 5 (2010, D. Zimmerman, ed.) pp.179-202.

2006 Winner

photo of Stephan LeuenbergerStephan LeuenbergerStephan Leuenberger, Princeton University
Title: “Ceteris Absentibus Physicalism” (PDF)

The Marc Sanders Foundation joins Oxford Studies in Metaphysics in congratulating Stephan Leuenberger for winning the 2006 Oxford Studies in Metaphysics Sanders Competition. His winning essay “Ceteris Absentibus Physicalism” is published in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Vol. 4 (2008, D. Zimmerman, ed.), pp. 145 – 170.

2005 Winners

photo of Matthew McGrath and Cody GilmoreMatthew McGrath, University of Missouri, Columbia
Title: “Four-dimensionalism and the Puzzles of Coincidence” (PDF)

Cody Gilmore, University of Nebraska at Omaha
Title: “Time Travel, Coinciding Objects, and Persistence” (PDF)

The Marc Sanders Foundation is pleased to announce Matthew McGrath (University of Missouri, Columbia) and Cody Gilmore (University of Nebraska at Omaha) as co-winners of the Oxford Studies in Metaphysics Sanders Prize for 2005. McGrath’s winning essay, “Four Dimensionalism and the Puzzles of Coincidence,” is published in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Vol. 3 (2007, D. Zimmerman, ed.), pp. 143 – 176. Gilmore’s winning essay, “Time Travel, Coinciding Objects, and Persistence,” is also published in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Vol. 3 (2007), pp. 177 – 198.

2004 Winner

photo of Thomas HofweberThomas Hofweber, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title: “Inexpressible Properties and Propositions” (PDF)

The Marc Sanders Foundation is pleased to announce Thomas Hofweber (University of North Carolina) as winner of the inaugural OSM Sanders Prize for 2004. His winning essay, “Inexpressible Properties and Propositions,” is published in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Vol. 2 (2006, D. Zimmerman, ed.), pp. 155 – 206.