Philosophy of Mind Prize Winners

2015 Winner

rsz_john_morrisonJohn Morrison, Barnard College, Columbia University
Title: “Perceptual Confidence” (PDF)

The editorial board of Analytic Philosophy has selected John Morrison as the winner of the 2015 Sanders Prize in Philosophy of Mind for his essay “Perceptual Confidence.” John Morrison is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Barnard College, Columbia University. He holds a PhD from NYU and works in the areas of philosophy of mind and history of modern philosophy.


Perceptual Confidence is the view that perceptual experiences assign degrees of confidence.  After introducing, clarifying, and motivating Perceptual Confidence, I catalogue some of its more interesting consequences, such as the way it blurs the distinction between veridical and illusory experiences, a distinction that is sometimes said to carry a lot of metaphysical weight.  I also explain how Perceptual Confidence fills a hole in our best scientific theories of perception and why it implies that experiences don’t have objective accuracy conditions.

2014 Winner

Maria AarnioMaria Lasonen-Aarnio, University of Michigan
Title: “I’m Onto Something!” Learning about the world by learning what I think about it. (PDF: Im_Onto_Something)

The editorial board of Analytic Philosophy has selected Maria Lasonen-Aarnio as the winner of the 2014 Sanders Prize in Philosophy of Mind for her essay “‘I’m Onto Something!’ Learning about the world by learning what I think about It.” Maria Lasonen-Aarnio is Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Michigan. She holds a DPhil from Oxford University.


There has been a lot of discussion about whether a subject has a special sort of access to her
own mental states, different in important ways from her access to the states of others. But
assuming that subjects can genuinely find out about their own minds, is the kind of import
of acquiring self-knowledge different in some interesting, principled way from the import of
finding out about the mental states of others? Consider, in particular, the import of finding
out about the doxastic states of others who share your evidence. It has been a very popular
view of late that evidence about the opinions of others can provide both evidence about
one’s evidence, and evidence about first-order matters that the evidence bears on. So, for
instance, learning that a friend who shares my evidence is very confident that p can give me
evidence that my evidence supports p, and evidence that p is true. But assuming that my
own states are not perfectly luminous to me, could learning what I think about a matter
have the same kind of evidential import? For instance, could learning that I am confident
that p give me more evidence about whether p? It is very tempting to think that evidence
about my own doxastic states is inert in a way that evidence about the states of others is
not. I argue that this is wrong: there is no principled difference between the evidential
import of these two kinds of evidence. Asking what I think about a matter can be a perfectly
legitimate way of gaining more evidence about it.

2013 Winner

Carla Merino-RajmeCarla Merino-Rajme, NYU
Title: “A Quantum Theory of Felt Duration”

The editorial board of Analytic Philosophy has selected Carla Merino-Rajme as the winner of the 2013 Sanders Prize in Philosophy of Mind for her essay “A Quantum Theory of Felt Duration”. The paper was praised by the judges as “interesting and clever,” “well written,” “really well done,” and “impressive.” Here’s a passage from its conclusion:

What is it like to experience the duration of an event? According to the theory developed, the short answer is this. For a long-lived event, it is to form an impression of how many quanta are involved in experiencing it from beginning to end. For a short-lived event, it is how much of the duration of its surrounding quantum it strikes us as taking up. In both cases, experienced quanta provide the subjective unit of our experience of duration. Thus, experienced quanta are the analogues of qualia like seen color, seen shape, felt texture, and heard sound for the case of the perception of duration. The passing of time has a feel to it, but it is not a novel color or shape or texture or sound. It is the passing of experienced units, and our temporal experience provides us with an impression of the count of these units or quanta.

Carla Merino-Rajme is currently an assistant professor/Bersoff fellow at New York University. Her research focuses primarily in philosophy of mind and metaphysics. She recently received a PhD in philosophy from Princeton University, where she wrote a dissertation on the experience of time. She also holds an MA in philosophy of science from UNAM. Starting in the fall of 2014, she will join the philosophy department at Arizona State University as an assistant professor.