Public Philosophy Award

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Current Competition Details

Note: Submissions are due by September 15th, 2018.

The Conditions:
We invite submissions of unpublished essays (minimum 3,000 words, maximum 8,000) with significant philosophical content or method by authors with significant philosophical training.

There is no restriction to any area of philosophy. Unlike other Marc Sanders Prizes there is no restriction to junior candidates. Philosophers at any career stage are encouraged to submit. No more than one submission per person. Previously published essays will not be considered.

The most important condition is that essays should be written to engage the general reader.

The winner of the Marc Sanders Award for Public Philosophy will receive $4,500. The winning essay will be published in Philosophers’ Imprint. Philosophers’ Imprint is a free online journal specializing in major original contributions to philosophy. The runner up (and perhaps even two runners up) will be published in Aeon (subject to their editorial conditions).

The Award Committee is Chaired by Susan Wolf (UNC Chapel Hill). The committee will also include Ken Taylor (Stanford University and Philosophy Talk), Barry Maguire (Stanford University), David Velleman (NYU and Editor of Philosophers’ Imprint), and Brigid Hains (Editorial Director, Aeon Magazine).

Please submit your blinded entry to
by 15 September 2018. Please include the essay title in the subject line. Receipt of submissions will be acknowledged by email. Refereeing will be blind; authors should omit all remarks and references that might disclose their identities.

Any inquiries should be sent to Barry Maguire at

Prize Winners

2016 Winner

photo of Martin SmithfMartin Smith, University of Edinburgh
Title: “Why Throwing 92 Heads in a Row is Not Surprising” (PDF)

Congratulations to Martin Smith, the 2016 winner of the inaugural Sanders Prize in Public Philosophy for his paper “Why Throwing 92 Heads in a Row is Not Surprising”. The selection committee was chaired by Susan Wolf (UNC Chapel Hill), with Patricia O’Toole (Columbia University), Thomas Hofweber (UNC Chapel Hill), and Barry Maguire, (UNC Chapel Hill). There were 64 essays submitted for the prize competition.

Martin is a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, specializing in epistemology, logic, and philosophy of law. His paper will be published in Philosophers’ Imprint.

Abstract: Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” opens with a puzzling scene in which the title characters are betting on coin throws and observe a seemingly astonishing run of 92 heads in a row. Guildenstern grows uneasy and proposes a number of unsettling explanations for what is occurring. Then, in a sudden change of heart, he appears to suggest that there is nothing surprising about what they are witnessing, and nothing that needs any explanation. He says ‘…each individual coin spun individually is as likely to come down heads as tails and therefore should cause no surprise each time it does.’ In this article I argue that Guildenstern is right – there is nothing surprising about throwing 92 heads in a row. I go on to consider the relationship between surprise, probability and belief.

An honorable mention goes to Regina Rini (NYU), the runner-up for the prize. Her paper, titled ‘“How Should A Robot Be?”, was published in Aeon.

Both Smith and Rini’s essays will be cross-posted in Salon and The Point.