2023 Essay Prize Topic: Methodology
Each year the Royal Institute of Philosophy holds an essay prize
competition. Previous winners include Renee Rushing’s ‘Fitting Diminishment of
Anger: A Permissivist account’ and Michael Cholbi’s ‘Empathy and
Psychopaths’ Inability to Grieve’ (joint winners 2022), Jonas Faria
Costa's 'On Gregariousness' (winner of the 2021 prize), Lucy McDonald's 'Please
Like This Paper' and Nikhil Venkatesh's 'Surveillance Capitalism: a
Marx-inspired Account' (winners of the 2020 prize), Georgi Gardiner's
'Profiling and Proof: Are Statistics Safe?' (winner of the 2019 prize) and
Rebecca Buxton's 'Reparative Justice for Climate Refugees' (winner of the 2018
The topic for this year’s prize is ‘Methodology’. We intend this topic to be understood very broadly, so as to include related issues in any area of philosophy and from any philosophical tradition.
The winner will receive £2,500 and their essay will be published in Philosophy. The submission deadline is 31 January 2024, 23:59 GMT. Entries will be considered by a panel of judges and the winner announced in Spring 2024.
In assessing entries priority will be given to originality, clarity of expression, breadth of interest, and potential for advancing discussion. All entries will be deemed to be submissions to Philosophy.
In exceptional circumstances, the prize may be awarded jointly, in which case the financial component will be divided. The winning entry/entries will be published in the October 2024 issue of Philosophy.
The word-limit for the Essay Competition is 8,000 words. Instructions for contributors can be found here: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/philosophy/information/instructions-contributors.
Please submit entries by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line 'Prize Essay'. Entries should be anonymised and suitable for blind review. (Please note that Essay Prize submissions should be sent to the email address above and should not submitted through the ScholarOne).
Joint Winners Essay Prize 2022
Psychopaths exhibit diminished ability to grieve. Here I address whether this inability can be explained by the trademark feature of psychopaths, namely, their diminished capacity for interpersonal empathy. I argue that this hypothesis turns out to be correct, but requires that we conceptualize empathy not merely as an ability to relate (emotionally and ethically) to other individuals but also as an ability to relate to past and present iterations of ourselves. This reconceptualization accords well with evidence regarding psychopaths’ intense focus on the temporal present and difficulties in engaging in mental time travel, as well as with the essentially egocentric and identity-based nature of grief.
There has been recent discussion of a puzzle posed by emotions that are backward looking. Though our emotions commonly diminish over time, how can they diminish fittingly if they are an accurate appraisal of an event that is situated in the past? Agnes Callard (2017) has offered a solution by providing an account of anger in which anger is both backwards looking and resolvable, yet her account depends upon contrition to explain anger's fitting diminishment. My aim is to explain how anger can fittingly diminish even when there is lack of contrition. I propose a permissivism about fittingness by showing that both anger and compassion are fitting responses to blameworthy behaviour. I argue that anger is rendered fitting because it accurately appraises the behaviour, whereas compassion becomes fitting as a valuational response to what the behaviour reveals about the lived experience of the offender. I then respond to some worries my account raises, and I clarify details of my account to show that it is not unrealistic to the way some of our anger actually does diminish. I end with a proposal that our anger can fittingly diminish through the act of forgiveness when compassion is not a forthcoming affective response.
This paper focuses on the question of political anger's non-instrumental justification. I argue that the case for anger is strong where anger expresses a valuable form of valuing the good. It does so only when properly integrated with non-angry emotional responsiveness to the good. The account allows us to acknowledge the non-instrumentally bad side of anger while still delivering the intuitive verdict that anger is often justified. Moreover, it provides an avenue for criticizing much of the anger run amok in contemporary political life without directly engaging entrenched moral and political views.