The Marc Sanders Prize in Epistemology is administered by Tamar Szabó Gendler, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Vincent J. Scully Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University.

The 2021 prize cycle is now closed and will re-open in 2023.

Current Competition Details

The Marc Sanders Prize in Epistemology is a biennial essay competition open to scholars who are within fifteen (15) years of receiving a Ph.D. by the submission date, or students who are currently enrolled in a graduate program. Independent scholars may also be eligible and should direct inquiries to the Editors of OSE (see below.)

The award is $5,000. Winning essays will be published in Oxford Studies in Epistemology.

Submitted essays must report original research in epistemology. Essays should generally be between 7,500 and 15,000 words. Longer essays may be considered, but authors must seek prior approval by providing the Editors with an abstract and a word count before submission. Since winning essays will appear in Oxford Studies in Epistemology, submissions must not be under review elsewhere. Authors should include with their submissions an abstract of no more than 500 words. 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 Epistemology or by a committee deputized by them for this purpose and will be announced in November. (The Editorial Board reserves the right to extend the deadline further, if no essay is chosen.) At the author’s request, the Board will simultaneously consider entries in the prize competition as submissions for publication in Oxford Studies in Epistemology independently of the prize.

Inquiries and submissions should be directed to ose.editorial@gmail.com.

Prize Winners

2021 Winner

Rachel Fraser, Exeter College and University of Oxford

Title: "The Will in Belief" (PDF)

The Marc Sanders Foundation and Oxford Studies in Epistemology join in congratulating Rachel Fraser as the winner of the Sanders Prize in Epistemology for her paper “The Will in Belief.” This paper will be published in Oxford Studies in Epistemology.

Rachel Fraser is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford, and a Tutorial Fellow at Exeter College, She works mainly in epistemology, philosophy of language, and social and political philosophy. Before taking up her current post, she was a Junior Research Fellow at Peterhouse, University of Cambridge, and before that she was a graduate and undergraduate student at Oxford.


It’s bad to hang on to a belief in the face of good evidence that it’s false. That makes you dogmatic. Enter the classic dogmatism puzzle. The standard response? Go for defeat: new evidence can destroy old knowledge. But there are variants on the classic dogmatism puzzle which defeat can’t help with. Worse still, these puzzles threaten to undermine the standard defeatist solution to the classic puzzle. Call these the revenge puzzles. Two are already noted in the literature. In this paper, I introduce a third, particularly severe revenge puzzle. I then present a unified solution to the revenge puzzles. The solution motivates a boldly revisionary conception of belief: one on which belief involves the will.

2021 Honorable Mention

Joshua DiPaolo, California State University, Fullerton

Title: “‘I’m, Like, a Very Smart Person’: On Self-Licensing and Perils of Reflection”

Joshua DiPaolo currently works on questions in social epistemology and on philosophical issues surrounding extremism. He joined California State University, Fullerton as an Assistant Professor in 2019. Prior to that, he was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Kansas State University. He completed his PhD in 2016 at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 


Epistemic trespassing, science denial, refusal to guard against bias, mishandling higher-order evidence, and the development of vice are troubling intellectual behaviors. In this paper, I advance work done by psychologists on moral self-licensing to show how all of these behaviors can be explained in terms of a parallel phenomenon of epistemic self-licensing. The paper situates this discussion at the intersection of three major epistemological projects: epistemic explanation and intervention (the project of explaining troubling intellectual phenomena in the hopes of deriving ameliorative strategies), hostile epistemology (the study of how intellectual vulnerabilities might be exploited), and the promise of higher-order evidence (the hope that higher-order evidence leads to epistemic improvement). Analyzing epistemic licensing allows us to explain and offer modest interventions aimed at mitigating these behaviors, while illuminating exploitable vulnerabilities and tempering optimism about the promise of higher-order evidence.

2021 Honorable Mention

Simon Goldstein, Australian Catholic University

Title: "Omega Knowledge Matters" (PDF Forthcoming)

Simon is an associate professor in the Dianoia Institute at Australian Catholic University. He specializes in epistemology and philosophy of language, and is writing a book about omega knowledge. Before coming to ACU, he was an assistant professor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

You omega know something when you know it, and know that you know it, and know that you know that you know it, . . . , and so on. This paper explains why omega knowledge matters, and explains how omega knowledge is possible. Omega knowledge matters for at least two reasons. First, it is the norm of assertion. Second, it is required for permissible action. While omega knowledge is important, existing accounts of omega knowledge are unsatisfying. One account embraces the KK thesis, and identifies knowledge with omega knowledge. This position struggles to make sense of inexact knowledge. The second account is skeptical, arguing that we have no omega knowledge of any ordinary claims about the world. This paper develops a new account of knowledge, by proposing the principle of Reflective Luminosity: if you know that you know something, then you omega know it. The paper argues that Reflective Luminosity offers a compromise between defenders of KK and skeptics about omega knowledge.

2019 Winner

Sarah Moss, University of Michigan

Title: "Knowledge and Legal Proof" (PDF)

The Marc Sanders Foundation and Oxford Studies in Epistemology join in congratulating Sarah Moss as the winner of the Sanders Prize in Epistemology for her paper “Knowledge and Legal Proof.”


Contemporary legal scholarship on evidence and proof addresses a host of apparently disparate questions: What does it take to prove a fact beyond a reasonable doubt? Why is the reasonable doubt standard notoriously elusive, even sometimes considered by courts to be impossible to define? Can the standard of proof by a preponderance of the evidence be defined in terms of probability thresholds? Why is merely statistical evidence often insufficient to meet the burden of proof?

This paper defends an account of proof that addresses each of these questions. Where existing theories take a piecemeal approach to these puzzles, my theory develops a core insight that unifies them—namely, the thesis that legal proof requires knowledge. Although this thesis may seem radical at first, I argue that it is in fact highly intuitive; in fact, the knowledge account of legal proof does better than several competing accounts when it comes to making sense of our intuitive judgments about what legal proof requires.

2019 Honorable Mention

Thi Nguyen, Utah Valley University

Title: "Trust as an Unquestioning Attitude" (PDF)

C. Thi Nguyen as of July 2020 is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Utah. His research focuses on how social structures and technology can shape our rationality and our agency. He has published on trust, expertise, group agency, community art, cultural appropriation, aesthetic value, echo chambers, moral outrage porn, and games. He received his PhD from UCLA. Once, he was a food writer for the Los Angeles Times. He tweets at @add_hawk.


Most theories of trust presume that trust is a conscious attitude that can be directed at only other agents. I sketch a different form of trust: the unquestioning attitude. What it is to trust, in this sense, is not simply to rely on something, but to rely on it unquestioningly. It is to rely on a resource while suspending deliberation over its reliability. To trust, then, is to set up open pipelines between yourself and parts of the external world — to permit external resources to have a similar relationship to one as one’s internal cognitive faculties. This creates efficiency, but at the price of exquisite vulnerability. We must trust in this way because we are cognitively limited beings in a cognitively overwhelming world. Crucially, we can hold the unquestioning attitude towards objects. When I trust my climbing rope, I climb while putting questions of its reliability out of mind. Many people now trust, in this sense, complex technologies such as search algorithms and online calendars. But, one might worry, how could one ever hold such a normatively loaded attitude as trust towards mere objects? How could it ever make sense to feel betrayed by an object? Such betrayal is grounded, not in considerations of inter-agential cooperation, but in considerations of functional integration. Trust is our engine for expanding and outsourcing our agency — for binding external processes into our practical selves. Thus, we can be betrayed by our smartphones in the same way that we can be betrayed by our memory. When we trust, we try to make something a part of our agency, and we are betrayed when our part lets us down. This suggests a new form of gullibility: agential gullibility, which occurs when agents too hastily and carelessly integrate external resources into their own agency.

2017 Winner

Miriam Schoenfield, MIT

Title: "Meditations on Beliefs Formed Arbitrarily" (PDF)

The Marc Sanders Foundation and Oxford Studies in Epistemology join in congratulating Miriam Schoenfield as the winner of the Sanders Prize in Epistemology for her paper “Meditations on Beliefs Formed Arbitrarily.” Miriam is Associate Professor of Philosophy at MIT.


Had we grown up elsewhere or been educated differently, our view of the world would likely be radically different. What to make of this? This paper takes an accuracy-centered first-personal approach to the question of how to respond to the arbitrary nature in which many of our beliefs are formed. I show how considerations of accuracy motivate different responses to this sort of information depending on the type of attitude we take towards the belief in question upon subjecting the belief to doubt.

2017 Honorable Mention

Jason Konek, University or Bristol

Title: "The Art of Learning" (PDF)

The Marc Sanders Foundation and Oxford Studies in Epistemology join in congratulating Jason Konek as the winner of the Sanders Prize in Epistemology for the paper “The Art of Learning.”



Confirmational holism is at odds with Jeffrey conditioning—the orthodox Bayesian policy for accommodating uncertain learning experiences. Two of the great insights of holist epistemology are that (i) the effects of experience ought to be mediated by one’s background beliefs, and (ii) the support provided by one’s learning experience can and often is undercut by subsequent learning. Jeffrey conditioning fails to vindicate either of these insights. My aim is to describe and defend a new updating policy that does better. In addition to showing that this new policy is more holism-friendly than Jeffrey conditioning, I will also show that it has an accuracy-centered justification.

2015 Winner

Sophie Horowitz, Rice University

Title: “Accuracy and Educated Guesses” (PDF)

The Marc Sanders Foundation and Oxford Studies in Epistemology join in congratulating Sophie Horowitz as the winner of the Sanders Prize in Epistemology for her paper “Accuracy and Educated Guesses.” Sophie is Assistant Professor at Rice University and her paper will appear in Oxford Studies in Epistemology.

An Honorable Mention goes to David Barnett, the runner-up, for his paper titled, “Perceptual Justification and the Cartesian Theater”.


Abstract: Credences, unlike full beliefs, can’t be true or false. So what makes credences more or less accurate? I offer a new answer to this question: credences are accurate insofar as they license true educated guesses, and less accurate insofar as they license false educated guesses. I argue that this account can be used to justify certain coherence constraints on rational credence, and has other advantages over rival accounts of accuracy.

2013 Winner

Michael Titelbaum, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Title: “Rationality’s Fixed Point“ (PDF)

The Marc Sanders Foundation and Oxford Studies in Epistemology join in congratulating Michael Titelbaum as the winner of the Sanders Prize in Epistemology for his entry “Rationality’s Fixed Point.”


This year there were 61 entries for the prize which, after a rigorous review process, were reduced to an exceptionally strong field of 6 finalists. Michael’s paper will appear in Oxford Studies in Epistemology along with the two runners up papers by Sarah Moss (University of Michigan), “Time-Slice Epistemology and Action Under Uncertainty”, and John Bengson (University of Wisconsin-Madison), “Grasping the Third Realm.”

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Barry Lam

Copyright 2019 Marc Sanders Foundation