Philosophy of Mind

The Sanders Prize in Philosophy of Mind is administered by David Sosa, the Temple Centennial Professor in the Humanities and Chair, Department of Philosophy, at the University of Texas at Austin.

This prize cycle is now closed and will re-open in 2024.

 

 

Current Competition Details

The Marc Sanders Prize in Philosophy of Mind is an annual essay competition open to scholars who are within fifteen (15) years of receiving a Ph.D. and students who are currently enrolled in a graduate program. Independent scholars may also be eligible and should direct inquiries to David Sosa, editor of Analytic Philosophy, at david_sosa@austin.utexas.edu.

The award for the prize-winning essay is $5,000. Winning essays will be published in Analytic Philosophy.

Submitted essays must present original research in philosophy of mind. Essays should be between 7,500 and 15,000 words. Since winning essays will appear in Analytic Philosophy submissions must not be under review elsewhere. 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 appointed by the editor of Analytic Philosophy and will be announced by late November.

Entries should be submitted to “Editorial assistant, Analytic Philosophy” at analyticphilosophyjournal@gmail.com.

Prize Winners

2022 Winners

David Builes, Princeton University, and Michele Odisseas Impagnatiello, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Title: “Experience and Time: A Metaphysical Approach” (PDF)

The editorial board of Analytic Philosophy has selected “Experience and Time: A Metaphysical Approach,” by David Builes and Michele Odisseas Impagnatiello, as the winning entry for the 2022 Sanders Prize in Philosophy of Mind.

David Builes is currently an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University. Previously, he was a Bersoff Faculty Fellow at New York University, and he received his PhD in philosophy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2020. His main research interests are in metaphysics and epistemology, with overlapping interests in philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and philosophy of mathematics.

Michele Odisseas Impagnatiello is a fifth year PhD student in the MIT Philosophy department. He is interested in metaphysics, epistemology, rationality and how they intersect.

The selection committee, consisting of the editorial board of Analytic Philosophy and prize director David Sosa, awarded the prize after a blind review of 27 submitted papers. Builes and Impagnatiello were also winners of the 2022 Sanders Prize in Metaphysics.

The abstract is below.

Abstract:

What is the temporal structure of conscious experience? While it is popular to think that our most basic conscious experiences are temporally extended, we will be arguing against this view, on the grounds that it makes our conscious experiences depend on the future in an implausible way. We then defend an alternative view of the temporal structure of experience from a variety of different objections. Along the way, we hope to illustrate the wider philosophical ramifications of the relationship between experience and time. What one thinks about the temporal structure of experience is, we believe, deeply interconnected with issues concerning whether consciousness is vague or precise, whether conscious states can be reduced to physical states, whether phenomenal properties are intrinsic properties, and whether phenomenal consciousness can “overflow” access consciousness. As we will see, even seemingly unrelated metaphysical questions, such as the debate between Humean and Non-Humean accounts of natural necessity, bear on questions about the relationship between experience and time.

2022 Runner-Up

Brad Saad, Utrecht University and Sentience Institute

Title: “Lessons from the Void: What Boltzmann Brains Teach”

This year we also had a runner-up: “Lessons from the Void: What Boltzmann Brains Teach” by Brad Saad, a researcher in philosophy of artificial intelligence at Utrecht University and research fellow at the Sentience Institute.
Abstract:

2020 Winner

Jessie Munton, University of Cambridge.

Title:"Prejudice as the Misattribution of Salience" (PDF)

Congratulations to Jessie Munton, lecturer in philosophy at the University of Cambridge, for winning the 2020 Sanders Prize in the Philosophy of Mind. The abstract is below.

Abstract:

What does it take to be prejudiced against a particular group? And is prejudice always epistemically problematic, or are there epistemically innocent forms of prejudice? In this paper, I argue that certain important forms of prejudice can be wholly constituted by the differential accessibility of certain pieces of information. These accessibility relations constitute a salience structure. A subject is prejudiced against a particular group when their salience structure is unduly organised around that category. This is significant because it reveals that prejudice does not require the presence of any explicit cognitive or emotive attitude, nor need it manifest in behaviour: it can be solely constituted by the organisation of information, where that information may be accurate and well-founded. Nonetheless, by giving an account of ‘undue organisation’ in epistemic terms, I show that this account is compatible with an understanding of prejudice as a negatively-valenced epistemic category.

Congratulations to Jonathan Simon, Postdoctoral Associate in the Philosophy Department at NYU, and Research Fellow at NYU Center for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness for winning the 2018 Sanders Prize in the Philosophy of Mind. The abstract is below.

Abstract:

Consider the totality of your phenomenal experience right now — your total experience. Is there a total experience which is phenomenally different from yours, but which differs only by a mirror symmetry, the way that a picture of a left hand differs from a picture of right hand, or is there no phenomenal difference between a total experience and its mirror-reversal? If you think that there is a phenomenal distinction between an experience and its mirror reversal (a position Chalmers dubs `e-categoricalism’) then you may find it intuitive that your mirror twin — someone who is a molecule-for-molecule mirror reflection of you — in general has a different experience than you. After all, if you are looking at your left hand, she is looking at her right hand. Lee (2006) argues, however, that your mirror twin must be your phenomenal twin, if relationalism about space is correct. Paired with e-categorialism this has puzzling consequences. Here, I begin by challenging Lee. I argue that even given relationalism about space, your mirror twin can fail to be your phenomenal twin. But this result is limited. It only applies where you and your mirror twin both live in a universe with an orientable topology. If your universe has a non-orientable topology (in the sense in which Möbius strips and Klein bottles have non-orientable topologies) then your mirror twin must be your phenomenal twin after all. Moreover, this moral applies even to those who reject relationalism about space. The upshot is that everyone, non-relationalists included, must either abandon e-categoricalism, or choose between puzzling consequences along the lines Lee outlines, the most promising of which may be property dualism.

2017 Winner

Berislav Marusic, Brandeis University. (L)
John Schwenkler, Florida State University (R)

Title: "Intending is Believing: A Defense of Strong Cognitivism" (PDF)

The editorial board of Analytic Philosophy has selected Berislav Marusic and John Schwenkler for their essay “Intending is Believing” as the winner of the 2017 Sanders Prize in Philosophy of Mind. John Schwenkler (photo by FSU/Bruce Palmer)is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Florida State University . Berislav Marusic (photo by Michael Lovett) is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Brandeis University, and also recipient of the 2016 Sanders APA Book Prize.

Abstract:

We argue that intentions are beliefs—beliefs that are held in light of, and made rational by, practical reasoning. To intend to do something is neither more nor less than to believe, on the basis of one’s practical reasoning, that one will do it. The identification of the mental state of intention with the mental state of belief is what we call strong cognitivism about intentions.

2015 Winner

John 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 is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Barnard College, Columbia University.

Abstract:

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.

2014 Winner

Maria Lasonen-Aarnio, University of Michigan

Title: “I’m Onto Something!” Learning about the world by learning what I think about it. (PDF)

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.

Abstract:

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-Rajme, New York University

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.”

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.

Abstract:

How do we experience time? When you experience today’s walk as taking twice as long as yesterday’s and then judge that this is so, what is going on? What is it to experience a walk as taking twice as long as another? Do I look at some mental analogue of a watch, one available to me even when I am not wearing a watch on my wrist? Of course not. Nor is there a blinking red light in my visual field that measures how long events take. So do we really experience the durations of events, as opposed to just finding ourselves with judgments concerning their durations? In this dissertation, I defend the idea that we experience durations–that there is something that it is like to experience an event as lasting for a particular amount of time. I develop a theory aimed at explaining what felt duration is, what is distinctive about it, and just how we experience events as having durations of different and yet comparable amounts. It is crucial to this theory that there is a particular duration such that experiencing an event as having that duration has a distinctive phenomenal quality. This is the duration characteristic of what I call a quantum: the longest-lived temporal slice of a situation experienced as a `tightly unified’ whole. While a quantum provides the basis for our subjective system for measuring duration, it also marks a natural division between two distinct ways of experiencing duration: one for long-lived and another for short-lived events. The theory proves fruitful, offering different explanations for various illusions that, as I explain, ought to be distinguished. What is it like to experience the duration of an event? For a long-lived event, it is the impression formed of how many quanta are involved in experiencing the event. For a short-lived event, it is how much of its quantum’s duration the event strikes us as taking up. Because a quantum is the unit of felt duration for both short- and long-lived events, their felt durations are comparable, allowing for a unified system for measuring felt duration.

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