Political Philosophy

photo of Peter VallentyneThe Sanders Prize in Political Philosophy is administered by Peter Vallentyne (Florence G. Kline Chair in Philosophy at the University of Missouri), in conjunction with David Sobel and Steven Wall, the other two editors of Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy.

For submission instructions, see http://oxfordstudiespoliticalphilosophy.org/.  The next award will be in 2021.

Current Competition Details

The Marc Sanders Prize in Political Philosophy is an essay competition open to scholars who, at the time of submission deadline, are within fifteen (15) years of receiving a Ph.D. or are students currently enrolled in a graduate program. Independent scholars may also be eligible and should direct inquiries to the Editors of Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy, c/o Peter Vallentyne (vallentynep@nullmissouri.edu). Those who have previously won this award (in Political Philosophy) are ineligible, as are any invited papers in the year of the award. (Those invited to present in previous years are eligible if they submit a different paper for blind review, and if they meet all the conditions.)

The award for the prize-winning essay is $5,000, and winning essays will be published in Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy. A condition of the award is that the author (1) present the paper at the following annual Workshop for Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy, and (2) commit to having the paper published in the associated volume of Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy and to not publishing it elsewhere prior to that publication. More information about the workshop can be found at oxfordstudiespoliticalphilosophy.org.

Submitted essays must present original research on central issues in political or social philosophy, such as moral issues relating to the state or the justification of force, authority, obligation, justice, freedom, rights, exploitation, oppression, etc. Essays should be between 7,500 and 12,000 words. Coauthored papers are eligible, but only if all authors are eligible. Up to two papers by a given author will be considered, as long as the author is not sole author of both. (For example, for a given person, a single-authored paper and a co-authored paper will be considered, but two single-authored papers will not both be considered.) Papers should be uploaded after logging in at oxfordstudiespoliticalphilosophy.org. Because refereeing will be blind, authors should omit all remarks and references that might disclose their identities. The winner will be determined by the three editors of Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy.

Prize Winners

2019 Winner

Helen Frowe, University of Stockholm 

Title: “The Duty to Save and the Duty to Minimise Harm” (coming soon)

Helen Frowe is Professor of Practical Philosophy and Director of the Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace. Professor Frowe’s paper was selected out of 60 submissions in the 2019 prize cycle.

Abstract: This paper defends the Limited Use View of our duties to save. This view holds that a claim to be saved is a claim to make use of another person (and her resources) for one’s own sake. But we have only limited claims to make use of others and their resources. We are not entitled to make use of others when doing so is either unreasonably costly for them or conflicts with their duties to others. Hence, our claims to be saved are limited. By the same token, our duties to save are also limited. We need not save when doing so is unreasonably costly for us or conflicts with our duties to others, since others have no claim to make use of us when doing so is unreasonably costly for us or conflicts with our duties to others. One upshot of the Limited Use View is that it can sometimes be permissible to defensively harm for one’s own sake, or for the sake of special others, even though it would be impermissible to do so for the sake of a stranger.

2017 Winner

Fabian Wendt, Bielefeld University
Title: “Rescuing Public Justification from Public Reason Liberalism” (PDF)

Fabian Wendt, Bielefeld University has won the 2017 Sanders Prize in Political Philosophy for his paper “Rescuing Public Justification from Public Reason Liberalism”. There were 49 papers submitted for award consideration. Wendt is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bielefeld University, specializing in political philosophy. Starting in October, 2017, he will be a Research Associate at Chapman University.

Abstract: Public reason liberals from John Rawls to Gerald Gaus uphold a principle of public justification as a core commitment of their theories. Critics of public reason liberalism have sometimes conceded that there is something compelling about the idea of public justification. But so far there have not been many attempts to elaborate and defend a ‘comprehensive’ liberalism that incorporates a principle of public justification. This article spells out how public justifiability could be integrated into a comprehensive liberalism and defends the claim that what is worthwhile about public justification can be extracted from public reason liberalism.

2016 Winner

photo of Alex ZakarasAlex Zakaras, University of Vermont, has won the 2016 Sanders Prize in Political Philosophy for his paper “Complicity and Coercion.”


Abstract: This essay has three parts. First, I develop a causal account of individual complicity in collective injustice. Second, drawing on this account, I argue that citizens are often complicit in their government’s injustices, even when they do nothing more than obey the law, pay taxes, and lead ordinary, private lives. Though this claim has become relatively commonplace in the recent theoretical literature on global justice, it is seldom justified adequately. I maintain that citizens can be complicit despite the fact that their participation in collective injustice is typically coerced, and I consider the conditions under which state coercion might exonerate them. Third, I suggest that citizens’ complicity gives rise—especially in democratic polities—to an obligation to participate responsibly in politics.

An honorable mention goes to Thomas Sinclair (University of Oxford), the runner-up for the prize. His paper was titled “The Power of Public Positions: Official Roles in Kantian Legitimacy.”

2015 Winner

photo of Keith HyamsKeith Hyams has won the inaugural Sanders Prize in Political Philosophy. Hyams is Associate Professor of Political Theory and Interdisciplinary Ethics in the department of Politics and International Studies at The University of Warwick, where he teaches political theory and works with the Interdisciplinary Ethics Research Group.

This year there were over 75 essays submitted for the prize competition.

Hyams will be presenting his award-winning paper, “On the Contribution of Ex Ante Equality to Ex Post Fairness,” at the Workshop for Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy that will take place at Syracuse University September 18th-20th, 2015 (The full schedule for the conference will be available at the conference Web page.) The conference is free and open to the public. The paper will also be published in Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy.