The Winners of the 3QD Philosophy Prize 2014

PhilTop2014 Philosophy Strange Quark 2014 (1) 2014 philosophy

Huw Price has picked the three winners from the nine finalists:

  1. Top Quark, $500: Grace Boey, Is applied ethics applicable enough? Acting and hedging under moral uncertainty
  2. Strange Quark, $200: Ryan Simonelli, Nāgārjuna, Nietzsche, and Rorty’s Strange Looping Trick
  3. Charm Quark, $100: Marcus Arvan, The Case for Libertarian Compatibilism

Here is what Professor Price had to say about them:

Like most academics, I spend far too much of my time practising the three Rs: reading, rating, and ranking. But I relished this particular task, because 3QD has long been one of my favourite escapes from these and other academic chores. Tired of making decisions, feeling outranked and over-rated, I'll relax with Raza's Reliable Recommendations —what a pleasure to let someone else do the choosing! (“No need to think, entrust the job to us”, as the sign at Trusty's Dyers and Cleaners used to say, many years ago.) So it was a treat, as well as an honour, to be asked to reciprocate by making some choices of my own from a field selected by 3QD's readers and editors.
I read all the nine shortlisted pieces eagerly and twice, when Abbas first announced the shortlist. Conveniently, I found that I had three clear favourites. I then came back to the entire field three busy, 3R-filled weeks later, and was pleased to find that my opinions hadn't changed. The same three were my favourites. I had my winners.
That was the easy bit. Ranking the final three was very hard indeed. They are very different pieces, and I liked them for very different reasons. How should I rank their competing virtues? Indeed, how should I deal with my uncertainty about what the standards should be, in a competition of this kind? Happily, this question led me to my top choice, which is Grace Boey's lovely piece, Is Applied Ethics Applicable Enough? Acting and Hedging Under Moral Uncertainty. This is just what the informative, expository kind of philosophy blog post should be, in my view. It is admirably fresh, lively, clear, accessible, and concise, and introduces its fortunate reader to a novel and fascinating philosophical topic.
With that settled, there was just one hard choice to make. At this point, no matter how much I tried to apply myself with solidarity to the task, I couldn't silence my ironic voice. It kept reminding me of the contingency that lies at the foundations not only of of my present choice, but of our entire evaluative lives! But that gave me my tie-breaker: second prize goes to Ryan Simonelli's Absolute Irony: Nāgārjuna, Nietzsche, and Rorty’s Strange Looping Trick. This is a longer and more ambitious piece than Boey's, but remains nicely coherent despite its length. It is held together by a strong and interesting theme, philosophical irony itself, which is the backbone of a little intellectual narrative, in several episodes. And it has one of my favourite pictures of Rorty at the top! How could I have been in any doubt?
Third prize, then, to Marcus Arvan's Flickers of Freedom: The Case for Libertarian Compatibilism. This is easily the most ambitious of the three —some may think over-ambitious— but enjoyable for its sheer philosophical chutzpah. Arvan argues that we can find evidence that we live in a computer simulation, a kind of vast P2P botnet, in the nature of some of our most profound puzzles in physics and philosophy. It would be an understatement to say that I didn't find it entirely convincing —some of the 'X is just like Y' claims seemed a little under-developed, for one thing! —but it is entertaining, thought-provoking, well-written and fun.
Congratulations to all three winners, and warm thanks to 3QD and its readers for giving me this opportunity, and to all the philosophical bloggers who make the blogosphere such a distracting place!

Congratulations also from 3QD to the winners (remember, you must claim the money within one month from today—just send me an email). And feel free, in fact we encourage you, to leave your acceptance speech as a comment here! And thanks to everyone who participated. Many thanks also, of course, to Huw Price for doing the final judging and for his liking of 3QD.

The three prize logos at the top of this post were designed by me, Carla Goller, and Sughra Raza. I hope the winners will display them with pride on their own blogs!

Details about the prize here.