Oxford Studies in Metaphysics Prize

Sponsored by the Ammonius Foundation and administered by the editorial board of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, the 2012 Younger Scholar Prize annual essay competition is open to scholars who are within ten years of receiving a Ph.D. or students who are currently enrolled in a graduate program. (Independent scholars should enquire of the editor to determine eligibility.) The award is $8,000. Winning essays will appear in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, so submissions must not be under review elsewhere.

Essays should generally be no longer than 10,000 words; longer essays may be considered, but authors must seek prior approval. To be eligible for the 2012 prize, submissions must be electronically submitted by 30 January 2012 (paper submissions are no longer accepted). 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 is determined by a committee of members of the editorial board of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, and will be announced in early March. At the author’s request, the board will simultaneously consider entries in the prize competition as submissions for Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, independently of the prize.

Previous winners of the Younger Scholar Prize are:

  • Thomas Hofweber, “Inexpressible Properties and Propositions”, Vol. 2;
  • Matthew McGrath, “Four-Dimensionalism and the Puzzles of Coincidence”, Vol. 3;
  • Cody Gilmore, “Time Travel, Coinciding Objects, and Persistence”, Vol. 3;
  • Stephan Leuenberger, “Ceteris Absentibus Physicalism”, Vol. 4;
  • Jeffrey Sanford Russell, “The Structure of Gunk: Adventures in the Ontology of Space”, Vol. 4;
  • Bradford Skow, “Extrinsic Temporal Metrics”, Vol. 5;
  • Jason Turner, “Ontological Nihilism”, Vol. 6;
  • Rachael Briggs and Graeme A. Forbes, “The Real Truth About the Unreal Future”, Vol. 7;
  • Shamik Dasgupta, “Absolutism vs Comparativism about Quantities”, forthcoming, Vol. 8.

Enquiries should be addressed to Dean Zimmerman.

Where are the philosophical baby boomers?

Eric Schwitzgebel has a fascinating post about how little influence baby boomers have had in philosophy. He uses a nice objective measure; looking at which philosophers are most cited in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. He finds that of the 25 most cited philosophers, 15 were born between 1931 and 1945, and just 2 were born between 1946 and 1960.

Now to be sure some of this could be due to philosophers who were born in 1960 having not yet produced their best work – lots of great philosophical work is published after one’s 51st birthday. And it could be because those philosophers have produced great work that hasn’t yet dissipated widely enough to be cited.

But I don’t believe either explanation. For one thing, Eric notes that if anything, the boomers are at the age where philosophers’ influence typically peaks. For another, the stats Eric posts back up something I’ve heard talked about in conversation a bit independently.

There are lots of very prominent, and ground-breaking, philosophers in my generation. (I’m defining generations in a way that my generation includes roughly people born between 1965 and 1980.) And looking at the current crops of grad students, the next generation looks fairly spectacular too. But between the generation of Lewis, Kripke, Fodor, Jackson etc, and my generation, there aren’t as many prominent, field-defining figures. It’s not like there are none; Timothy Williamson alone would refute that claim. But I didn’t think there were as many, and neither did a number of people I’ve talked about this with over the years, and Eric’s figures go some way to confirming that impression.

Eric also makes a suggestion about why this strange state of affairs – strange because you’d expect boomers to be overrepresented in any category like this – may have come about.

College enrollment grew explosively in the 1960s and then flattened out. The pre-baby-boomers were hired in large numbers in the 1960s to teach the baby boomers. The pre-baby boomers rose quickly to prominence in the 1960s and 1970s and set the agenda for philosophy during that period. Through the 1980s and into the 1990s, the pre-baby-boomers remained dominant. During the 1980s, when the baby boomers should have been exploding onto the philosophical scene, they instead struggled to find faculty positions, journal space, and professional attention in a field still dominated by the depression-era and World War II babies.

That’s an interesting hypothesis, though it seems that if it is true, it should generalise to other disciplines. And I’m wondering whether it does. Are baby boomers underrepresented among the leading figures in other fields such as political science, history, sociology, English literature and so on? If not, I think we need another explanation for philosophy’s recent history.