Philosophy Essay Prize

The Philosophy Essay Prize is open to Year 12 or Lower 6th students. The aim of the Prize is to encourage able sixth formers to pursue their interest in Philosophy, with the hope that they will be encouraged to read this or related subjects at University.

2017 Competition Questions

‘If you claim “People should not do philosophy”, then you are already doing philosophy. So any such claim would be absurd. But if a claim denying that people should do philosophy is absurd, then people should do philosophy. So people should do philosophy.’ Assess this argument.

Suppose one café happens to become fashionable while another does not. Nothing in particular justifies this contrast between the cafés. The contrast is simply another of the arbitrary whims of fashion. But it makes a great difference to the incomes of the owners of the two cafés. Does fairness require that the owner of the unfashionable café be compensated at the expense of the owner of the fashionable one?

Lotteries have been used to allocate advantages (like large sums of money) and disadvantages (like liability for military service). What sorts of thing can rightfully be allocated by lot?

‘A perfectly round ball put on a perfectly flat surface would have no reason to move in one direction rather than another, and so it will stay still.’ ‘You might as well say that a chain with all its links equally weak would have no reason to break at one link rather than another, and so it will never break.’ Might you?

Candidates are invited to submit an essay of between 2,000 and 4,000 words.  Essays should be sent to:

Philosophy Essay Prize, Ms Stacey Smith, Admissions Administrator, Trinity College, Cambridge, CB2 1TQ

and should arrive by the deadline of 31 May 2017. Those submitting an essay should also complete a cover sheet to be attached to their submission. Please note that essays cannot be submitted by email. 

The competition carries a First Prize of £600 and a Second Prize of £400, to be split equally between the candidate and his or her school or college; the school or college’s portion of the prize to be issued in the form of book tokens.

All candidates will be notified with the results of the competition around the end of July.  Any queries should be directed to Ms Stacey Smith at the above address.

Past Prize-winners


1st Prize: Conor O’Shea (Harrow School)
2nd Prize: Lila Mendoza (Sevenoaks School)


1st Prize: Harry Lloyd (Monmouth Comprehensive School)
2nd Prize: Kartik Prabhu (Westminster School)


1st Prize: Christopher Banks (King’s College School, Wimbledon)
2nd Prize: Eleanor Holton (The Stephen Perse Foundation Sixth Form, Cambridge)


1st Prize: Jeremy Khoo (Raffles Institution, Singapore)
Joint 2nd Prize: Phoebe Bright (St Paul’s Girls’ School)
Joint 2nd Prize: Rory Turnbull (Hereford Cathedral School)


1st Prize: Keith Wynroe (De La Salle College, Macroom)
2nd Prize: Nina Maras (Latymer Upper School)


1st Prize: Kacper Kowalczyk (Dulwich College)
2nd Prize: Alice Carter (Canford School)


1st Prize: Ding Hui (Raffles Institution)
2nd Prize: Timothy Wickenden (The Sixth Form College, Farnborough)


1st Prize: Rosie Illingworth (Oundle School)
2nd Prize: Joshua Brown (University College School)


1st Prize: Annie Hawes (Henrietta Barnett School)
2nd Prize: Robert Dixon (Oundle School)