Departmental Distinction

Departmental Distinction is to be awarded to those students who have demonstrated the qualities most valued in our discipline. Since this is the only formal honor the department can award, we take it quite seriously. A paper used in a Distinction Portfolio may also be submitted for the Ringstad Prize (but will need to be submitted separately). The Philosophy Department awards Departmental Distinction upon vote of the department according to the criteria below.

Procedure for Applying
Seniors who wish to be considered for graduation with Distinction in Philosophy shall present a portfolio of philosophy papers that are of superior philosophical quality —clearly written, carefully edited, cogently argued, imaginative, and of reasonable scope.
The portfolio will normally consist of two or three papers. They may have been written for courses, but, if so, they should be reworked in accordance with the instructor’s comments and further reflection. In the case of a student who has engaged in an extended independent study project which has issued in a longer paper, the portfolio may consist of only that paper. Students are advised to consult with the department chair on the composition of their portfolios.

Portfolio papers will be evaluated by at least two members of the Philosophy Department who may, at their discretion, schedule an oral discussion of one or more of the papers with the candidate. They will present their evaluation to the department as a basis for its vote.

All submissions must be e-mailed in Word format electronically to Sue Newland at: newlands+distinction@stolaf.edu by 12:00 noon on Friday, April 11, 2014. ALL SUBMISSIONS MUST BE IN WORD FORMAT, AND INCLUDE A COVER PAGE LISTING AUTHOR’S NAME AND TITLE OF THE PAPER (WHICH MUST ALSO  BE INCLUDED ON THE FIRST PAGE OF THE PAPER ITSELF). The author’s name should NOT appear on any subsequent pages.

Students intending to apply for Distinction in Philosophy need to contact the department Chair well before the April 11 deadline. Please talk with the Chair if you are undecided or have questions.

Criteria for Departmental Distinction in Philosophy
The aim of the Department of Philosophy is to engage students in disciplined and imaginative thinking about the fundamental questions of human existence. We seek to develop in our students a critical as well as synoptic perspective on the intellectual interests and practical concerns of human beings.

Because the qualities that distinguish good from poor philosophical thinking are most clearly exhibited in the person’s discourse, Distinction in Philosophy is based primarily on the quality of the portfolio papers.
The best philosophical discourse is characterized by

  • clarity in the statement of a position,
  • care in the analysis of an issue,
  • cogency of argument,
  • overall coherence in statement and argument,
  • the range of considerations brought to bear on the issue, and
  • the imagination and creativity with which all of this is done.

A student’s grade point average, participation in philosophy classes and extra-curricular philosophy events, as well as other contributions to the department may also figure in the department’s recommendation as secondary considerations.


[Revised 02/21/14]