Departmental Distinction

Departmental Distinction is awarded to graduating seniors who have demonstrated excellence in our discipline.  This is the highest honor the Department can award. The Department awards Distinction according to the criteria below.

Criteria for Departmental Distinction in Philosophy

The two primary criteria for awarding Distinction are (i) the candidate’s GPA in philosophy and (ii) the quality of the candidate’s philosophical writing as shown by a portfolio of papers submitted for Distinction.  Excellence in philosophical writing 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,
  • the imagination, creativity, and style with which all of this is done, and
  • the display of intellectual virtues, such as humility regarding what one knows and respect of those with whom one disagrees 

While quality of philosophical writing is the primary criteria, participation in, or leadership of, extra-curricular philosophy events such as Phil Forum or Phi Sigma Tau may also figure in the Department’s evaluation as secondary considerations.

Procedure for Applying

The application for distinction in philosophy shall consist of a portfolio of philosophy papers that are of superior philosophical quality. The portfolio will normally consist of two or three papers that students have written for their courses. Students are encouraged to revise their papers in accordance with the instructor’s comments and with the student’s further reflection. A paper used in a Distinction portfolio may also be submitted for the Ringstad Prize (but it will need to be submitted separately).

Portfolio papers will be evaluated by the Chair and at least one other member of the Department. They will present their evaluation to the Department as a basis for its vote. The Chair will invite all seniors with a GPA in philosophy of 3.5 or higher to apply for Distinction. Seniors with a GPA in philosophy lower than a 3.5 will not ordinarily be considered for Distinction unless there are exceptional circumstances; such students should discuss their circumstances with the Chair before the deadline.  The entire sequence of Great Conversation, Science Conversation, or Public Affairs Conversation can count towards one elective of the major. So, for students who are counting one of these programs towards their philosophy major the Department will consider their GPA in their entire sequence of the program as their GPA for the elective course.

All submissions must be e-mailed in Word format to D.M. Hutchinson at by 12:00 noon on Friday, April 9, 2021. ALL PAPERS MUST BE IN WORD FORMAT, AND INCLUDE A COVER PAGE LISTING THE AUTHOR’S NAME AND TITLE OF THE PAPER.