By Aaron

2017 Winner: Kelsey Vicars

Kelsey Vicars is both a recent graduate and current student at Simon Fraser University. She completed two bachelor’s degrees at SFU, including an honours degree in philosophy. She has just begun a Master’s degree at SFU. Kelsey has broad interests in philosophy: she is mainly interested in philosophy of science (specifically philosophy of physics, scientific and mathematical explanations, and neurophilosophy), ethics (specifically moral responsibility and the ethical implications of implicit bias), and political philosophy (specifically Indigenous philosophy).

Download her winning paper Implicit Bias and Emergent Moral Wrongs.



Implicit Bias and Emergent Moral Wrongs

Abstract: My research will explore the normative structure of implicit bias. This project will focus on the philosophical implications of bias in social cognition, and will address the question of moral responsibility for implicit bias. I will argue that individual implicitly biased behaviours constitute moral harms, but are not themselves moral wrongs. This means that the average person is generally not responsible for implicitly biased behaviour. This argument suggests a shift in focus from the current discourse, which has generally assumed that implicit biases always produce wrongs. I will then challenge another assumption in the moral responsibility literature that presupposes that collective level wrongs are always aggregates of individual level wrongs, and will suggest that collective level wrongs can emerge from collections of mere harms.

2017 Short List

Congratulations to the the following applicants whose papers were short listed for the Keenan Prize for 2017!

  • James Belford from Brock University – Hegel’s Synthesis of Individualism and Communitarianism
  • Adrian K. Yee from UBC – On the Impossibility of Kantian Enlightenment
  • Kelsey Brady from McGill University – What is the Point of Ideal Theory?
  • William Rooney from Queen’s University – Political Participation for Individuals with Cognitive Disabilities through Supported Decision-Making

2016 Winner: Joseph Baker

Joseph Baker,
is a recent graduate (June 2016) from Carleton University’s Bachelor of Humanities Program. His research interest lies in a holistic engagement with the question of what philosophy is – namely one which can account simultaneously for its theoretical, ethical, political and pedagogical dimensions.  He is currently seeking admission to graduate programs in philosophy.

Download his winning paper The Thought of George Grant: the Meaning of Philosophy in Modern Times.



The Thought of George Grant: The Meaning of Philosophy in Modern Times

Abstract: George Grant thinks that philosophy (contemplation of the human good) is currently impossible and yet most necessary for moderns, who are self-ignorantly absorbed in their own freedom. For those who are most absorbed and ignorant it might paradoxically become possible through their longing.

2016 Short List

Congratulations to the the following applicants whose papers were short listed for the Keenan Prize for 2016!

  • Ariel Melamedoff from the University of Winnipeg – Posterity Measures: Progress and Peace in Immanuel Kant’s Political Theory
  • Ian Campbell from Concordia University – Justifying Equality
  • William Maidment from Queen’s University – The Structural Limits of Penal Theory
  • Adrian Yee from the University of British Columbia – Objective Arbiters and the Limits of Law

2015 Winner: Louis Ramirez

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Louis Ramirez, from McGill University, is a busboy with dreams of one day becoming a philosophy teacher. In the little spare time that surviving the prior and striving for the latter leave him, he enjoys music, the company of his friends, tireless support of his family, and dancing to loud electronic music in dark rooms. Outside teaching, Louis’ research interests in philosophy ultimately stem from a desire for wisdom and happiness, something he feels contemporary philosophy has discarded as a valid topic of inquiry. He is presently interested in questions of personhood and mental health, as well as autonomy.

Download his winning paper The Autonomy Case for Regulating Hate Speech.

The Autonomy Case for Regulating Hate Speech

Abstract: Traditionally, considerations for personal autonomy have weighed into arguments in favor of tolerating hate speech. In this paper, I argue such considerations support regulating hate speech, and not tolerating it.

2015 Short List

Congratulations to the the following applicants whose papers were short listed for the Keenan Prize for 2015!

  • David Winters from Brandon University – Socrates and The Destroyer of Laws
  • Adrian K. Yee from The University of British Columbia – On Some Limitations of Logic and Liberalism
  • Paolo Camporese from Simon Fraser University- The End of Historical Explanations
  • Catherine van Reenen from The University of Winnipeg – The Immanent Enframing: Technology and Modernity

2014 Winner: Chance Taylor

Taylor_KeenanPrize300Chance Taylor is a current student at the University of Winnipeg, aiming for a four-year degree in Philosophy. He is interested in moral and political philosophy, aesthetics, and the question of value. Outside of philosophy he has made experimental films for underground film festivals, and is interested in art, literature, and law, among other subjects. He hopes to continue his education after completing his undergraduate degree.

Download his winning paper The Children of Kant and Hegel: The Encyclopaedia Logic and Liberalism and comment on it below.

The Children of Kant and Hegel: The Encyclopaedia Logic and Liberalism

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to explore Hegel’s thought, as explicated in The Encyclopaedia Logic, and its implications for modern liberalism. It is my contention that this formulation of liberalism has withstood two similar attacks, first in the form of Hegel’s reaction against Kant, and, in the 20th century, the communitarian critique of Rawls’ A Theory of Justice. Taking a queue from Hegel, the paper will assume a triadic structure wherein I will spend time exploring both attacks, considering how the second was in sense a restatement of the first, and ultimately conclude with some areas where a sublation of the two accounts may lead us to a more compassionate enlightenment.

2014 Short List

Congratulations to the the following applicants whose papers were short listed for the Keenan Prize for 2014!

  • Andy (Sun Jae) Kim from Queen’s University – Is Judicial Review Appropriate in a Democracy?
  • Yuan Zhang from Queen’s University – Toleration, Justice and the Law of Peoples
  • Bianca Crewe from Victoria University – Discourse Ethics, Public Sphere Theory, and Radical Social Transformation
  • David Winters from Brandon University – Perchance, A Necessary Peace? Kant and Contingent-Necessity

2013 Winner: Gregory Furmaniuk

Greg Furmaniuk
is in the fourth and final year of his Honours Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at the University of Winnipeg. His focus for the time being includes critical theory, virtue ethics, interpreting the world and maybe trying to change it. After completing his undergraduate degree, Greg intends to apply for law school and / or graduate programs in political theory. Download his winning paper Prometheus and the Owl of Minerva and comment on it below.

Prometheus and the Owl of Minerva

Abstract: This essay is an investigation into the moral and political theories of Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor, often grouped together under the “communitarian” label in the liberal-communitarian debate. My definition of a communitarian is one who believes that humans are fundamentally social and political animals, and sees human life as embodied in context, in the community and in human interaction. Examining the dynamics between MacIntyre and Taylor, two of the debate’s most prominent thinkers, is crucial to our understanding of this tradition, along with its grandeur and misère. The first section of this paper describes MacIntyre and Taylor’s criticism of modernity. The second aims at capturing both MacIntyre and Taylor’s method of forging a renewed human agency. The final section reveals my critique of Taylor and MacIntyre, with the conclusion that the communitarian project remains unfinished.

2013 Short List

Congratulations to the the following applicants whose papers were short listed for the Keenan Prize for 2013!

  • Robert Mason from the University of Waterloo – Liberal Neutrality and the Problem of Persons
  • Jonathan Wald from McGill University – Two Models of Culture, Two Models of Toleration
  • Emma Byrnes from Queen’s University – Marxism vs. Liberal Egalitarianism: The implications of the debate, and a possible way forward
  • Vincent Hanlon from Queen’s University – Is Freedom the Absence of Constraints?

2013 Keenan Prize Open! A new site, a new application process!

The 2013 Keenan Prize is open for applications from current and recent Undergraduates at/from Canadian Universities. We’re a month late to open this year, but we have a new site to interact with previous recipients and their work. We also have a new application process.

This fourth award is a $1250 cash prize for a paper submitted on the topics of social and political philosophy, philosophy of history and philosophy of law. As always, the same rules apply;

  • Papers are accepted for consideration every year from February 1st through May 15th and must be at least 2000 words and no more than 5000 words.
  • All applicants must be enrolled in, or graduated from a Canadian Undergraduate program at the time of submission in order to be eligible for consideration. Applicants cannot be enrolled in any postgraduate program at the time of application.
  • Only one paper per applicant per year will be considered.

Thank-you for your patience, and good luck!

2012 Winner: Andrew Molas

Andrew Molas is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto, where he received his Honours Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy. He is currently in the process of applying to graduate programs to study Philosophy, and his philosophical strengths/areas of interests include political philosophy, ethics and morality, and bioethics. Download his winning paper Discussing the Sufficiency Condition in Locke’s Second Treatise of Government and comment on it below.

Discussing the Sufficiency Condition in Locke’s Second Treatise of Government

Abstract: This paper examines the sufficiency condition discussed in §27 of Locke’s Second Treatise and to discuss whether it is meant to serve as a necessary restriction on the right to appropriate goods in the State of Nature. By appealing to the work done by Waldron, I will examine both Tully’s argument—that the sufficiency condition is necessary to ensure that people are not made worse off and deprived of the right to the means of their survival—and Sreenivasan’s argument—that the condition is necessary to limit the amount that an individual can legitimately appropriate in order to preserve an equal opportunity for everyone to access and appropriate resources to ensure their subsistence—and argue that neither of these arguments successfully demonstrate why the sufficiency condition should be interpreted as a necessary restriction on individual appropriation.

2012 Short List

Congratulations to the the following applicants whose papers were short listed for the Keenan Prize for 2012!

  • William Brooke – Social Capital and Distributive Justice
  • Walter J. Reid – Contractarian and Communitarian Approaches to International Justice and Environmental Ethics
  • Alexander Agnello – Tending to Needs Over Preferences: A Discussion on Expensive Tastes
  • Zachary Nicholas Davidson – Hobbes’ Leviathan: A Project for Peace

2011 Winner: Eric Mathison

Eric Mathison attended the University of Calgary for his undergraduate and is Editor in Chief of The Gauntlet, its student publication. Download his winning paper The Insufficiency of Negative Rights for Children and comment on it below.

The Insufficiency of Negative Rights for Children

Abstract: In this paper I argue that negative rights are insufficient for children if the goals of liberal justice are to be fulfilled. I begin by adopting Will Kymlicka’s two preconditions for liberalism: that lives must be led from the inside, and that we must have the freedoms to revise our conceptions of the good life. I focus on the importance of autonomy development in children for those preconditions to obtain. Next I evaluate the right to an open future, which posits that children have the right to choose the type of lives they wish to lead as adults. I argue, however, that approaches of this type cannot fulfill the goals of liberalism because they fail to sufficiently address positive rights.

2011 Short List

Congratulations to the the following applicants whose papers were short listed for the Keenan Prize for 2011!

  • Mike Kryluk – The Dialectic of the Hemlock
  • William Brooke – The Formal Failure and Social Success of Logic
  • Jesse Robertson – Theorizing Progress in the Black Canoe
  • Anthony Sangiuliano – Defending the Kantian Approach to Justification and Legitimacy.

2010 Winner: Michael Anthony

Michael Anthony is the winner of the inaugural Keenan Prize. He is from the University of Victoria and was one of the many reasons why we instituted a word count maximum for subsequent prize years. Download his (15,000+ word) paper Imminent Humanity and comment on it below.

Imminent Humanity: Re-evaluating individual responsibility, liability, and immunity in times of war from a liberal perspective.

Abstract: What do we owe each other in times of war? Although we may claim to understand our obligations in personal contexts, war presents extraordinary moral problems which are not easily solved by the application of familiar principles. This fact often tempts theorists and philosophers to assume either (a) wars, and the killing done in them, are in principle unethical or (b) wars are outside the realm of moral consideration. This paper takes a broadly liberal approach to examining the principles governing the forfeiture of human rights. Specifically, this paper looks at Igor Primoratz’s claim that liberalism is committed to terroristic implications; this paper also provides a number of key revisions to Michael Walzer’s just war paradigm on issues of the moral equality of soldiers, noncombatant immunity, and the doctrine of double effect. This paper was written in part to demonstrate the importance of philosophical reflection on issues that have been increasingly considered matters of state policy or strict legality.

2010 Short List

Congratulations to the the following applicants whose papers were short listed for the Keenan Prize for 2010!

  • Pani Sarkis-Michael – Inclusive Legal Positivism vs Exclusive Legal Positivism
  • Shawn Bartlett – Robert Nozick, Rights, and What We Owe Others
  • Kajia Eidse-Rempel – Lyotard and Foucault: Condemning Us to the Computerized and Disciplinized Society
  • Rebecca Vasluianu – Democracy and the Problem of Epistemic Adequacy