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Kant Society

Mavis Biss: Winner of the 2015 Wilfrid Sellars Essay Prize

17 Jun 2015 1:10 PM | Anonymous member

The judges for the 2015 Wilfrid Sellars Essay Prize are pleased to announce that the winner for this year’s competition is Mavis Biss, author of “Kantian Moral Striving.”

Mavis Biss completed her PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2011 and is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Loyola University Maryland. She specializes in moral philosophy, with particular focus on Kantian ethics and conceptions of moral imagination. Her recent publications include: “Radical Moral Imagination: Courage, Hope and Articulation,” Hypatia (2013), “Moral Imagination, Perception and Judgment,” The Southern Journal of Philosophy (2014), and “Empathy and Interrogation,” International Journal of Applied Philosophy (2014). Her current work deals with the ideal of moral self-perfection in Kant’s ethics and the complexities of rational agency in the face of contested moral meaning.

Abstract for “Kant’s Moral Striving:”

The paper focuses on a single question that highlights some of the most puzzling aspects of Kant’s explanation of the duty of moral self-perfection. What kinds of activity count as striving for purity in one’s disposition to duty or strength of will? I argue that a dominant strand of Kant’s approach to moral striving does not fit familiar models of striving. I seek to address this problem in a way that avoids the flaws of synchronic and atomistic approaches to moral self-discipline by developing an account of Kantian moral striving as an ongoing contemplative activity complexly engaged with multiple forms of self-knowledge.

The judges for the 2015 Wilfrid Sellars Essay Prize also gave an honorable mention to Reed Winegar for his “Kant's Criticisms of Hume's Dialogues concerning Natural Religion.”

Reed Winegar is an assistant professor of philosophy at Fordham University. He received his BA from Harvard in 2005 and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012. In 2015/16 he will be a VolkwagenStiftung/ Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at the Freie Universität in Berlin. His essay "Kant's Criticisms of Hume's Dialogues concerning Natural Religion" is forthcoming in the British Journal for the History of Philosophy. Other published work has appeared (or is forthcoming) in the Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, Hegel Bulletin, and Journal of Scottish Philosophy. His current research focuses on Kant's criticisms of metaphysics and on issues in Kant's 3rd Critique.

Abstract for “Kant’s Criticisms of Hume’s Diaglogues concerning Natural Religion:”

According to recent commentators, Kant agrees with Hume's Dialogues concerning Natural Religion (1) that physico-theology can never provide knowledge of God and (2) that the concept of God, nevertheless, provides a useful heuristic principle for scientific enquiry. This paper argues that Kant, far from agreeing with Hume, criticizes Hume's Dialogues for failing to prove that physico-theology can never yield knowledge of God and that Kant correctly views Hume's Dialogues as a threat to, rather than an anticipation of, his own view that the concept of God provides a useful heuristic principle for science. The paper concludes that Kant's critique of physico-theology reflects Kant's deep dissatisfaction with Hume's manner of argumentation and suggests that Kant's attempt to provide a more successful critique of physico-theology merits continued philosophical attention.

Both essays can be found in the members-only section of our website under “Sellars Prize”.    

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