8/18/2014 Peter Durantine

F&M Professor Wins Prestigious Sanders Prize in Philosophy

This magazine article is part of Summer 2014 / Issue 78
  • Photo by Melissa Hess Photo by Melissa Hess


Early last winter, two years after receiving his doctorate, a Franklin & Marshall professor submitted an essay for a coveted philosophy prize, seeking in part to provoke dialogue on the modern-day necessity of an archaic form of thought.

“I thought it was a long shot,” said Nick Kroll, assistant professor of philosophy. “But I thought it would be really great to have this view recognized and get a discussion going.”

This spring, to Kroll’s surprise and delight, his essay on “Teleological Dispositions” won the 2014 Marc Sanders Prize in Metaphysics, a preeminent philosophy honor awarded by the Marc Sanders Foundation.

“Professor Kroll’s paper was broad in scope, tackling an important issue in the metaphysics of causation,” said Dean Zimmerman, who administers the prize and is professor of philosophy at Rutgers University and co-editor of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics. “It illustrated the relevance of facts from the philosophy of language to the nature of dispositions. The view defended, positing intrinsic teleology in nature, is an ancient and respectable one—but one that is not widely defended today.”

The organization’s founder, the late Marc Sanders, was a philanthropist and writer whose view was that science alone could not explain the natural world. He created the prize to support renewed appreciation for traditional philosophy.

“Dispositions have puzzled philosophers for a long time,” said Kroll, who focuses his scholarship on such metaphysical concepts. “They’re sort of mysterious.”

The Sanders Prize is an annual essay competition, 7,500 to 15,000 words, and open to young scholars. Kroll, who specializes in the philosophy of language and metaphysics, received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale University in 2012.

Recipients have their essays published in the Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, which is highly regarded among scholars.

“A lot of people in the field of metaphysics will read Nick’s work,” says David Merli, associate professor and chair of philosophy. “That speaks to the quality of research going on here at the College.”
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