We’re pleased to announce that PhD student Nicholas Makins has been awarded the 2020/21 John Watkins Memorial Prize.

The John Watkins Memorial Prize is awarded biennially for distinguished achievement in any of the areas in which Professor John Watkins worked. All current postgraduate research students in the Department are eligible for the award.

We’re pleased to announce that the 2020/21 prize has been awarded to Nicholas Makins for his paper “Attitudinal Ambivalence: Moral Uncertainty for Non-cognitivists.

In awarding the prize, the panel submitted the following comments:

This paper responds to Smith’s (2002) claim that non-cognitivism about moral judgements cannot account for moral uncertainty; the paper argues in response that “vacillation” or “ambivalence” between attitudes captures the concept for the non-cognitivist, without having to compromise one’s non-cognitivism as other responses to Smith have. An impressive argument is then given, drawing on history, philosophy, and cognitive science, that the human experience of vacillating between contradictory attitudes co-occurs whenever an agent experiences moral uncertainty, and the degree of vacillation can be used to characterise the degree of uncertainty. The paper ends by defeating a few objections. The result is a quick little 13-page demolition of Smith, and an interesting new clarification of non-cognitivism. Congratulations, and fantastic work.

Congratulations Nicholas!