The 2020 Class of Newcombe Fellows in Ethics & Religion Includes (Just) One Philosophy Student


Joanna Demaree-Cotton, a Ph.D. student in philosophy at Yale University, has won a 2020 Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

Newcombe Fellows receive a 12-month award of $27,500 to support their final year of dissertation writing. Ms. Demaree-Cotton’s dissertation is entitled Rehabilitating Moral Agency in the Age of Cognitive Science. You can learn more about her work here.

The Newcombe Fellowship is described by the Wilson Foundation as “the largest and most prestigious award for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values in interesting, original, or significant ways.” This year, the foundation awarded the fellowship to 23 students. Of these 23, Ms. Demaree-Cotton is the only philosophy student. In 2019, two fellowship winners were philosophy students. The same is true in 2018 and 2017.

Philosophers might find it striking that so few philosophy students are among the winners of a dissertation fellowship awarded for work on values. Was this the result of a paucity of applications from philosophy students? A failure of philosophy students to appropriately pitch their work to an interdisciplinary selection committee? A bias against philosophical work? Something else? One inside source says that a some very strong candidates who are philosophy students are almost always among the finalists, but it is not clear what is keeping more of them from being among the winners of the fellowship.

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