Every year, the University Center for Human Values awards up to three prize(s) to senior theses that best apply ethical reasoning to advance our understanding of human values. Nominations for this prize are made by departments across the University.
2022 Senior Thesis Prize Winners
Department of History
Freudian Democracy: The Political Thought of Hans Kelsen
Graul demonstrates a remarkable degree of intellectual maturity in this thesis on Hans Kelsen’s democratic theory, convincingly showing that Kelsen’s legal theory and his democratic theory rest on very different philosophical assumption, and also, that Freud (or, rather, a misreading of Freud) had an important influence on Kelsen’s defense of democracy, and his claim about the crucial role of political parties in particular. Graul shows a remarkable command of the existing secondary literature. The tone and style of argumentation are sophisticated. Overall, this is an extraordinary achievement.
Department of Anthropology
Defending Our Freedom: The U.S. Military, Environmental Contamination, and Ongoing Native Land
Theft in the Choctaw Nation
Writing from an explicitly first-person perspective as an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, Lambert develops an astonishing interdisciplinary analysis of the environmental contamination and theft of Native lands through a case study of the bomb-building and bomb-disposal site at the federal McAlester Army Ammunition Plant situated on Choctaw lands in Oklahoma. Combining sophisticated ethnographic, geoscientific, and normative methodologies, Lambert offers an elegantly constructed thesis that powerfully documents, narrativizes, and challenges ongoing threats to Indigenous life.
Department of Philosophy
Gender and the Problem of Misgendering Beliefs: Ethical Considerations in Developing a
Metaphysical Account of Gender
Exhibiting taut philosophical control of both argument and literature, McGee argues that because (as it gives reason to believe) trans people can be harmed by being misgendered in the beliefs of others about them (“misgendering beliefs”), there is reason to consider whether an account of identity can be defended which would make it the case that trans people are in fact the genders they believe themselves to be (as opposed to, at best, being politely treated by others as if they were while believing that they are not). In criticizing the leading accounts of this kind and developing an alternative, this thesis makes clear the ethical stakes of philosophy itself as an intellectual project.