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Theories Of Attraction Essay Contest

The deadline for the essay contest for this semester is April 15, 2018. Inquiries should go to Sarah Houser at houser@american.edu.


The Political Theory Institute holds an annual essay contest for the best student essay on classical liberalism. The winner of the contest will be awarded a prize of $500.

The contest, open to all AU undergraduates, fosters critical reflection on the key authors, concepts, and arguments of classical liberalism, including individual liberty, equality, democracy, constitutionalism, commerce, and other topics. In this context, classical liberalism denotes a topic, not an agenda. The prize is awarded to the most intelligent and well-argued essay on these topics regardless of philosophical or political perspective. Essays about the place of classical liberalism in the American political tradition are welcome.

Submissions can be, but need not have been, written for a class. Essays may be nominated either by the author or a faculty member.

They should be between five and 20 pages (double-spaced, 12-point font, one-inch margins). Please include your name, e-mail, and phone number on the first page of your essay. Submissions should be e-mailed by the deadline to Professor Sarah Houser in Microsoft Word or PDF format. Please put "PTI Essay Contest" in the subject line.

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Previous Contests


Wandering Towards a Goal
How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention?
December 2, 2016 to March 3, 2017
Contest Partner: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Fund.
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Trick or Truth: The Mysterious Connection Between Physics and Mathematics
Contest Partners: Nanotronics Imaging, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, and The John Templeton Foundation
Media Partner: Scientific American

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How Should Humanity Steer the Future?
January 9, 2014 - August 31, 2014
Contest Partners: Jaan Tallinn, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, The John Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American
read/discuss • winners

It From Bit or Bit From It
March 25 - June 28, 2013
Contest Partners: The Gruber Foundation, J. Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American
read/discuss • winners

Questioning the Foundations
Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions Are Wrong?
May 24 - August 31, 2012
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, SubMeta, and Scientific American
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Is Reality Digital or Analog?
November 2010 - February 2011
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation and Scientific American
read/discuss • winners

What's Ultimately Possible in Physics?
May - October 2009
Contest Partners: Astrid and Bruce McWilliams
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The Nature of Time
August - December 2008
read/discuss • winners

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