The history of psychiatry reveals a division, repeated over the centuries, between those who hold that psychiatric disorders must have an organic, biological basis in the brain and those who regard mental illness as a response to psychological causes. Do recent advances in psychopharmacology and in neuroscience show that the former view may turn out to be correct? Or does its aspirations represent a fundamental conceptual misunderstanding regarding the relationship between brain and mind?

Eligibility: Students and alumni of all University of London schools, including undergraduate and postgraduate, and medical and professional schools.

Prize: £500

Length: less than 4,000 words

Due: 20 October 2019 (at 23:59 GMT)

Award: Not awarded this year.
The prize was due to be awarded at the Fifth Annual Sowerby Lecture in Philosophy and Medicine on 7 November 2019, but the judging panel was unable to recommed the award to any of the submissions.


Frequently Asked Questions


1. Does the 4,000 word limit include references?

No. It doesn’t include references, but it does include footnotes.


2. Can two people submit an essay they write together?

Yes, papers may be co-authored as long as all authors fulfil the eligibility criteria.


3. Should the essay take a philosophical or scientific or clinical approach?

Philosophical, scientific, clinical, historical, psychological, and other factors may all be relevant to your answer to the question. The important thing is that the essay give an answer to the question and a thoughtful defence of that answer, and use a clear writing style without jargon. An approach to avoid is that of a book report or literature review.


4. What should the title be?

That is up to the author. You may want to tailor the title to your own answer to the question, or you may want simply to title it “Are you your brain? What does neuroscience have to offer psychiatry?”.


5. What does a winning essay look like?

You can see past winning essays here.