Dr. Owen Pikkert wins 2018 David Savan Dissertation Prize

Published: July 4, 2019

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We’re delighted to announce that Owen Pikkert (PhD, 2018) has been selected as the winner of the 2018 David Savan Dissertation Prize for his dissertation Leibniz and the Principle of Sufficient Reason, supervised by Professor Marleen Rozemond.

“I came to graduate school knowing two things about Leibniz. The first is that Leibniz believed that God has created the best possible world. And the second is that he believed in the principle of sufficient reason, according to which everything has a complete explanation as to why it is so and not otherwise. As I began to work on my dissertation, I came to see that, for Leibniz, these two beliefs are closely related. For the principle of sufficient reason is not simply true in the best possible world; rather, it partly contributes to this world being the best. This conclusion, however, created as many problems as it solved – particularly concerning the principle’s modal status and its application to God. I don’t know if the answers that I give in my dissertation to these problems withstand all possible objections. What I do know is that they can withstand many objections, simply because I had the good fortune of pursuing my work in the philosophy department at the University of Toronto. The department is a great place to do philosophy. I had a great supervisory committee, I had great support through grants and teaching, and now I have the great privilege of receiving the David Savan Dissertation Prize. My dissertation owes as much to the philosophy department as it does to my own work.”

Dr. Pikkert is currently a Lecturer here at the University of Toronto at the St. George campus. In his research, he continues to work on the philosophy of Leibniz.

Honourable Mention for Jeremy Davis

Honourable mention in the Savan Prize competition was awarded to Jeremy Davis (PhD, 2017) for his dissertation, National Partiality and War. Dr. Davis is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

About the David Savan Dissertation Prize

David Savan taught philosophy at U of T from 1943 to 1981, where he was a respected semiotician and Charles Sanders Peirce scholar, as well as a dedicated teacher who inspired generations of students. The David Savan Prize is awarded annually in recognition “of the excellence of a doctoral thesis in philosophy submitted and successfully defended by a student in the Graduate Department during the last calendar year,” and carries a cash prize of $1000.

Professors Waheed Hussain and Bernard Katz, together with the Director of Graduate Studies, Gurpreet Rattan, made up this year’s selection committee.

Congratulations Dr. Pikkert and and Dr. Davis!