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Justin Zylstra Memorial Prize in Metaphysics

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Justin was a beloved member of the philosophical community who died on 9/23/19 after a year-long battle with cancer. He was just 32 years old and leaves behind his wife Riin, also a philosopher, and a 16-month-old son Aalep. Justin had a gentle, kind spirit but a keen intelligence that he passionately and productively applied to his chosen field of metaphysics. He delighted in learning, working collaboratively and passing on his insights to others with infectious enthusiasm, and was a dear and supportive friend to those who were lucky enough to know him well. He is deeply missed.

Justin was a talented and hardworking philosopher who won national fellowships in the course of his studies in metaphysics at the University of Alberta, from which he awarded his PhD in 2016. After graduating, he was immensely prolific, publishing papers on metaphysics that will shape discussions about essence and related matters for years to come. He was a research fellow at the University of Vermont, and about to take up a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Tartu, when his diagnosis changed his plans. More recently, he was a research fellow at the University of Toronto. His papers can be currently found on his page and soon on his personal webpage. 

Justin showed unfailing support for the work of other philosophers, and thought that there should be more support and encouragement for junior philosophers. A memorial prize in metaphysics for junior scholars would be a fitting tribute to Justin since it would provide encouragement to young metaphysicians like him who are yet to receive the recognition and rewards they deserve for their work. 

The Justin Zylstra Memorial Prize in Metaphysics would award an annual cash prize to the best published paper in metaphysics written by a junior scholar (which we define as being less than 5 years from the award of their PhD). We seek an endowment that would allow for this prize to be given in perpetuity, beginning 2021. We have now received our target of $20000--thank you so much!--which will support an annual cash prize of at least $500.  If you would still like to make a donation it will be gratefully received and added to the endowment.

The prize fund will be managed by Riin Sirkel, Associate Professor of philosophy at the University of Vermont (Justin's widow), who will appoint a panel of leading scholars in metaphysics to select the first prize winner.  Riin will withdraw and invest the funds sometime later in the year. Any additional money left each year after awarding the prize will be reinvested in the prize fund.

Tom Pashby was lucky enough to befriend Justin several years ago (through his friend Riin) and greatly misses their conversations about metaphysics and life (frequently accompanied by excellent Vermont IPAs) from which Tom derived so much of value. He is an Assistant Professor in philosophy at the University of Chicago.


  • Michael Ferejohn
    • $200 
    • 4 yrs

Organizer and beneficiary

Tom Pashby
Burlington, VT
Riin Sirkel

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