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Oliver Vonnegut, Tufts undergrad, wins top prize in Cornell journal

Sophia Gottfried ’25 and Ethan Kovnat ’24 were a little flummoxed when one of the 101 submissions for Logos, Cornell’s undergraduate philosophy journal, mentioned BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism) in its first sentence.

“Who am I going to assign to read this paper?” Kovnat remembers thinking.

But after reading it, they were no longer surprised, only impressed, as the paper offered “a nuanced examination of why people relinquish control.” They awarded it the top prize in this year’s journal, which will come out this summer and includes five papers. 

Kovnat knew that the submission came from Oliver Vonnegut, a rising senior at Tufts, but he didn’t know that Oliver was the grandson of the famous author Kurt Vonnegut. And the other Logos editors didn’t even know Vonnegut’s name, as author names are removed from papers before they’re passed along to the editors, who are undergraduate members of the philosophy club. Cornell students are not eligible to submit papers to the journal.

Vonnegut’s essay, “I Do Not Want to Choose the Restaurant, Honey,” explores the dynamic between being a subject or an object in the context of BDSM and fascism. Its first line is this: “BDSM is the cure to fascism.”

“This paper embodies the philosophical values of clarity and argumentation, while also being an accessible read,” Logos editors note in their forward to this year’s journal edition. “It takes on the assumption in the wide philosophical canon that the most morally important part of being a good human being is to be a subject, and the will to objecthood is either perverted or just fundamentally not part of the human experience.”

Read the full story on The College of Arts & Sciences website.

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