Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Young World Philosophers in Lithuania

Have you ever been to Lithuania? It had never occurred to me to go there. But the International Philosophy Olympiad 2014 was celebrated in the capitol city, Vilinius. So the four member American team – two students and two teachers – traveled there to celebrate our annual event with teams from 40 other countries. It turns out to be a gem of a city in a country that used to be the biggest one in Europe! For the past 1,500 years the country has been expanding and shrinking as the spoils of war seemed to have dictated. It is currently a small country South of Poland and Latvia and just West of Russia. Thirty-five percent of its landmass is covered in trees! Beautiful.

This is the opening ceremony of the International Philosophy Olympiad 2014 in Vilnius, Lithuania on May 15th in Town Hall. The USA Delegation is being presented to the national delegations of 41 countries present for the essay competition. L to R are Delegation Leader, Joseph Murphy, students Lisa Mordkovich (D-E '15) and Dan Gottlieb (Bethpage School '14), and Frank Murphy, USA Delegation Assistant Leader.

The American Philosophy Olympiad – the US regional branch of the IPO – chose two young philosophers to represent the USA this year in the most successful essay competition in its short history. Dan Gottlieb from Bethpage High School on Long Island, NY and Lisa Mordkovich from Dwight-Englewood School in Englewood, NJ traveled with us in a busy scholastic time of year in the USA to write a philosophy essay in two World languages other than their native one; Dan in French and Lisa in Spanish.

There were four topics offered to the international group of high school students from which they could choose to write. Lisa, for example, wrote on some of the ethical questions regarding the definition of murder. One may write in any one of the following languages; English, French, German or Spanish. But the requirements of the IPO stipulate that high school students must write their philosophical essays in a language other than the official language of their national origin. This requirement has something to do with questions of perspective and an attempt to try to deeply understand life lived in a “foreign” language. It's an approximation of the other. I guess this is like you walking a thousand miles in my shoes.

I’m going to quote rather extensively from something Lisa has recently written about her experience. In another post I’ll quote Dan.

….The IPO went far beyond my expectations, for many reasons…. When I got there, I was shocked to find that everyone was very welcoming, and very genuinely interested in each other; there wasn't any "catch". The fact that we were all technically competing but still able to become so close in such a short time is astounding to me. I think there should be greater efforts to do the same by hosting events like these for various areas of interest (especially philosophy) in our own country.

The high point of the trip for me was getting to meet and spend time with many other students from all over the world, especially in a city as beautiful as Vilnius.... I was asked fascinating questions about how life is for students here (both in America and at Dwight specifically). Getting to represent my school and my country in such a large international exchange was the most gratifying part of the experience. Furthermore, being able to flow into philosophical conversations with all of these new-found friends was great because it felt very organic to me; even if people had radically different perspectives, the quality of conversation was so memorable because everyone who came there seemed passionate about philosophy in general. Everyone I met there loved to question the meaning of their lives and the world around them, so that was hugely inspirational.”

Now, you can go to the following websites to read extensively about this year’s event as well as some of the history of the IPO, the people, places, pictures, topics, national websites and blogs, Wikipedia entries and all things related to the IPO.

The 2015 IPO will be held in Estonia. The requirements of the APO 2015 will be available in September. Watch for it in this blog. Good luck to all new comers.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

APO 2014 Winners Go On To IPO 2014

Congratulations to Daniel Gottlieb and Elizabeth Mordkovich, winning essay writers of the 2014 American Philosophy Olympiad, APO VIII. Lisa and Dan will represent the USA in Vilnius, Lithuania in May 2014 along with students from 42 other countries!
We, the committee members of the APO, want to extend our sincere thanks to all students who have submitted essays in French or Spanish -- there were none in German this year.* Thank you for participating in the 2014 APO H.S. Philosophy Essay Writing Contest. There have been so many interesting essays to read and evaluate this year that it has been a very difficult task for our committee to make our final decision on the top two essays. Nevertheless, we have made our decisions.

The winning APO 2014 essays were written by Elizabeth Mordkovich from NJ who wrote in Spanish and Daniel Gottlieb from NY who wrote in French. Honorable Mention and Participant certificates will be sent to the other young philosophers who have submitted their essays to the APO this year.

The USA participated in the IPO for four non-continuous years between 1999 and 2003. After a hiatus of almost ten years, this is the fourth year of continuous participation. The American Philosophical Association is the sponsor of APO VIII.

For a good idea of what the IPO is and how it works, I offer you two links to search. 

The first link includes the topics from the IPO 2013 in Denmark. This will give you a good idea of the types of questions students will be asked to write about in Vilnius this year. Also, in this website, you can find the winning essays from IPO 2013. Read one of them to see the type of writing that is highly valued in this competition. The second link is for this year's event. Have fun with them and watch for news and photos from Vilnius coming up later this month. 

We look forward to your comments! 


*The official languages of the IPO are English, French, German, and Spanish. One may not write an essay in one's own native language at the IPO competition. Therefore, the official languages of the APO are French, German, and Spanish.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What counts as a philosophical topic?

Someone recently left me a comment with the question that I'm using as a title for this post. People disagree, but I will be very broad with my answer .

Any question that would have to do, at least, with the following branches or areas of inquiry qualifies as a philosophical topic:

Questions of what there is, really.
What's the fundamental nature of the universe? Mind, body, free will, God, causality....

Questions of what to do.
What's moral, aesthetic, ethical value?
Right and wrong, intrinsic good, moral objectivity or subjectivity....

Questions that have to do with knowledge.
What's knowledge?
Certainty, reason, experience, justification....

Questions about correct reasoning.
What is the nature and structure of reasoning?
Formal rules, inferences, arguments, logic....

Does that help?

By the way, the APO essay for 2014 is due on March 15. This is an extended deadline.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Extended Due Date for 2014 APO Essay Contest

D-E Pre-College Philosophy Club 2014

We have extended the due date for the "2014 H.S. Philosophy Essay Writing  Contest" (APO Essay Contest). It is March 15, 2014. Letters of recommendation are also due with the essays. All other information can be found in the previous post in this American Pre-College Philosophy (AP-CP) blog.