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.


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