Sunday, February 16, 2020

Receipt of Stage 1 Essays

The Stage 1 essay is the first step taken in the American Philosophy Open.

This is the generic version of the letter that all Stage 1 writers get.

Dear APO Essay Writer,

We have received your English, qualifying essay. Thank you very much.

Now, to reiterate what the next steps are, here is what you can expect. As you
have seen online in our AP-CP blog post (
and/or in the APO 2020 brochure or in Facebook, here’s what you can expect and
what we’ll expect from you.

Stage 1

APO will notify the finalists from the Stage 1 essay submissions by February
19, 2020. Everyone will be notified regardless of finalist status.

Identified finalists from Stage 1 must then submit, via email, (
a letter of recommendation from a teacher and a letter from their school administration that
grants time away from school to participate in the IPO 2020 contest in Lisbon, Portugal.
The deadline for these letters from teachers and administrators of the finalists is Monday
March 2, 2020.

Stage 2

Finalists will compete in the online, timed essay writing event on the Primary
Contest Date of Saturday March 7th. The Alternate Contest Date is Sunday
March 8th. Remember that the Stage 2 essay, besides being written live online
and monitored, must be written in either excellent French, German or Spanish.
The Stage 2 essay may not be written in English.

After we receive the emailed letters from each finalist’s teacher and
Administrator (by March 2nd), we will contact each finalist about the procedure
for the online essay.

Thanks again for your passion to study philosophy and to participate in this
essay contest, which is an example of the Latin phrase scribendo cogito
(I think by writing).

Thank you very much.

All the best,

Joseph A. Murphy
APO Director

Thursday, January 16, 2020

APO 2020 English Language Qualifying Essay TOPICS & Gen. Info.

Announcing the APO Philosophy Essay Contest for 2020!
The American Philosophy Open (APO) is the official USA arm of the International Philosophy Olympiad (IPO), which will be celebrated this year in Lisbon, Portugal. The two APO winners will go with the leaders of the APO to the 28th IPO, which will be celebrated this year in Lisbon, Portugal May 21-24. There will be 50 countries represented this year.

The 2019 APO winners at the 27th IPO in Rome, Italy
This contest has in two stages. Stage 1 is an English language qualifying essay for stage 2, which is an essay that must be written in either French, German or Spanish.

Participants in the APO 2020 must:
• be high school students in the USA
• read philosophy in school with a teacher in a class, an independent study session or in a club, for example
• be highly proficient (post-AP level or equivalent) writing in French, German or Spanish
There will be two stages
Stage 1:
Submit an 800-word max. essay in English on one of the two topics posted exclusively here on the APO website. This essay must be submitted by no later than February 10, 2020 to The English essay will determine semi-finalist status. You will be notified by February 19th. Then one of your teachers and a school administrator must send us a letter vouching for you and granting you time away from school to participate in the IPO in May in Lisbon, Portugal. The likely dates the winners would need to be away from school to participate in the events of the 28th IPO, including travel dates, will be May 19th (an evening travel date to Lisbon) to 25th (an afternoon or evening arrival date at home). Letters must be sent to Joseph A. Murphy, Philosophy & Ethics Department Chair at Dwight-Englewood School, 315 E. Palisade Ave., Englewood, NJ 07631 or by email to (if you email it, please write "APO and IPO" in the subject line. If you want or need to fax it, the number is 201-569-0047) and will be due no later than March 2nd. Receipt of these letters will determine finalist status.
Stage 2:
Finalists must compete in a 4-hour on-line timed essay writing contest in French, German or Spanish on a philosophy topic selected from topics posted on the APO website. There will be two dates from which you may choose to write your essay on-line;
Primary Contest Date: March 7, 2020 | Alternate Contest Date: March 8, 2020
Details will be sent to the finalists.

Nothing to participate in the APO contest. At the IPO in Lisbon the APO winners will have all meals and lodging paid-in-full. The two winners will have to pay their own travel to Lisbon. We encourage you to seek sponsorship for this.
The APO is sponsored by the American Philosophical Association and is the USA branch of the International Philosophy Olympiad (IPO). The IPO is sponsored by UNESCO and FISP: Fédération Internationale des Sociétés de Philosophie and, therefore, the major philosophical societies of the world. It is a major honor for you, your school and your community.


Here now are the TOPICS for the English Language Qualifying Essay

Here are the topics for Stage 1 of the 2020 essay contest. The two topics are published here and nowhere else, as it says in the 2020 brochure and on our Facebook page. For Stage 1, a student contestant must submit an English essay of no more than 800 words via email that responds to one of the two philosophy topics below.

Topic 1:

"In his new book, 
The History of Philosophy, the philosopher A. C. Grayling writes, "Logic -- the science of valid and sound reasoning -- is the general instrument of philosophy, as mathematics is in science." Please explain your understanding of this quotation.

Topic 2:

“There are various ethical theories that have been developed in the past three millennia. You may have studied some of them in philosophy or in an ethics course. Please explain why you think one of them more reliably describes what makes an action right or a person good.


You may respond to either one of these topics in the most philosophical way you can. We will judge the essays and choose a number of finalists who will proceed to Stage 2. The instructions for Stage 2 will be given to the finalists at the appropriate time.

You may want to consult our guide to writing philosophy essays called, How To Write a Philosophy Essay, A Guide for IPO Contestants that you can find at the following URL:

Again, the APO website is
Email: Put“APO and IPO”in the subject line.
Mailing Address:
Joseph A. Murphy
Philosophy & Ethics Department Chair
Dwight-Englewood School
315 East Palisade Avenue
Englewood, NJ 07631
Phone: 201-227-3265
Fax: 201-569-0047

Good luck!