Monday, February 21, 2022

American Philosophy Open 2022

The APO is sponsored by the American Philosophical Association.

Announcing the 2022 High School Philosophy Essay Writing Contest!

This is the first time our international contests will be in person since 2019!
This year we will meet in person in Lisbon, Portugal.

The American Philosophy Open (APO) is a pre-college Philosophy writing contest for U.S. students that is connected to the wider world of international philosophy. Students compete by writing philosophical essays on specific topics and the top two writers from the U.S.A. will be chosen to compete in the International Philosophy Olympiad (IPO). The two U.S. student winners will then join international peers from high schools from 50 countries in Lisbon, Portugal in the 30th annual IPO. The APO and IPO's mission for HS students is to contribute to the development of inquiring, critical, creative, and international thinking.

There are two stages of submissions to the APO, which means two essays. To enter the contest, an interested American High School student, residing in the U.S.A., writes their first essay in English and then submits it via email to the APO. All submitted essays are then reviewed by the APO panel to see which essays meet the criteria for the second stage of the competition. At this stage, the panel reviews the candidate's skill at writing about a philosophical question, problem or issue. If a student's essay meets the criteria, they will be invited by email to the second stage of the competition. For the second stage of the competition, the student will be invited to write an essay in French, German, or Spanish. No contestant may write the IPO essay in one's native/national language as per the rules of the International Philosophy Olympiad. This means that even if a student is excellent at developing philosophical thinking and writing, their level of French, German, or Spanish should be strong enough to convey these ideas and concepts in the target language. The second stage essay will be written live on a Google Doc while being proctored by APO staff.

After the Stage 2 essays are written in French, German, or Spanish, the panel will choose the two student essays that demonstrate the strongest philosophical thinking in the language that the student has chosen. Final selection for the two U.S.A. winners may include an interview with a member of the APO board via video conference (Zoom). In addition, winners must submit a permission letter from their parents/guardians and from their school principal to travel to Portugal between the dates of May 24th and May 30th. The selection of a national winner is a significant and exciting process that the committee takes very seriously. We encourage you to apply to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.


Participants must
  • be U.S. citizens and current U.S. high school students
  • participate in a high school philosophy class, club, Ethics Bowl Team, or core subject with a philosophical bent or concentration
  • be highly proficient in any one of three of the four official languages of the IPO; French, German, or Spanish

Stage 1

Submit an essay via email in English of approximately 800 words (but no more than 50 words more or less than 800) that responds to one of two philosophy topics. (See below.)

Deadline for the English Essay Submission is March 25, 2022.

Stage 2

Finalists from Stage 1 will compete in a 3-hour timed essay online in which the students must write an essay in French, German, or Spanish on a philosophy topic revealed at the beginning of the online session.

Primary Online Contest Date is April 2, 2022 / Alternate Online Contest Date is April 3, 2022.


There is no cost to apply. The APO assumes all implementation and processing cost and this year there is no registration fee. For our two APO winners, the IPO host country pays for all in-country expenses (meals and lodging). However, our two APO winners must be able to cover the cost of their own transportation to and from the IPO host country venue, which is Lisbon and Almada, Portugal. If necessary, contestants are encouraged to seek sponsor support--with or beyond family--from the community, corporate, and/or educational institutions.


The two victorious 2022 APO contestants win the opportunity to travel to Lisbon, Portugal to share a once-in-a-lifetime experience networking face-to-face with other high school students from around the world and meet some important world-renowned philosophers. Winners of the APO through the IPO competition receive international recognition by UNESCO, the Federation of International Philosophy Societies (FISP), and other international philosophy organizations--honors that will make the student, their parents, friends, school, and community proud.

The IPO will be celebrated in Portugal this May. The theme of the event is "Identity & Person." You may search the website here.

APO Topics for 2022

Here are the two topics for APO Stage 1

The writer may choose either one. This is not a research paper, so don't use any sources, only their own thinking.



What is philosophy and why is it important to study it in high school?

TOPIC 2 0F 2

Many philosophers consider there to be four main theories of moral philosophy: Virtue Ethics, Kantianism, Utilitarianism, and Care Ethics. These theories may be used as conceptual tools to examine ethical dilemmas. Which one or combination of theories do you think most helpful to you in your considerations and why?


Important Submission Information

Please submit your essay in either PDF Format (.pdf) or MS Word Format (.docx) written in Times New Roman, font size 12, double line spacing. Send it as an attachment to an email message. Write the following in the subject line of your email: APO Stage 1 Essay.

Be sure to include the following information on a cover page accompanying the essay. Do not include any of this information on the essay itself except for the topic chosen and the writer's initials.

  • the writer's full name
  • the school name and full address
  • the school principal's full name
  • the language (French, German, or Spanish) in which the Stage 2 essay will be written (the target language)
  • the estimated target language proficiency of the writer--academic (e.g., Spanish 4 years or AP French) and/or heritage speaker (e.g., Spanish at home) or native speaker
  • the topic chosen for this essay (on both the cover page and on the first page of the essay)
  • a very brief personal introduction

Submit essays to the APO's official email address:

For additional information about the IPO and to view sample essays, visit the International Philosophy Olympiad at

Good luck!

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!