IPO 2019: A Reflection on My Journey with Philosophy

20 June, 2019 KAJITANI Shinji, HAYASHI Yoshihiro, SAKAKIBARA Kentaro

Rei Yatsuhashi

Last month, I had the pleasure of participating in the 27th International Philosophy Olympiad in Rome as a member of the Japanese delegation. Through this short essay, I would like to detail my experience at the International Philosophy Olympiad, as well as with the field of philosophy in general.

During elementary and middle school, my favorite subject was mathematics. The nature of mathematics as I knew it — a black-and-white field where your answer was either objectively right or wrong — appealed to my young self, and I found myself solving problems like an explorer on a treasure hunt towards the correct answer. However, as I grew older, I began to expand my interests into other fields. My investigation of various different fields of study was accompanied by a newfound appreciation for problems where there did not necessarily exist a universally correct answer, like philosophy. As I wrestled with philosophical questions and ideas, I formulated my arguments and deepened my understanding, and although I had no method of confirming whether my ideas were correct, I enjoyed the process.

During the International Philosophy Olympiad in Rome, I was able to fully experience the “originality” present in philosophy. Despite the fact that I attempted to acknowledge and counter differing arguments in my philosophical essay, the discussions after the essay-writing competition provided vastly new insights. Following the competition, I debated with delegates from Bulgaria, South Korea, and Luxembourg about the philosophical ideas presented in the quotes, and was shocked to find that their contentions varied so greatly from my own. One of the delegates from Bulgaria referenced Nietzsche’s critique of Kant in her analysis of the excerpt from Plato’s Gorgias; on the other hand, a delegate from South Korea was inspired by Bertrand Russell and Wittgenstein in their essay pertaining to the philosophy of language. All of the people that I discussed the topics with had found new, novel arguments from a variety of angles that I would have never thought of when reading the excerpts. Additionally, due to the diverse backgrounds of the participants, I also encountered many students and teachers who possessed political ideologies drastically different from those regularly encountered in Japan. During our conversations on philosophy and its effect on the sociopolitical issues of today, I realized the importance of diversity and intellectual discourse. Furthermore, I learned that effective discourse can only begin when one abandons all harmful predispositions, and respects all other’s views as if they were their own.


Furthermore, as it was my first time in Europe, I was stunned by the beautiful architecture of the city. Through tours of the Musei Capitolini and the Coliseum, as well as the city, I was able to have a rich cultural experience. My meals with my new friends from Korea to England to Poland to Luxembourg opened my eyes to new cultures, and our conversations through our adventures in Italy shed a new light on my thoughts and perspectives. All in all, the IPO was a rich cultural experience which left me reflecting upon the many lessons I learned.

I would now like to express my gratitude for Hayashi-sensei and Sakakibara-sensei for their invaluable assistance before and during the IPO. Furthermore, I would like to thank Kajitani-sensei and Kitagaki-sensei for their feedback on my preliminary essays. Finally, I would like to thank the Uehiro Foundation on Ethics and Education and Sasaki-san for their help and support during the process. I could not have received the bronze medal without your help. It has been a wonderful journey, and I wish the best to all future participants.



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