Dec 29, 2013

InPO Stage II - Essay Topics

Abhinav Philosopher 2013

Questioning Presumptions

Stage 2: Critical Thoughts

Essay (10 Mk)
Given below are three quotes of certain philosophers on different subjects. Choose any one of them to write an essay of about a few pages. The essay should not only explain the given view, but should either support it or oppose it with examples and logic. You do not need to have knowledge of the Philosopher’s work, but rather should be able to grasp the central idea and analyze the different aspects of the statement. Usually one goes about establishing the meaning and relevance of each phrase/clause separately and then sums up the whole argument. Your coherence, reasoning and depth of thought are most important. For more detailed instructions, refer
The student should follow the general instructions given below while appearing for this round.
1.       The student gets 3 hrs to write the essay and 15 min more to submit the same by email. Student must ensure that there is no power outage in this period or if there is then he/she can resume their work within a few minutes of the outage.
2.       Given the power fluctuations or random reasons why the PC may crash, student must keep saving the essay every few minutes.
3.       The essay should be submitted by email to If the student is unable to email for some reason, then he/she must inform the problem to us on the mobile number through which they received the instructions.
4.       If a student is unable to write the essay on the PC, he/she may write on paper in a neat handwriting, then either photograph or scan the pages with good resolution and send the images via email.
5.      The student may use the internet or dictionaries during the exam to read about or understand certain issues / terms. However, directly copying content from the net or inserting quotes of other philosophers verbatim (which the student is not likely to know before hand) would be grounds for disqualification.

           I.    Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe only in the God idea, not God Himself. – Miguel de Unamuno, Tragic Sense of Life, 213
         II.    It is ... easy to be certain. One has only to be sufficiently vague. -- C. S. Peirce
       III.    I'm a Utilitarian, so I don't see the rule against lying as absolute; it's always subject to some overriding utility which may prevent its exercise. – Peter Singer 

Dec 27, 2013

InPO Stage 1 Results

Lookup the results at -
Next stage is on Sunday 29th Dec 2013 at 9 am. This will be online. The participants will be sent 3-4 essay themes (quotes of philosophers or philosophical questions) by email. They have to write an essay (length not important) on any one of the topics and mail it back to me ( by 12:30 pm on the same day, i.e. in 3.5 hrs.

Dec 20, 2013

InPO Stage 1 tasks uploaded

Hello Young Philosophers ...
The Abhinav Philosopher task sheet, i.e. Indian Philosophy Olympiad Stage 1 has been put up at
Download it and write the answers in a separate word file. Mail the file to me at by Monday (23rd Dec 2013) evening.

Dec 17, 2013

Hi All,
Just thought that a warm up might be good for those preparing for the Stage 1. Maybe too little and too late, but here it is:
The image here is a excerpt of the context of the quote which is in bold on the top. Read the context and more if you will, and try to put forth your arguments about the quote. I do not need a rigorous essay. This is just to tune up your thought process. Hence a brief argument with abbreviations or sketches will do. Post it by email to me at I will put up my views in a couple of days.

Dec 15, 2013

InPO 2013 - Stage 1

After some glitches in the site and some scheduling hassles, the Indian Philosophy Olympiad Stage 1 is now set to start this week on the 20th Dec 2013. The tasks will be put up for 4 days, giving students enough time to think and also to manage their schedules. Any Indian student of class (standard) 9 to 12 from any board in India is welcome to attempt. There are no fees.

Jun 8, 2013

Abhinav bags Silver for India at IPO Denmark

I am very happy to inform you that India has bagged a silver consecutively for the second time, this year at the 21st International Philosophy Olympiad, held at Odense, Denmark between 16th & 19th of May. We had earlier got a Bronze and a Silver in 2012 at Oslo, Norway.
The olympiad is a competition for high school (up to Std XII) students to show their talent in different subjects. The UNESCO affiliates 1 olympiad per subject - Phy, Chem, Bio, Astronomy, Math, etc. The Philosophy Olympiad has run for 21 years and has a strong UNESCO support due to the fact that it is closest to the objectives of the UNESCO. 
It is run by a group of teachers working under the aegis of the FISP (Federation of International Societies of Philosophy). The teachers are university or high school (like myself) from different parts of the world. 
This year about 40 countries participated with about 90 students. I took the Indian delegation with 2 students - Abhinav Menon, Sd XI, last years bronze medalist and this years silver; and Asit Tarsode, Std X.
Abhinav missed gold by a small margin. The judges said it was a tough competition and only 5 medals were awarded instead of the usual 8-9. - 1 Gold (Hungary), 3 Silvers (India, Austria, Korea), 1 Bronze(Croatia) and 15 honorable mentions (consolation awards). 
The jurying is done at three levels and the final is the done by philosophers from the FISP. 
Abhinav Menon, wrote on a topic about how the lack of constitution in a rule of the majority can only lead to loss of human rights of minorities. (based on a quote by Hannah Arendt, a contemporary political philosopher). What some of the senior members of the FISP found most interesting was how a young person like Abhinav could clearly see the connection between the psychology and sociology behind majority rule and the exploitation of minorities. 
Overall the 4 days in the small town of Odense (home town of existentialist stalwart Soren Kirkegaard and fairy tale writer Hans Christian Anderson) were very busy for all the young crowd assembled there. After the competition on the 17th, there were many workshops and lectures and of course sightseeing and partying (we philosophers call intellectual endless chats into the night as a party).
However, like many students there, Abhinav and Asit had exams soon after the 21st (IB finals and IIT coaching, respectively), which these kids are gallantly managing. The training had been largely through video conference and digital writing tools, about 4-5 hours a day for the past 3 months, after being selected via the Abhinav Philosopher competition (held in December end)
Please look up the sites - International Philosophy Olympiad ( , Indian Philosophy Olympiad ( and the Danish site for the 21st IPO - ( Also, lookup the news article in DNA.

Apr 5, 2013

An assignment on the application of Ethics / Metaphysics to Psychology

“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” – Albert Camus

Work on this quote, while I work on the responses to the earlier (Aristotle's) quote. Try to finish by the 6th evening

Apr 4, 2013

Asit's View

A)     What is equality?-

1) Giving a non-biased treatment in every sense.

2) Each man has different mental, social, environmental factors.

3) (From A2) thus each will receive and would like to receive different treatment.

4) (A1+A2+A3) Equality is a metaphysical myth. It is impossible to achieve absolute equality.

       B)   Inequality-

             1) Absence of equality

             2) (A4+B1) Inequality is Omnipresent.

             3) Different degrees of existence. (I take the meaning of equality here as the                                                                lowest degree of inequality.)


       C)  To make unequal things “equal”

            1) EX- Take two pans of a weighing balance where one has a heavier weight than the other. In order to make them equal one will have to add weight to the pan that has less weight. That is in order to minimize the inequality we will have to give a special treatment to one class of people while neglecting the other class. This amounts to inequality. (Ex- the minority reservations.

            2) C1 is done for the so called “greater good i.e. equality.”  However it soon turns out to be counter productive.

           3) When a special treatment is given to a certain class of people, they get more rewards for lesser efforts. They thus become less hard working. On the other hand when a special treatment is given out to a certain class, the other classes would lose out and thus slowly develop a sense of hatred. This would widen the inequality.

           4) (C1+C2+C3) Thus when one tries to make unequal things equal, the whole process turns out to be counterproductive in the long run thus increasing the degree of inequality.
            Thus by the above argument I think that Aristotle’s quote is completely right.      

Abhinav's View

I have pasted the argument below. Can you tell me if its going on the right track? It seems pretty tautologous and I can't think of any more to write on this quote, except go on about political, or different truth conditions.

“The worst form of inequality is to try and make unequal things equal.” – Aristotle

Aristotle’s argument (rather Tautology)

A1. Unequal and equal by logical status cannot be equated. (Law of extended middle mentions that as long as there is a proposition P, and a proposition not P, they cannot both be true)

A2. To try and make two unequal things equal is to try to force reasoning or violate principles of logic and thereby rational reason

A3. Inequality is an undesirable state

(A1 + A2 + A3)A4. To force things/concepts/values/rights to be equal is to resort to an undesirable state

A5. The main implication is that things can be fundamentally different and that there is no commonality, which can make equal 2 seemingly different things.


B1. What does it mean for 2 things to be equal?

-       A simple definition of equality could be the logical equivalence. 

B2. If B1, then A4 is true

B3. However B1 can be contestable in that we can consider B4 as a definition of equality


i.                Things can have a range of properties and a class of things can be named as all the items with at least one property in common.

ii.              Thus two things with 99 different properties and 1 common property P1 can be made equal for the class of objects defined by P1. 

B5. Things can then said to be equal if there is atleast one common property (Here we can introduce an alternative metaphysics of monism)

C1. In a political sense we can consider the statement: “Everyone is equal before the law”

C2. This accding to Aristotle tries to make everyone equal, not considering the circumstances, which led him or her to violate the law

C3. This is inequality in that 2 human beings with fundamentally different backgrounds are being seen equally

C4. However if we accept B4 as a definition for equality, then we can say that both humans are different but belong to a common class in that they are part of a common legal system defined in a particular manner.

C5. Thus C1 is not necessarily an inequality or undesirable outcome. 


Apr 2, 2013

Another assignment

Understand this quote and frame an argument for or against it, say by 3rd March 2013 evening.

"The worst form of inequality is to try and make unequal things equal" - Aristotle

For previous such analyses see the posts with label Quote Analysis.
The topic was:
The investigation of the truth is in one way hard, in another easy. An indication of this is found in the fact that no one is able to attain the truth adequately, while, on the other hand, no one fails entirely, but everyone says something true about the nature of all things, and while individually they contribute little or nothing to the truth, by the union of all a considerable amount is amassed.
― Aristotle, Metaphysics

Analysis by Abhinav Menon: (and my comments and questions to Abhinav)
I have split my argument into Aristotle's argument, Sec A is my analysis of Aristotle's Arg, Sec B and C are further discussions. 
Aristotle’s Argument
P1. Every individual can say ‘something true’ about nature of things in virtue of   ‘things’ existing
P2. Truth is an all-encompassing concept (How) – thus an individual alone cannot comprehend the vastness of truth (Why)
P3. Truth as a concept is being investigated and thus so is the nature of truth. Investigating the nature of truth contributes to the investigation of truth. (Does he mean concept OR individual truths?)
(P1 + P2 => C1.) The union of all P1s leads to a larger portion of the truth (indicated in P2 + P3) being discovered
C2. Physics (saying something true about the nature of things) (i.e. facts, often named as truths) is different from Metaphysics (investigation of truth) (i.e. the concept or 'Truth', what constitutes Truth?, what characterizes it?, How do we arrive at it?)
(C1 + C2 + P3 => C3.) Truth in its entirety cannot be known. All we can say is that we can know a large part of truth by knowing about the nature of things. (I think he means that sum of knowledge of ALL men gives us a large portion of the Truth and not one man's knowledge)

Sec A
A1.’Investigation of the truth’ (what you mean is the Truth in such and such a case, i.e. an instance of truth and not Truth as an idea?) affirms a something/concept called truth with certain properties, which form its nature
A2. Things have elements of truth in them (this follows from ‘the nature of all things’ argument) and only by piecing together the elements of truth and taking its union can we arrive at an understanding/attainment of truth
A3. Inherent in truth’s nature is that it encompasses everything (this is a restatement of P2)
(A1 + A2) A4. A3 is inconsistent and Aristotle’s reasoning is circular. He is in a process of investigating something called truth, and yet he is able to assign a property like “all-encompassing” to truth without fully investigating its nature. I.e. he has defined truth but he is still in search of it.
(I think Aristotle would be unhappy with this unfair interpretation. I think you are confusing the 'idea' with the 'instance')

Sec B
B1. A definition of the notion of truth is not clear in Aristotle’s argument (i.e. truth is some sort of an abstract entity not well defined)
B2. If truth is everything under the sun then why call it truth? (If existing objects have element of truth in that, they are, as they appear, why do we need a separate notion of truth.)
B3. If purpose of philosophy is to ‘investigate truth,’ then what is, ‘to say something true about the nature of things?’ (is it science). What is the purpose of this distinction and can one lead to another?
(B4) Say something true about nature of things is saying: - the ball is red
B5. If I were to call a red ball blue, the fact does not change.
(B4 + B5 = B6) Truth is unaffected by what people may say about it or perceive it as (however they may do so) (This is the notion of objectivity of Truth. Some philosophers may not agree on the basis that your only means of perceiving truth are your senses and cognition, both of which could be faulty. Hence the TRUTH you perceive, may not be THE Truth. So it may change from person to person or from time to time. Science on the other hand {or real/rational/empirical philosophies} agree on objectivity. So you should state your position before asserting 'a fact')
B7. What everyone says about the nature of all things may not be necessarily true. Thus unions of all is not necessarily lead to a ‘considerable amount.’
(Agreed. However, let us say that 1 out of a million persons spoke 0.1% truth about a certain issue/situation/human condition/etc.; then in the entire span of history, given that there have been at least a few ten's of billion people who have lived and died and transmitted their ideas to the next generation - the amount of truth thus amassed adds up to nearly 100%. Of course 'truth' is not so simply seen and transferred. Their are losses in transmission due to religious / political interferences in history or simply due to people's neglect of the responsibility of handing over the truth to the next gen. Also, perceptions may be equally faulty for many of the truth seekers and the actual percentage of truth amassed may be reduced greatly.)
 Sec C
C1. Truth can be broken down into constituents.
C2. Each constituent can be analyzed, providing better understanding of truth.
C1 + C2 = C3) Truth is fundamental atomic facts. When a fact (a true proposition) is broken down, there are individual elements of the proposition which create meaning by referring to particulars/concepts/universals (clearer definition needed here)
C4) In a certain sense Aristotle’s quote can be seen as discussing the nature of propositions however the whole truth can be attained and affirmed through analysis of individual propositions.
(More discussion on how this links to empiricism)
 (Now, that's where the problem of Truth lies. Can we actually atomize truth, always? Sometimes, even as the truth is obvious, its difficult to analyse/atomize it. e.g. A mother loves her child. You can point out many ways in which she indicates this love. But does that prove her love as a truth? What about the times when she hits the child? What if there is a disaster and only one of them would survive? What if she survives by accident? Would she then commit suicide for her child? Then again - does dying for the one you love show the Truth of your love? If not sacrifice, then what proves love? O.K. leave all that, can we compare the love of one mother towards her child, with another mother towards hers? So how do you go about atomizing this further? But, don't you accept this as a general Truth of humanity? How come?)

Most facts of human interactions (a domain of sociology) are impenetrable in this manner. It is difficult to be deductive about them as an idealist would try. Now empiricism is somewhat the answer and I guess that's what Aristotle is trying to say. Empirically you observe (human nature or human interactions) and collect data, pass it down generations, until a huge amount of data is collected. Humans are not capable of retaining ALL data, such as Every Mother's EVERY Act of love towards her child. Hence they form truths by interpolating and extrapolating from the limited observation and hand these over to the next gen. Next gen further refines and redefines the conclusions with their  own observations. and so on....

Also, Truth about any matter needs to be observed with keen and faultless senses of one individual and then the next and thus many to consider it coherent with reality. "Truth" has to be found to be consistent with the other "truths" known to Man. And then again, the "Truth's" need to be analysed in reference to other known truths to understand their origin and nature. This demands a great effort and is seldom possible for any one Man in his lifetime. Hence, Aristotle says that men perceive fragments of truth.

Thus, the process of discovery and transmission of Truth as described by Aristotle is fine. But you could question his assertion that THAT is how Truth is. So maybe our process of discovery needs to be refined with objectivity and logic. Our process of transmission is already better with books and other technology (unfortunately, facebook un-does that, :-( ...) So maybe Truth can be formed more completely and definitively now.
OR ... you could argue that Truth is a metaphysic myth. Its purely relative and subjective. :-o

Philosophy Training 2013

Have been bogged down by work and other commitments lately. So the "plan" for this years Philosophy prep is as follows:
  • Team has just begun with analysis of quotes. Others who are free from exams are welcome to join in. So until about 18th April, we discuss quotes and the arguments that can be made about them, here on the blog.
  • From 19th or 20th I intend to invite some teachers / speakers and have in-camera (working the tech out) sessions put on the net (hopefully live). These video lectures will be followed by practical (i.e. discussions on topics) These sessions will take about 4-5 hours every day and will go for about 5 days. Plan is to introduce various areas of Philosophy to the beginners and keep the "seniors" on their toes, thinking things through. The team will prepare with essays and discussions (online) for the remaining part of the day. Hence those able to attend in person may do so, while others may tune in to the web link I will put up here, once the tech is sorted. the online crowd can also chat and participate in the sessions.
  • After this brief introductory training is done, the team gets serious about going to deeper essays and brainstorming about them online until 14th May. (video chats, usually in the evenings) Others are welcome to join in. Links will be posted here. The discussion done will be connected in points on this blog -  
Once again, I invite all students who participated in the selection process and any others who may have missed out then, but would like to learn Philosophy, to join in these discussions. Sometimes they will be a little vague, as it is not always possible to write down, what we think, in detail. But they would definitely give you a flavour of the subject.

Jan 5, 2013

Results of Indian Philosophy Olympiad

Dear All,
The Indian Philosophy Olympiad selection process is concluding with the results of the Abhinav Philosoher Stage II being declared. Stage I saw about 150 entries, of which about 20 were selected to the essay-writing stage. It took a little longer than I had expected to prepare the result as some of the top contenders wrote really well. We had to go over the papers again and again to be sure.

The next step is to invite the top two in the list to join the Indian delegation to the IPO 2013 and thus to a training program from Jan to May (mostly online, with a brief camp somewhere in April). If any of the two reject the offer, we go down the list in heirarchy. We should be able to declare the team in about a week from now.

Those who reached stage II showed a genuine interest and an aptitude in philosophy. As far as the online training is concerned, ALL of you are invited. Details will be put up in about 2 weeks on this blog. The camp, however, has a funding problem and thus those who can arrange to stay in Mumbai / near Dombivli, can definitely join the team.

Also, some candidates inquired whether we give a participation certificate for the InPO. Since it is not sponsored by any govt. agency, such a certificate has no practical value. Also, funding issues disallow us from sending certificates to all the 100 or more participants. Those who recieve an award are however, definitely sent a certificate and a prize. I hope that the candidates understand our constraints. We do encourage all participants to prepare harder for the next year.