The UCD Irish Young Philosopher Awards

By David Prendeville

The second Irish Young Philosopher Awards Festival (IYPA) 2019 took place earlier this summer at University College Dublin. The aim behind the IYPA is for primary and secondary school students to explore philosophy through a nationwide award programme and festival.

Students from Third to Sixth Class in primary schools and all secondary school students were invited to participate. Students created complex projects and were judged according to their critical and ethical thinking, creativity, collaboration, philosophical analysis and innovation.

The number of participants doubled this year, with 350 finalists chosen for Wednesday’s festival. Students submitted their philosophy projects using various mediums, including posters, films, essays, and podcasts. They also visualized their philosophical thinking in mind-maps or posters.

President Michael D Higgins and Sabina Higgins attended the awards ceremony at UCD’s O’Reilly Hall. The President reiterated his support for philosophy in schools, saying: “History tells us that it is the asking of questions to which there is, yet, no definite, definitive answer that leads to new discoveries, new possibilities, the potential to create a better world.”

The overall winner was Lauren Doyle (16) a transition year student at Mount Sackville Secondary School, who was awarded the Grand Prize sponsored by Arthur Cox for her project: “Why is nature beautiful and why do we destroy it?”

Photo of IYPA Winner Lauren Doyle and President Michael D. Higgins courtesy of UCD.

Speaking at the event, one of the festival’s organisers Dr. Danielle Petherbridge, of the UCD School of Philosophy, said “we would like schools from every county in Ireland taking part – 19 were represented this year – and also more input from Deis schools in disadvantaged areas, where additional supports may be required to ensure philosophy is offered as a subject.”

The philosophical topics submitted this year included nature and environmental ethics, artificial intelligence and ethics, freedom and free speech, happiness, identity, reality and perception, gender representation, animal rights and ethics, fake news and facts and friendship.

Staying on the theme of philosophy, An Post are releasing a commemorative postcard of Irish-born philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch to celebrate her centenary. They are also partnering with In Parenthesis and the UCD Centre for Ethics in Public Life to launch Philosophy by Postcard, a public philosophy project introducing #slowphilosophy and celebrating Murdoch.

People can send a postcard to the address of Iris Murdoch’s birthplace on Blessington Street in Dublin. Posing a question to an esteemed philosopher, applicants will be in with a chance of being one of the 100 people to receive an individual reply from a philosopher, based on their readings of Murdoch’s philosophy.

The window for submitting questions is between July and September. One of the postcard designs will be that by Amelia O’Connell, a primary school student who won the Iris Murdoch prize which was also announced at the Irish Young Philosopher’s Awards Festival.  

Further information on Philosophy by Postcard is available at: