Karel van de Leeuw Memorial Prize

This prize is being held to support and encourage thinking in the field of philosophy with children and as a way to remember Karel van de Leeuw (1940-July 2015) who was a driving force behind setting up and running the SOPHIA Network, a philosopher and educator and leader in the field of philosophy with children. This prize has been made possible thanks to the generosity of Pieter Mostert. You can read about Karel van de Leeuw’s work in Pieter’s obituary for him.

Theme for 2016: P4C and the battle with categories

A short story about Karel by long-time friend and colleague Pieter Mostert

Karels early years in P4C coincided with the early years of his two daughters. One day he told them that he would go to Louvain for a couple of days. Later that afternoon the girls were playing, when one of them interrupted the play and asked “Daddie, does Louvain have an outside?”. This experience proved to be paradigmatic; it shaped his interest in and attitude towards P4C, in three perspectives:

a) philosophical questions are about our battling with categories;
b) as adults / teachers we easily and without good reason assume that our categories and the children’s are the same, i.e. that we understand what they say, because they use the same categories as we adults do;
c) P4C should focus on the exploration of categories; otherwise it does not deserve to be called ‘philosophy’.

Karel’s focus on this issue was intensified by two ‘meetings’. The first one was his meeting with Chinese philosophy. What irritated him vehemently in most western literature on Chinese philosophy is that the western metaphysical categories were read into the Chinese philosophical writings. Secondly, our visit to the IAPC in 1983 – we participated in the six week summer course – disappointed him in many respects, but Matthew Lipman’s focus on category-exploration and development – done in an exemplary way in the manual of “Harry Stottlemeier’s Discovery” – was very convincing to him. It shaped the sections on P4C in our PhD (1988).


Contributions are welcome which focus on perspective b) + c): how can we avoid that we read our adult categories into the statements of the children? + how can we focus on the exploration of categories? Contributions may be short or long, written or video, and will be in English in the first year of this competition. Contributions should show how it is done, not merely describe at a meta-level how it can or should be done. Karel’s statement about the IAPC program was very clear from the beginning: the materials are so much better than all the writing that is done around it. Contributions therefore need to be convincing in the showing.

Contributions can come from original or from previously published articles – although permission will need to be given for us to publish on the SOPHIA site.

Judging & Deadline

The deadline for this years contributions is July 1st. 

The judges are yet to be announced, but will consist of members of the Board and Pieter Mostert.

The winner will be announced at the SOPHIA Network Meeting 2016

Please send submissions to SOPHIA Secretary Joos Vollebregt: joosvollebregt81 at gmail dot com


This year the prize of €500 will be given to the best contribution based on the theme and ideas set out below. SOPHIA hope to be able to sustain this prize over the coming years.

The winning contribution will be shared on the SOPHIA website.