2017 Think-Off Question Announced

“Has the 2016 election changed our perception of truth?”

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The 25th annual Great American Think-Off question is a heavy-hitter in that it not only addresses the 2016 election for timely relevance, but also tackles the timeless and elusive concept of truth.

The committee asked for input from the public this year because of the importance of the 25th anniversary of the contest, as well as the environment surrounding the 2016 election. As suggestions were received and discussions ensued, several relevant themes emerged: questions about democracy, truth, diversity, cultural relativism, hope for the future. Committee members debated long and hard over which of these themes was most important, most relevant, most truly philosophical. People felt passionate and meetings ran long.

Typically, the goal is to avoid “trendy” cultural questions and instead look for more timeless philosophical topics. However, the sense emerged that 2016 may be a turning point in our nation’s history, and the alleged change in our concept of TRUTH, or post-truth, or “truthiness” will likely be discussed in the history books for decades to come. So, the decision was made to see what the armchair philosophers are saying about it today.

As always, entrants are encouraged to take a strong stand and base their arguments on personal experience and observations rather than philosophical abstraction. The contest is open to anyone, and there is no fee to enter. Simply submit an essay explaining your position in 750 words or less by April 1, 2017 for a chance to win one of four $500 cash prizes and a trip to New York Mills for the live debate. Essays can be submitted online (click here), by email to info@think-off.org, or by mail to Think-Off, c/o Cultural Center, P.O. Box 246, New York Mills, MN 56567.

Two winning entries from each side will be selected by May 1, 2017, and the writers invited to debate the question on Saturday, June 10, 2017 in front of a live audience in New York Mills, Minnesota. Each of the four finalists receives $500, and a chance to win the bronze, silver, or gold medals by participating in this unique civic event. Costs for the winners’ travel, food, and lodging are also covered.

A category of “honorable mentions” will again be acknowledged this year. This new recognition began in 2016 in response to past finalist input and the committee’s effort to showcase the wide variety of high quality essays received in addition to the top four selections. Organizers hope it will once again encourage even more armchair philosophers to participate, knowing that even if they don’t win a trip to New York Mills, their opinions might still be recognized and published.

Also established in 2016 and continuing this year is the rule that past finalists must take a two year break before being considered for another Final Four appearance. This rule was instituted in order to ensure a greater variety of participants enter the contest. However, former finalists are still encouraged to enter and are eligible to receive honorable mentions.

Think-Off LogoAbout the Great American Think-Off:

Now in its 25th year, The Great American Think-Off is an exhibition of civil disagreement between powerful ideas being explored by every day people. Designed to bring philosophy down from the ivory towers of academia and make it accessible for all, the contest has received national acclaim including coverage by C-SPAN, the New York Times, and The Today Show.

The Cultural Center, located in the rural farm and manufacturing town of New York Mills, Minnesota, sponsors this annual philosophy contest and encourages people of all ages and backgrounds to participate.

If you are interested in attending the 2017 Think-Off debate, you can buy tickets online at http://thinkoff2017.brownpapertickets.com or call the Cultural Center at 218-385-3339. Tickets are $15 at the door or $12 in advance.