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Leo Polak thesis prize

Every year, the Foundation Leo Polak presents two prizes available for a master thesis on a topic in the field of personal meanings of life and/or humanization of society. The themes for 2017 are: 

  • Populism
  • Digitalisation and meaning in life
  • “Completed life”


There is a first prize of € 1.250,- and a second prize of € 500,-. The prizes will be awarded by an independent jury.

The prize is intended for students at a Dutch-speaking university or for Dutch-speaking Belgians and Dutchmen at a foreign university who in the academic year  have completed a master thesis.

The assessment criteria are: 

Scientific quality


Presentation and design

The thesis must be assessed by a member of the scientific staff of a Dutch university or Dutch-speaking Belgian university. Only this person is allowed to submit the thesis. The thesis itself should be submitted under a pseudonym, i.e. the name of the author (s) may not in any way be listed on or in the thesis. The thesis is written in the Dutch or English language. 

The members of the jury are:

  • Drs. Leo Samama: musicologist, composer, president of the Leo Polak Foundation

  • Prof. dr. Joachim Duyndam, professor of humanism and philosophy

  • Prof. dr. Alexander Maas,  extraordinary professor of the discipline humanization of care

  • Dr. Els van Wijngaarden, ‎lecturer and researcher Care Ethics

  • Wim Blokland, humanisticus

For further information: Secretariat of the Leo Polak thesis prize, Inge-Marlies Bulsink, The University of Humanistic Studies, Postbus 797, 3500 AT Utrecht, tel. 030 2390119, e-mail 

The deadline is October 1, 2017. Submissions solely as a Word file on USB stick or CD-R, accompanied by 3 printed copies and a recommendation letter from the thesis supervisor why the thesis is eligible for a price. Submit at the above address.

The philosopher and criminal law theorist, freethinker and atheist Leo Polak (1880-1941) was from 1928 until his death Professor of History of Philosophy, Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Groningen. Being a Jew, in 1940 he was forbidden by the occupying power to continue working at the university. He was arrested and died late 1941 in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. In his work he has contributed much to the philosophy of law, the problems of war and peace and ethics.


Polak was a source of inspiration for philosophers, lawyers, humanists and reformers, polemologists and reformers of criminal law and of sexual morality. He was the inspirator for the People’s University and held numerous recitations for the Freethinkers Radio Broadcasting Association. As a freethinker and humanist, Polak was convinced that in order to attain unity among humans, ‘reason’ should by all means be preferred above the ‘division in faith’. The awareness of a fundamental commitment and cohesiveness of all people among each other, a bond that goes beyond all other forms of collectivity, was for Polak the core of humanism.