$1 Million Annual Berggruen Prize for Philosophy & Culture Awarded to Public Philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum

Eminent Thinker Whose Work Provided a New Framework for Thinking about Human Capabilities; Explores Emotions: Vulnerability, Fear and Anger in Moral and Political Life

Rachel S. Bauch

The Berggruen Prize Jury selected Martha C. Nussbaum as the winner of the 2018 Berggruen Prize for Philosophy & Culture. The $1 million award is given annually to thinkers whose ideas have profoundly shaped human self-understanding and advancement in a rapidly changing world. One of the world’s leading public philosophers, Nussbaum was selected from more than 500 nominees and a shortlist of five, which included some of the world’s most renowned thinkers in fields including sociology, global justice, animal rights, and bioethics.

“Martha C. Nussbaum is rather heroic in the way that she transcends academia. She has taken her transformative and relatable work into public debates about the key questions of national and global political significance. By challenging us to look closely at the capability of humans, as well as our emotions, she has given us strategies for hope and connectivity,” stated Institute Founder and Chairman Nicolas Berggruen. “I am delighted the jury has chosen to award a philosopher who opens windows to other disciplines for this enables us to better understand ourselves and our world.”

Nussbaum has, over the arc of her prolific and distinguished career, displayed the power of literature and the classical world to connect with audiences worldwide. As the author of more than twenty books and the editor of another twenty-one, her works provide a framework to understand vulnerability – particularly the emotions in moral and political life – and the conditions for human wellbeing and happiness. This is evident throughout her oeuvre and particularly in her early works, The Fragility of Goodness and Love’s Knowledge. Nussbaum’s thought surrounding international development and welfare economics – Frontiers of Justice, Women and Human Development, and Creating Capabilities – collaborates with and furthers the work of the economists who designed the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), an idea that replaced older concepts of development (increasing incomes) with human capacities, life expectancy and education, at its center. This “capabilities approach” has significantly shaped contemporary policy and practice in many regions around the globe.

Her deeply original and widely influential books on the emotions beginning with Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of the Emotions, stretching through to Anger & Forgiveness and her pivotal work on our current political moment, The Monarchy of Fear, have contributed important new insights and timely applications of philosophical thought to contemporary issues. Nussbaum shows how philosophy, far from being merely an armchair discipline, offers a greater understanding of who we are, our place in the world, and a way to live a well-lived life.

“The jury is delighted to recognize Martha C. Nussbaum as an outstanding Berggruen laureate,” stated Berggruen Jury Prize Chair Kwame Anthony Appiah. “Few philosophers combine depth and lucidity with elegant and moving prose. I don’t believe any other contemporary philosopher combines these virtues with as great an ability to address and influence a wide public.”

Nussbaum is an active and dedicated member of the teaching faculty at the University of Chicago. She is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, where she is a member of the Law School and the Philosophy department and holds associate appointments in the Divinity School, Political Science and Classics departments. Nussbaum is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Fellow of the British Academy and Academy of Finland; winner of many prestigious awards such as the Kyoto Prize (2016) as well as the University of Chicago Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and holds honorary degrees from sixty colleges and universities in US, Canada, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

Established by philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen, the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy & Culture was first awarded in 2016 to Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor for his impact on the humanities, social sciences and public affairs in deepening understanding among different intellectual traditions and civilization. Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve was the 2017 Berggruen Prize laureate for her work as a citizen philosopher who has elevated the quality of public life and improved the very vocabulary of public discourse.

This year’s Berggruen Prize Jury was headed by Kwame Anthony Appiah and comprised an international group of Nobel laureates, authors, and thinkers including Antonio Damasio, David Chalmers, Amartya Sen, Elif Shafak, Alison Simmons, Wang Hui, and former Berggreuen Prize Jury member Amy Gutmann. The winner of the 2018-2019 Berggruen Prize emerged from a list of finalists from diverse fields of research. The Berggruen Institute administers the Prize and welcomes nominations of thinkers whose ideas have both intellectual depth and long-term social and practical value across nations and cultures.

The Berggruen Prize for Philosophy & Culture was conferred in a private ceremony on December 10, 2018 at the New York Public Library. The ceremony included tribute speeches and the presentation of the Berggruen Prize trophy, an artwork commissioned by Nicolas Berggruen and designed by internationally acclaimed artist Cai Guo-Qiang.

For more from our interview with Martha visit our Youtube Page.


About the Berggruen Institute

The Berggruen Institute’s mission is to develop ideas and shape political, economic and social institutions for the 21st century. Providing critical analysis using an outwardly expansive and purposeful network, the Berggruen Institute brings together some of the best minds and most authoritative voices from across cultural and political boundaries to examine the changes sweeping across the world and to ensure humanity isn’t being lost in the mix. To date, projects inaugurated at the Berggruen Institute have helped develop a youth jobs plan for Europe, fostered a more open and constructive dialogue between Chinese leadership and the West, and strengthened the ballot initiative process in California. The Berggruen Institute partners with The Washington Post, to produce The WorldPost, an award-winning global media platform. Additionally, the $1 million Berggruen Prize is conferred by an independent jury and awarded annually to a thinker whose ideas are helping to shape human self-understanding and advance humankind.

Image Caption: Martha Craven Nussbaum. Courtesy of University of Chicago Law School.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.

RAVE (IRCAM 2021) https://github.com/acids-ircam/RAVE