Martha Nussbaum Wins $1 Million Berggruen Prize

Jennifer Schuessler

The philosopher and classicist Martha Nussbaum has been named the winner of the 2018 Berggruen Prize, which is awarded annually to a thinker whose ideas “have profoundly shaped human self-understanding and advancement in a rapidly changing world.”

The prize, which carries a cash award of $1 million, will be awarded at a ceremony in New York in December.

Dr. Nussbaum, 71, is the author or editor of more than 40 wide-ranging books covering topics including the place of the emotions (including negative ones like disgust) in political life, the nature of human vulnerability, the importance of liberal education and connections between classical literature and the contemporary world.

She is also known for helping to advance the so-called capabilities approach to economic development, which holds that progress should be measured by things like increases in life expectancy and education, rather than simply by increases in income.


Her work, the prize announcement said, “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.”

Dr. Nussbaum, a professor at the University of Chicago and one of the most visible philosophers in the United States, has frequently weighed in on subjects of pressing political and legal debate, including same-sex marriage. In “The Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis,” published in July and inspired by the election of Donald J. Trump, she revisits themes from her earlier work, looking at how our “animal vulnerability” can both drive us toward cooperation and be used to sow mistrust and division.

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.