Kwame Anthony Appiah

Kwame Anthony Appiah

Professor of Philosophy and Law, New York University


Kwame Anthony Appiah teaches philosophy at NYU in the Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS) and the Law School; he has taught previously at Princeton, Harvard, Duke, Cornell, Yale, Cambridge and the University of Ghana. He grew up in Ghana and was educated at Cambridge University, where he took undergraduate and doctoral degrees in philosophy. He has written widely in philosophy of mind and language, ethics and political philosophy, and the philosophy of art, of culture and of the social sciences; as well as in literary studies, where his focus has been on African and African-American literature. His current research focuses on questions about the connection between theory and practice in moral life. Professor Appiah is the editor, with Henry Louis Gates Jr., of the five-volume Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African-American Experience (Oxford University Press, 2005). In 1992, he published the prize-winning In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture . His recent publications include The Ethics of Identity (Princeton University Press, 2005),  Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (Norton, 2006), Experiments in Ethics (Harvard University Press, 2009), The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen (Norton, 2010), and Lines of Descent: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Invention of Identity (Harvard 2014). Several of these books are available in translation into Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Korean, and Turkish, as well as a variety of other European languages. A Decent Respect: Honor in the Life of People and of Nations , based on the 2013 Hochelaga Lectures at the University of Hong Kong, is forthcoming from the University of Hong Kong Press.

Appiah served as chairman of the jury for the annual Berggruen Prize from its inception in 2016 through 2021.

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.