An annual $1 million award for major achievements in advancing ideas that shape the world.
Martha C. Nussbaum has taken her transformative work as an academic philosopher into public debates about key questions of national and global political significance, making her one of the world’s leading public philosophers. Motivated by the desire to understand the conditions for well being in light of the complexity of human existence, she has used the power of literature to reveal and explore the central place of the emotions: vulnerability, anger and fear in moral and political life. A major theme of Nussbaum’s recent work has been the development of the philosophical foundations and practical applications of the “capability approach” to welfare economics. This approach provided a major impetus for the development by the United Nations of its Human Development Index (HDI), which takes into account not only income but also life-expectancy and education; and the use of the HDI has significantly shaped policy and practice around the globe. Nussbaum’s feminist commitment to the equality of women is evident in this, as in all her work.
Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve was the recipient of the 2017 Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture. Her work has elevated the quality of public life and improved the very vocabulary of public discourse. Professor O’Neill combines pure theory—particularly, but not solely, of the Kantian kind—with its practical enactment. As a result, her service has been both intellectual and political. She has served the United Kingdom as the chair of its Equality and Human Rights Commission, as chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and as a member of the Human Genetics Advisory Commission, all of which play central roles in formulating and implementing just policy. Her public service has been acknowledged by many civil honors, in Britain and elsewhere, including appointment to the House of Lords.
The inaugural recipient of the Berggruen Prize was the distinguished Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, whose work urges us to see humans as constituted not only by their biology or their personal intentions but also by their existence within language and webs of meaningful relationships. Taylor’s work exemplifies the importance of philosophy that reaches beyond narrow disciplinary boundaries and has been influential in political science, sociology, anthropology, literature and the study of religion as well as in philosophy. A leading public intellectual in Quebec, in Canada and around the world, Taylor has been a voice for political unity that respects cultural diversity.