An annual $1 million award for major achievements in advancing ideas that shape the world.
Peter Singer was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1946, and educated at the University of Melbourne and the University of Oxford. After teaching in England, the United States and Australia, he has, since 1999, been Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University.
Singer first became well-known internationally after the publication of Animal Liberation in 1975. In 2011 Time included Animal Liberation on its “All-TIME” list of the 100 best nonfiction books published in English since the magazine began, in 1923. Singer’s book The Life You Can Save, first published in 2009, led him to found a non-profit organization of the same name that has raised more than US$35 million for the most effective charities assisting people in extreme poverty.
Singer has written, co-authored, edited or co-edited more than 50 books, and his writings have been translated into more than 30 languages. Some of his other well-known books are: Practical Ethics; The Expanding Circle; How Are We to Live?; Rethinking Life and Death, Pushing Time Away; Ethics in the Real World; and Why Vegan? He has recently edited a new edition of what may be the world’s earliest surviving novel, The Golden Ass, by Apuleius.
In 2012 Singer was made a Companion of the Order of Australia, the nation’s highest civic honour. Since 2021, he has been a co-editor of the Journal of Controversial Ideas, which enables authors to publish well-argued controversial essays in a peer-reviewed journal under a pseudonym.
The 2020 winner is Dr. Paul Farmer is a medical anthropologist and physician. He has been a leader in the development of public anthropology, as well as in improving health care for the world’s poorest people. He holds both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Harvard University. He chairs the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard and is a founding director of Partners In Health (PIH), an international non-profit organization that since 1987 has provided direct health care services and undertaken research and advocacy activities on behalf of those who are sick and living in poverty. He also is professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is the United Nations Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Community Based Medicine and Lessons from Haiti. Dr. Farmer is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Margaret Mead Award from the American Anthropological Association, the American Medical Association’s Outstanding International Physician (Nathan Davis) Award, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, and, with his PIH colleagues, the Hilton Humanitarian Prize. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The 2019 winner is Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court of the United States. Ginsburg is a lifelong trailblazer for human rights and gender equality. For more than 26 years, as the second woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, she has authored several notable opinions, including United States v. Virginia, Olmstead v. L.C. and Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc. She has also penned notable dissents, among them, in Shelby County v. Holder, and Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Justice Ginsburg has been a constant voice for justice, equal and accessible to all.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg has received numerous awards, including the American Bar Association’s highest honor, the ABA Medal, also the Thurgood Marshall Award, as well as the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. Additional honors include the Genesis Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Jewish Culture in Sweden’s Gilel Storch Award, in recognition for her contributions to gender equality and civil rights. In 1971, she co-founded the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, and served as the ACLU’s General Counsel, 1973–1980, and on the National Board of Directors, 1974–1980. Ginsburg was appointed a Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1980. Together with Herma Hill Kay and Kenneth Davidson, she authored the first law school textbook on sex-based discrimination. In 2018, Ginsburg was the subject of two critically acclaimed films, the documentary, RBG, and the biopic, On the Basis of Sex. My Own Words, a collection of her writings dating back to her grade school years, was published in 2016.
Image Caption: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States
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.