Berggruen Prize: For Ideas that Shape the WorldLast year (as I mentioned here) Taylor won (with Jürgen Habermas) the John W. Kluge Prize.
The Berggruen Prize is awarded annually to a thinker whose ideas are of broad significance for shaping human self-understanding and the advancement of humanity. It seeks to recognize and encourage philosophy in the ancient sense of the love of wisdom and in the 18th Century sense of intellectual inquiry into all the basic questions of human knowledge. It rewards thinkers whose ideas are intellectually profound but also able to inform practical and public life across the range of world civilizations.
Great transformations are reshaping almost every aspect of human existence today. The very idea of the human is challenged by new technologies that not only take on tasks once thought intrinsically human but also are increasingly able to change human bodies. Economic, social, and cultural changes are also profound. Established political systems confront pressure at both national and international levels.
In this context, people seek wisdom in both new ideas and renewal of old traditions. But which new ideas should be welcome and what old traditions remain important?
To answer these questions, philosophy is vital not just as an academic discipline but as a source of intellectual and moral orientation in the world. Philosophy adequate to this task depends on advancing knowledge of the world as it is and as it changes, on ideas that both grasp and shape it, and on critical reason and debate that continually interrogate those ideas. Such philosophy is strengthened by a capacity to learn from the different forms of scholarship and intellectual perspective embedded in different civilizations. It also draws widely on humanities and social science and engages natural science and technology.
The Berggruen Prize is awarded for philosophy in this broad sense – deep intellectual work and cultural creativity that can help individual human beings and humanity as a whole find direction and wisdom in a rapidly changing and constantly challenging world.
The essay by Taylor that has had the greatest impact on my own work is “What’s Wrong with Negative Liberty?” Not only did it influence the way in which I understand liberty and its value, but I regularly teach it in my seminars on ‘political conceptions of freedom.’