The following post, written by Jason Steinhauer, was originally published on the blog Insights: Scholarly Work at the John W. Kluge Center.
Jürgen Habermas and Charles Taylor, two of the world’s most important philosophers, will share the prestigious $1.5 million John W. Kluge Prize for Achievement in the Study of Humanity awarded by the Library of Congress. The announcement was made today by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. They are the ninth and tenth recipients of the award.
“Jürgen Habermas and Charles Taylor are brilliant philosophers and deeply engaged public intellectuals,” Billington said. “Emerging from different philosophical traditions, they converge in their ability to address contemporary problems with a penetrating understanding of individual and social formations. Highly regarded by other philosophers for their expertise, they are equally esteemed by the wider public for their willingness to provide philosophically informed political and moral perspectives. Through decades of grappling with humanity’s most profound and pressing concerns, their ability to bridge disciplinary and conceptual boundaries has redefined the role of public intellectual.”
Jürgen Habermas is one the world’s most important living philosophers. Born in Düsseldorf, Germany in 1929, Habermas emerged as the most important German philosopher and socio-political theorist of the second half of the 20th century. His books, articles and essays number in the hundreds, and he has been widely read and translated into more than 40 languages, including Arabic, Catalan, Chinese, Danish, English, French, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. His major contributions encompass the fields of philosophy, social sciences, social theory, democratic theory, philosophy of religion, jurisprudence and historical and cultural analysis. He continues to publish actively.
“Jürgen Habermas is a scholar whose impact cannot be overestimated,” Billington said. “In both his magisterial works of theoretical analysis and his influential contributions to social criticism and public debate, he has repeatedly shown that Enlightenment values of justice and freedom, if transmitted through cultures of open communication and dialogue, can sustain social and political systems even through periods of significant transformation.”
Born in 1931 in Montreal, Canada, Charles Taylor, like Habermas, ranks among the world’s most original and wide-ranging philosophical minds. Educated at McGill University and as a Rhodes Scholar, at Oxford University, Taylor is best known for his contributions to political philosophy, the philosophy of social science, the history of philosophy and intellectual history, his work has received international acclaim and has influenced academia and the world at-large. Published in 20 languages, his writings link disparate academic disciplines and range from reflections on artificial intelligence to analyses of contemporary multicultural societies to the study of religion and what it means to live in a secular age.
“Charles Taylor is a philosopher of extraordinary eminence,” Billington said. “His writings reveal astonishing breadth and depth, ranging across subjects as diverse as metaphysics, modern culture, human conduct and behavior, modernization and the place of religion in a secular age. He writes with a lucidity that makes his work accessible to the non-specialist reader, ensuring that his contributions to our understanding of agency, freedom, spirituality and the relation between the natural sciences and the humanities will be of lasting import.”
About the Prize
Endowed by philanthropist John W. Kluge, the Kluge Prize recognizes achievement in the range of disciplines not covered by the Nobel prizes, including history, philosophy, politics, anthropology, sociology, religion, criticism in the arts and humanities, and linguistics.
Administered by The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, ordinarily the Prize is a $1 million award. In 2015 the Kluge Prize is increased to $1.5 million in recognition of the Kluge Center’s 15th anniversary. Each awardee will receive half of the prize money.
Previous Kluge Prizes have been awarded to Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski (2003); historian Jaroslav Pelikan and philosopher Paul Ricoeur (2004); African-American historian John Hope Franklin and Chinese historian Yu Ying-shih (2006); historian Peter Lamont Brown and Indian historian Romila Thapar (2008); and Brazilian President and sociologist Fernando Henrique Cardoso (2012).