Since 1999, the Internationale Spinozaprijs Foundation has awarded a biennial prize to internationally renowned thinkers who concern themselves with ethics and society. Eligible are internationally renowned scientists, philosophers and writers who have made their mark researching society’s ethical principles.
The prize consists of a sculpture and a sum of ten thousand Euros. A special publication, which gives an introduction to the laureate’s work, is also presented at the ceremony.
Within the theme “Europe”, the International Spinoza prize Foundation honours as “dead” thinker Jan Patočka (1907-1977). Patočka is considered one of the most important Czech philosophers, and one of the main twentieth century philosophers in Central Europe. He was not just a philosopher but an activist as well who died in prison after long interrogation by the secret service.
The Internationale Spinozaprijs Foundation honours Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) as its ‘departed thinker’ within the theme ‘The Outsider’. Arendt spent her entire life researching the deeper layer beneath –and behind– the political topicality of the past and present. Her way of thinking is characterised by its starting point: the accurate perception of concrete situations. In addition, she puts mankind and personal responsibility above all, and she instructs us to approach the world unfalteringly, to understand it better, and to act in it freely and together with others.
The Palestinian Edward Said spent his childhood in Jeruzalem and Cairo. He recieved his scientific training in America and taught as professor at the Columbia University in New York. Central theme in Said's thinking is the influence of colonialism on western thought regarding the Orient.
Avishai Margalit lives in Jeruzalem and works there as professor of Philosophy at Hebrew University. In recent years he has mainly been busy with political philosophy. In his thinking he, in a surprising way, uses the notion of decency as a measure for civilization/culture. He examines concrete situations where people are humiliated, and demonstrates how showing respect helps towards creating a decent society.
Tzvetan Todorov was born, as he puts it, at the worst time of the 20th century in communist Bulgaria: “the year that the pact between Germany and the Soviet Union was made, that (...) Stalin and Hitler shook each others hand.”. In 1963 he flees communism and settles in Paris, but totalitarian society will continue to be one of his major politcal themes.
Born in New England in 1946, Donna Dickenson obtained her BA in Political Science from Wellesley College and her MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics. After leaving the United States in protest against the Vietnam War, she settled in England, where her son and daughter were born. In addition to her academic posts, she has worked in a court reform project in New York City, a futurology institute, and the main New York newsroom of the Associated Press.
Michael Walzer (New York, 1935) is one of the most prominent political thinkers of our time. He has published innumerable books and articles about the duties of politics, about nationality and ethnicity and about economic justice in the welfare state. H
Richard Sennett was born in Chicago in 1943. He grew up in the Cabrini Green Housing-project, one of the first multi-ethnic social housing projects in the United States. As a six-year-old he started studying the piano and the cello and worked with Frank Miller of Chicago Symphony and Claus Adam of the Julliard Quartet. Sennett was one of the last students of the conductor Pierre Monteux. In 1963, a hand injury meant a sudden end of his musical career. He then turned to academics.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was selected within the theme ‘democratie in opspraak’ (‘compromised democracy’). This French philosopher’s thoughts about a state that is structured to take care of its people without taking away their freedom, constituted a new movement. Rousseau’s legacy forms the basis for a discussion about democracy. We created an educational introduction for secondary and higher education, which can be ordered by schools from the Internationale Spinozaprijs Foundation free of charge. Others interested in this content may download it under the ‘Activities’ tab.
Pierre Rosanvallon is one of today’s most important and diverse political thinkers. In addition to the position of Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), he has held the Chair of Modern and Contemporary History of Politics at the Collège de France since 2001. He also plays a leading role in the political debate, for instance through the think-tank La République des Idées, established in 2002, to which the website La Vie des Idées (www.laviedesidees.fr) was added in 2007.
In the last two centuries, few thinkers have left a mark as clear as Immanuel Kant. Kant’s works, especially his Critique of Pure Reason (1781 and 1787), brought about a philosophical upheaval as important as the political changes caused by the French revolution of 1789. The thinkers who became the mouthpieces of our time – like Schopenhauer, Heidegger, Wittgenstein and Lyotard- confirmed that our world only became truly modern with Kant’s ideas.
American moral philosopher Susan Neiman (1955) is director of the Einstein Forum research institute in Potsdam. She studied philosophy at Harvard University as well as Berlin’s Freie Universität and was an Associate Professor at Yale University and Tel Aviv University.
Hannah Arendt is one of the twentieth century’s most important political thinkers. The German-Jewish philosopher was born in 1906 and grew up in in Königsberg. She studied philosophy under Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers. When the Nazi regime came to power, she fled via Paris to the United States, where she lived until her death in 1975.
Kwame Anthony Appiah (1955) is a British-Ghanaian philosopher and writer. A son of Ghanaian politician Joe Appiah and children’s book writer Peggy Cripps, he was born in London but spent his childhood in Ghana. He returned to the United Kingdom to study. He earned his Ph. D. in philosophy at Clare College, Cambridge University.
Foto: Jindřich Přibík
Jan Patočka was born in Bohemia in 1907. He died in Prague in 1977, forty years ago. He is considered one of the most important Czech philosophers, and one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century in Central Europe. Patočka´s main themes are subject body, human community, and the understanding of "world."
Dominique Moïsi is an influential French-Jewish political scientist and an acclaimed expert on international relations. In Paris, the city where he lives, he is connected to the Institut Montaigne; and he is co-founder of the Institut français des Relations Internationales. Recently, he has been visiting professor at Harvard University and King’s College in London. He is also author of several widely acclaimed books. The most well-known, The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope are Reshaping the World, has been translated in Dutch.