Stichting Internationale Spinozaprijs

p/a organisatiebureau
     Visser's latijn
Kloveniersburgwal 75d
1011 KA Amsterdam

+ 31 (0) 20 4752053


K.v.K. Amsterdam


In order to keep Spinoza’s legacy alive – but even more so, to pay tribute to critical and creative thinkers within his tradition - it was decided in 2011 that every year, a thinker should be brought to the attention of the public. Combined with a current societal theme, a ‘departed’ thinker’s legacy will be honoured in one year; the other year, a contemporary thinker’s will receive attention.

Susan Neiman (1955)

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.

Neiman writes scientific works as well as works for a broader audience.

Her published works include Moral Clarity. A Guide for Grown Up Idealists (Morele helderheid. Goed en kwaad in de 21ste eeuw, 2010, Uitgeverij AMBO|Anthos), Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy (Het kwaad denken. Een andere geschiedenis van de filosofie, 2004, Uitgeverij Boom). She previously published The Unity of Reason: Rereading Kant (1994, NY: Oxford University Press) and Slow Fire: Jewish Notes from Berlin, an autobiography about her life as a Jewish woman in 1980’s Berlin (1992, NY: Schocken).

Immanuel Kant ('dode denker' 1724 – 1804)

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.

Kant explores the possibilities and boundaries of human reason – whether his subject is knowledge, ethics, art or religion. Everyone who regards himself as modern or postmodern is an inheritor of his critical self-evaluation. Thus, Kant’s oeuvre is much more than a series of important scientific texts; it is the very foundation of an era that is still fully in motion.

Within the theme Good & Evil in the 21st Century. The Significance of Political Ideals, the International Spinozaprijs foundation chose Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) as its ‘departed thinker’ of 2013. His legacy will be honoured with an educational introduction for secondary and higher education, authored by Dr. Hans Dijkhuis. The introduction will be published in the course of 2014.

Translations of Kant’s works have previously been published by Royal Boom Publishers in Amsterdam.

Pierre Rosanvallon (1948)

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 ( was added in 2007.

Since the seventies, Rosanvallon has published much discussed work on the theory and history of democracy, French political history, the role of the state and the question of social justice in contemporary society.

In recent years, he has established an international reputation with La contre-démocratie. La politique à l'âge de la défiance (Seuil 2006; in English: Counter-Democracy. Politics in an age of distrust, Cambridge University Press 2008) and La Légitimité démocratique. Impartialité, réflexivité, proximité (2008, in English: Democratic legitimacy: impartiality, reflexivity, proximity, Princeton University Press, Princeton 2011). The study La Société des égaux (Seuil 2011) is his most recent work.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (‘Departed Thinker’ 1712 - 1778)

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.

Richard Sennett (1943)

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. Sennett studied at the University of Chicago and Harvard. In 1969 he received his PhD and left for New York, where he established the Institute of the Humanities as part of the University of New York (cooperating with Susan Sontag and Joseph Brodsky) in the seventies. In the eighties he worked as an advisor for UNESCO and was president of the American Council of Work. In addition, he lectured at Harvard during this period. In the mid-nineties, Sennett started to divide his time between the University of New York and the London School of Economics. He is affiliated with MIT and Trinity College in Cambridge. Sennett is married to sociologist Saskia Sassen.

photo: Thomas Struth

Michael Walzer (1935)

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. He pleads for a pluralistic vision with regard to politics and morality. His latest projects include a study on tolerance and a project about the history of Jewish political thought. Walzer studied in Cambridge and Harvard and subsequently became Full Professor at Harvard and Princeton. At present he works at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton. His most famous books include Spheres of Justice (1983), On Toleration (1997) and Just and Unjust Wars (1977). In light of recent events Just and Unjust Wars has proven more timely than ever justifying the recent Dutch edition of that book: Rechtvaardige en onrechtvaardige oorlogen: Een ethische beschouwing met historische illustraties (Atlas, 2006)

Donna Dickenson (1946)

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. Most of her career, however, has been devoted to 'second chance' education for adults who lacked the opportunity to get a university education: she spent 22 years as a lecturer and counsellor at the Open University and now holds a professorship in Medical Ethics and Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London. She has also held positions as Reader, Imperial College School of Medicine, University of London, and John Ferguson Professor of Global Ethics, University of Birmingham. Dickenson has written some twenty books and sixty articles, with her wide range of publications including not only medical ethics and law but also literary biography, poetry, radio drama and a novel. Her current work centres on the important issues in ethics, law and politics about commodification of the human body and patenting of the human genome. Married to the flautist Christopher Britton, she lives in a village near Oxford.

photo: Christopher Britton

Tzvetan Todorov (1939)

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. Todorov develops into an engaged intellectual and humanist, who puts personal experience at the centre of his work. He writes in an unmistakable literary and personal style about multiculturality (Nous et les Autres, 1989), about racism (Face 1a l'extrême, 1991), humanism (De onvoltooide tuin, 1998) and the totalitarian violence of communism and facism (Herinnering aan het kwaad, bekoring van het goede, 2000).
“Todorov succeeds in bringing the big normative issues of our time – totalitarianism, racism, violence, terrorism, oppression and worldestrangement, but also responsibility, citizenship, resistance, vulnerablilty an the innovative power of individual action – to our attention in a striking manner by finding his departure point within the individual life story.” (quote from the jury-report)

Avishai Margalit (1939)

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. Apart from many books (The Decent Society being one of his most significant works) and articles in various magazines, he also regularly writes for the New York Review of Books. Margalit is one of the founders and active members of Peace Now, Israels major peace-movement. In 2004 Margalit published, together with Ian Buruma the book Occidentalism. The West in the eyes of its enemies.
“In talking with Israeli Arabs and Palestinians he became convinced of the crucial significance/meaning/value of honour and humiliation in peoples lives.” (quote from the jury-report)

Edward Said (1935 - 2003)

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. Said has built an extensive ouevre with works on music, social sciences and politics. He gained name with his actions as politician and advisor in the Palestinian-Israeli issue.
He published, a.o. in The Guardian, Le Monde Diplomatique, and in Al Hayat, the daily in the Arab world. Orientalism is considered to be Saids most significant boek.
“Where Spinoza stands on the threshhold of modern times, Said has already taken leave of the ethnocentric restrictions/limitations of modernism” (quote from the jury-report)