Elizabeth Anderson Wins MacArthur Fellowship


Elizabeth Anderson, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, is a recipient of a 2019 MacArthur Fellowship.

The MacArthur Fellowships, informally referred to as “genius grants”, are unrestricted, no-strings-attached awards of $625,000, given to “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” The Fellowships are funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

There were 26 Fellows in the 2019 class. Professor Anderson is the only academic philosopher among them. The Foundation says:

Elizabeth Anderson is a philosopher examining how evolving concepts of freedom and equality are experienced in our daily lives. She combines a high level of analytical rigor with a pragmatist methodology in her investigations of the ways various institutions, policies, and social practices structure relations among people and serve to promote or hinder conditions of democratic equality and human flourishing.

In an extensive body of work, Anderson formulates principles based on empirical evidence about problems of practical importance and urgency—from the persistence of racial segregation to the authoritarian aspects of the modern workplace—instead of engaging in thought experiments or posing hypothetical questions about an ideal world. She has made pivotal contributions to a number of philosophical debates on such subjects as the ethical limitations of markets, the effects of gendered distributions of power on the production and reception of knowledge, and the concept of equality. 

Professor Anderson talks about her work in this brief video:

The MacArthur Fellowship program has been in existence since 1981. Professor Anderson is the first academic philosopher to win one of the fellowships since 1993, when Nancy Cartwright and T.M. Scanlon were each awarded one. [Update: a reader notes that writer Rebecca Goldstein, who has a Ph.D. in philosophy and has held academic appointments in various departments throughout her career, won a MacArthur Fellowship in 1996. At the time she either was, or had recently been, a professor of creative writing.]

The fellowship winners this year, as usual, represent a variety of fields and types of work, from jazz guitarist Mary Halvorson to Boston University legal scholar Danielle Citron to graphic novelist Lynda Barry to urban designer Emmanuel Pratt, and so on. A list of this year’s winners is here.  A compete list of past winners is here.

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