Let’s Nominate a Philosopher (updated)

Let’s Nominate a Philosopher (updated)


The National Endowment for the Humanities is now accepting nominations for the National Humanities Medal, which “honors individuals and organizations whose work has deepened our nation’s understanding of and engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy, and other humanities subjects.” This particular prize, which goes to up to twelve people each year, has been in existence since 1997. Since then, a few philosophers have won: John Rawls (1999), John Searle (2004), Kwame Anthony Appiah (2011), and Amartya Sen (2011).

Nominations are open until Friday, April 3rd. So here is an idea: let’s try to agree on one philosopher who should be nominated this time around. After discussing it here, you can then, if you’re so inclined, fill out the brief nominating form on this page. While the winners are not selected by number of nominations, the idea is that a mass of nominations for one candidate will make that candidate stand out to the judges. A win for a philosopher helps philosophy’s visibility both in the academy and with the broader public.

Here is some information on what they’re looking for:

NEH welcomes nominations for individuals and organizations whose activities, contributions, and achievements have significantly enriched the educational, intellectual, and cultural life of the nation. Examples include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • significant scholarship or writing that has expanded our knowledge and understanding of the humanities;
  • outstanding humanities education programs for students, teachers, or adult learners;
  • exemplary television documentaries and radio programs;
  • compelling interpretive exhibitions, reading and discussion programs, or other programs that enrich Americans’ understanding of the humanities;
  • programs that preserve and create access to the nation’s cultural heritage and intellectual legacy;
  • design and implementation of innovative technologies that enhance public, scholarly, or educational access to the humanities; and
  • sustained philanthropic efforts on behalf of humanities activities or organizations.

Individual nominees must be living U.S. citizens or permanent residents who have filed for naturalization. Nominated organizations must be established or incorporated in the United States. Self-nominations are not permitted.

And here is information about the selection process:

The president of the United States selects recipients of the National Humanities Medal in consultation with NEH… The National Endowment for the Humanities initiates and administers the nomination and selection process. Nominations are first considered by the National Council on the Humanities—NEH’s 26-member presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed board of advisors— and then by the Chairman of NEH. The NEH Chairman forwards the agency’s recommendations to the president for consideration with candidates of the president’s own choosing… The principal criterion for selection is the significance of the nominee’s contributions to the humanities.

So, fellow philosophers, who should we nominate this year?

UPDATE (3/15/15): There seems to be a lot of support for Nussbaum. As I said in the comments, I think she is an obvious choice. However, someone sent me the following message, which is worth thinking about: “The thing about Nussbaum, though, is she’s probably going to win one of these anyway, so she doesn’t need something like a campaign to get her there. The interesting thing is to think of someone who might fit the criteria and be deserving but whose nomination would need to be supported by a collective effort.” Any more ideas?

(image: detail of “Sunrise III” by Arthur Dove)

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Michael Bench-Capon
6 years ago

Judith Jarvis Thomson?Report

Jan Dowell
Jan Dowell
6 years ago

Judith Jarvis Thomson also first came to my mind.Report

Rob Tempio
Rob Tempio
6 years ago

I vote for Martha Nussbaum. Having published her, I admit this could come off as self-interested, but it is clear to me that she has done as much as any living philosopher to promote the humanities in the US and throughout the world. Her book Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities has just been translated into its 18th language. She has made important contributions to ancient philosophy, moral and political philosophy, women’s rights, gay rights, animal rights, and economic development amongst other things. She has also been a public voice for the profession contributing to high profile general interest publications. Not to mention all of the previous winners have been male.Report

Scu
Scu
6 years ago

Judith Butler. She revolutionized gender and queer theory, and is now an amazing philosopher on nonviolence and Jewish philosophy.Report

Eddy Nahmias
Eddy Nahmias
6 years ago

Nussbaum.Report

Lee Walters
6 years ago

Chomsky, obviously.Report

J
J
6 years ago

Elizabeth Anderson!Report

John Kulvicki
John Kulvicki
6 years ago

Nussbaum is a nice idea.Report

Rosa Terlazzo
Rosa Terlazzo
6 years ago

I third (or fourth or fifth or whatever) Nussbaum, for all of the reasons given by others.Report

jdkbrown
jdkbrown
6 years ago

I second (or whatever) both Nussbaum and Anderson.Report

Jennifer Morton
Jennifer Morton
6 years ago

Elizabeth Anderson–especially her current work on abolitionismReport

Axel Mueller
Axel Mueller
6 years ago

Hilary Putnam, anyone? After all, his imaginative philosophical ideas have influenced alomst anyone else that would come to mind.Report

Susanna Schellenberg
6 years ago

Martha NussbaumReport

Jan
Jan
6 years ago

Martha, Martha, Martha!Report

Mike Austin (@michaelwaustin)
6 years ago

Martha Nussbaum was the first to come to mind, and seems to me to be a very worthy nominee. It would be nice to have a female philosopher win this prize, too.Report

Sherri Lynn Conklin
6 years ago

Martha NussbaumReport

eee
eee
6 years ago

Angela DavisReport

Krista Thomason
Krista Thomason
6 years ago

Both Angela Davis and Martha Nussbaum would be great choices.Report

anonymous
anonymous
6 years ago

The perjury charge against Martha Nussbaum by John Finnis and Robert George, even after all these these years, will cause some to remain uncomfortable with the Nussbaum nomination. How about Eleonore Stump?http://linguafranca.mirror.theinfo.org/9609/stand.htmlReport

anonymouslbgt
anonymouslbgt
6 years ago

Eleanore Stump is not an appropriate nomination, in my view, and surely in the view of anyone who supports equal treatment for lbgt members of the profession. http://faculty.georgetown.edu/murphym/APAStatement-Murphy.htm
And I don’t think Nussbaum’s support for basic equality (after all, in Romer, it wasn’t even marriage equality at issue, but even more fundamental issues of equality under the law) will be viewed as a strike against her in this part of the 21st century. I would, myself, however, prefer Angela Davis as a nomination.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

Martha Nussbaum is a great choice. If you want other names, how about Christine Korsgaard? Allan Gibbard? Robert Audi? Dan Dennett?

I am dismayed by both comments 20 and 21. I see no good purpose for trying to undercut a nomination in this way when it is perfectly clear that both scholars had legitimate reasons for making the public claims they are criticized for above. I tire of this seemingly popular notion nowadays that we have to agree with all a philosopher’s political or scholarly opinions in order to recognize the great value of her work. I don’t agree with all the political views of John Rawls and I agree with even fewer of the scholarly opinions of John Searle but I’m delighted that such deserving philosophers won the National Humanities Medal.Report

anonymouslbgt
anonymouslbgt
6 years ago

“when it is perfectly clear that both scholars had legitimate reasons for making the public claims they are criticized for”
That is presumably one of the points under dispute. I am of the opinion that there is not one even remotely legitimate reason for holding that it should be acceptable to fire a philosopher for being gay. I am also of the views that (1) so-called ‘debates’ over *this* issue belong in the same category as ‘debates’ over whether being pregnant should be a fireable offense in philosophy, whether the American institution of slavery was horrific, and whether the earth is more than 6000 years old, rather than with debates over Rawlsian Liberalism vs. MacIntyre Communitarianism,; (2) the attempt to categorize the question of whether lbgt members of our profession deserve even the most rudimentary of non-discrimination protections in employment as belonging to the latter rather than the former category is part and parcel of the smoke and mirrors by which actual discriminatory practices against lbgt members of the profession are kept in place.Report

Non-skeptic
Non-skeptic
6 years ago

Can you explain what the connection is between this important issue and the nomination and selection criteria for the award?Report

Clement Loo
Clement Loo
6 years ago

Since Nussbaum has been nixed, I’d vote for Angela Davis or Judith Butler.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

#23, anonymouslbgt, I wrote the comment to which you responded above. I did not understand that the signatories to that letter were claiming, “it should be acceptable to fire a philosopher for being gay.” As I read the letter, it claims that the various signatories differ on particulars set forth in the letter but are, “of one mind that the APA’s policy is not appropriately applied against these schools, either by excluding them from JFP or by marking them as in noncompliance.” That’s a rather different claim from the one you make.

I am dismayed that anyone would think a nomination for the National Humanities Medal is “inappropriate” simply because the philosopher did not think – for whatever reason – the APA ought to exclude or sanction institutions that impose religious requirements related to conduct. Someone could have reason to think that even while believing that the institutions had the wrong policy! Put another way, I find your demands for ideological purity far too strong for the occasion, and part of a depressing trend.Report

Heidi Savage
Heidi Savage
6 years ago

1 very influential philosopher in my thinking that pushed me to think beyond certain borders in feminist theory is Maria Lugones. So maybe Lugones?Report

Heidi Savage
Heidi Savage
6 years ago
Brian E. Butler
Brian E. Butler
6 years ago

Martha Nussbaum absolutelyReport

Aspasia
Aspasia
6 years ago

I find the unanimity of this thread slightly disturbing. Nussbaum is committed to LIBERAL feminism, and I honestly don’t see very strong arguments from her in its favor. Have I lost my mind? ‘Splain this consensus someone, please?Report

Rob Tempio
Rob Tempio
6 years ago

I’m not sure on what basis the person in your update thinks Nussbaum is “probably going to win one of these anyway.” It is possible she will be overlooked and in fact, arguable, she already has been. This is a bit like saying Hilary Clinton is probably going to win the presidency this time so all democrats should vote for someone else. I also think the idea of putting forth someone they might be likely to choose is a good strategy for getting them to choose someone we nominate.Report

H.Nur Beyaz-Erkızan
H.Nur Beyaz-Erkızan
6 years ago

Certainly Nussbaum…For she immensely changed the way of doing philosophy…with her philosophy came to the center of democratic enlightenment and Humanities…She is certainly the leading philosopher of 21.st century, particularly with regard to Humanities…Report