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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