Nussbaum Wins Holberg Prize

Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, has been named the winner of the 2021 Holberg Prize.

The Holberg Prize, established by the Norwegian Parliament in 2003, is “awarded annually to a scholar who has made outstanding contributions to research in the humanities, social science, law or theology, either in one of these fields or through interdisciplinary work.” The prize is 6,000,000 Norwegian Krone (approximately $702,000).

The award announcement says:

Nussbaum is one of the most well-known and productive philosophers writing today, and her academic career spans more than four and a half decades. Her research interests include ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, political philosophy, philosophy of literature, feminism, and ethics, as well as animal rights. Nussbaum has also given significant scholarly contributions to fields such as legal studies, economics, education, and the measurement of quality of life independently of culture.  

In addition to her many scholarly achievements, Nussbaum is a prolific public intellectual. She is known for carrying her stupendous intellectual energy and productivity to address issues of major academic concern, as well as issues that have concrete economic, political, and legal impact. Hence, she has been highly influential in the areas of development, justice and human rights. 

The official award ceremony will take place in June at the University of Bergen, public health permitting.

Other philosophers who have won the Holberg Prize include Onora O’Neill (2017), Ian Hacking (2009), Ronald Dworkin (2007), Jürgen Habermas (2005), and Julia Kristeva (2004).

Related: One of the World’s Most Successful — and Different — PhilosophersMartha Nussbaum Wins $1 Million Berggruen PrizeNussbaum Uses Berggruen Winnings to Fund Discussions on Challenging IssuesNussbaum Receives The “Highest Honor” Federal Gov’t Bestows for HumanitiesMartha Nussbaum Wins Kyoto PrizeNussbaum Wins Quinn PrizeMartha Nussbaum Cuts Her Own Hair


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Not a philosopher
Not a philosopher
2 years ago

Congratulations to Prof. Nussbaum. I must say, though, that I find it difficult to justify giving large monetary awards to already well-off academics far into retirement age. If the Norwegian Parliament wanted to promote philosophy, surely it could have found a more productive use for its tax money.

A philosopher
A philosopher
Reply to  Not a philosopher
2 years ago

Part of the issue might be that they’re outsiders to philosophy and not familiar with names in the field who don’t have the same public renown as someone like Nussbaum, and it doesn’t occur to them that those people exist. To them, a figure like Nussbaum already borders on esoteric.

Louis F. Cooper
Louis F. Cooper
2 years ago

The stated aim of the Holberg Prize is to “increase awareness of the value of academic scholarship in the humanities, social sciences, law and theology.” (There’s also an associated prize for “outstanding Nordic scholars” under age 35.) Does giving a prize and some additional recognition (at least in Norway) to established, well-known scholars further the stated goal? I don’t know; I’d say it’s an open question. It depends partly on how heavily you want to lean on the phrase “increase awareness” and how much of an increase counts. Making one additional person aware of the prize recipient’s work is an “increase in awareness,” but obviously the founders of the Prize intended something more than that.