Who Deserves This Year's Berggruen Prize for Philosophy & Culture?
Established in 2016, the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture is an annual $1 million award that, according to the Berggruen Institute’s website, is:
“given to a thinker whose ideas have profoundly shaped human self-understanding and advancement in a rapidly changing world”
Past recipients of the prize include Charles Taylor (2016), Onora O’Neill (2017), Martha Nussbaum (2018), Ruth Ginsburg (2019), Paul Farmer (2020), Peter Singer (2021), and, most recently, Kojin Karatani (2022).
For this year’s prize, I can think of no philosopher more deserving than David Benatar.
Benatar is a professor of philosophy at the University of Cape Town, most famous—or infamous—for his book Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence. Other noteworthy books by Benatar are The Human Predicament: A Candid Guide to Life’s Biggest Questions and The Second Sexism: Discrimination Against Men and Boys.
In Better Never to Have Been, Benatar argues for the radical (antinatalist) conclusion that it is always morally wrong to bring new sentient beings into existence. In The Human Predicament, Benatar guides his readers toward a sobering view of the human condition. And, in The Second Sexism, Benatar raises awareness about systemic and societal discrimination against men and boys.
Benatar won’t convince everyone, at least not entirely, but no one will come away from his work unchanged in some respect. Benatar challenges us to think about the hard questions in life that, frankly, most professional philosophers, in this day and age, do well to avoid.
A common thread throughout his work, is his compassion for the suffering of others. Personally, I don’t know of any philosopher more compassionate than Benatar, and it’s his deep sense of compassion—rather than his conclusions—which should lead us to reflect and try to better understand ourselves, our relationships, our communities and, indeed, our world.
To nominate David Benatar (or whoever else you think is deserving of the prize), please visit this link and submit your nomination today!
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