• Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Social Philosophy

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  • The Prize for Distinguished Achievement in Social Philosophy recognizes groundbreaking, courageous, critical work in social philosophy. 

    In the past two decades, philosophers of different traditions and in different places have become increasingly interested in questions of social epistemology; social ontology; theories about social groups, institutions, categories, and identities; and critical theories of race, gender, class, ability, animality, and the natural environment. 

    In 2019, a group of faculty and students at The New School for Social Research and Vanderbilt University created the prize as an expression of a shared conviction of the importance of this world-oriented and politically engaged philosophizing. 

    The biennial prize recognizes work that challenges established methodological and disciplinary boundaries; renews historical traditions of critical social thought; and confronts the crises, struggles, and social problems of the present. In particular, the prize is designed to recognize work that expands the discipline in productive and exciting ways, making room for younger scholars to work on topics that, while important, were not previously regarded as legitimate.

    For more information, please contact Alice Crary, University Distinguished Professor at NSSR, and Matt Congdon, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, at [email protected] and visit the Prize website.

    2020-2021 Prize Recipient and Conferral Information

    Robert Gooding-Williams
    M. Moran Weston/Black Alumni Council Professor of African-American Studies, Professor of Philosophy and of African American and African Diaspora Studies
    Columbia University

    The inaugural prize was conferred online at an event on Thursday, April 29, 6:00–8:00 p.m. ET. Professor Gooding-Williams presented a lecture, “Du Bois, Democracy and Aesthetic Education,” followed by brief comments by Cristina Beltrán (New York University) and Linda Zerilli (University of Chicago).

    "This gesture is in recognition of your multifaceted, groundbreaking contributions to social philosophy. While these are too numerous to mention here, we mean to include, among many other things, your arguments, starting in the 1980s, for treating questions about race as representing not just a valid but decisive area for philosophical study; your work as a historian of American and, in particular, African-American social and political thought, and as the author of In the Shadow of Du Bois, a work that established you as one of the world’s most respected scholars of W.E.B. Du Bois; your work as a specialist in nineteenth- and twentieth-century European philosophy, with particular emphases on Nietzsche and questions of aesthetics; and your work as a social critic and essayist with an unswerving focus on the horrors of the persistence of white supremacy in the US and, above all, on its manifestations as anti-black racism.

    "We would like to honor you for the insight and originality with which you bring these nominally different intellectual pursuits together, for instance, in your argument for situating Frederick Douglass and Du Bois squarely within the canon of political philosophy and in your appeal to the logic of aesthetic modernism as a model for understanding the dynamics of liberating social change. We would also like to honor you for your unusually intense devotion to your political and philosophical ideals with reference not only to your distinguished scholarship but also to your teaching and service to the profession."

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