• 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.

    2023 Prize Recipient

    Sally Haslanger
    Ford Professor of Philosophy and Women & Gender Studies
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    The second recipient of the Prize in Social Philosophy is Sally Haslanger, Ford Professor of Philosophy and Women & Gender Studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    The prize will be conferred on February 8, 2024, at 4:15 p.m. ET at Vanderbilt University, Alumni Hall 202.  Professor Haslanger will present a lecture, “Doing Justice to the Social,” which will be followed by comments by Robin Celikates (Free University Berlin) and Elvira Basevich (UC Davis). 

    The landscape of critical social philosophy, both in North America and a broader global context, has been transformed in fundamental and liberating ways by Sally Haslanger's groundbreaking contributions. In awarding her the prize, the committee recognizes, among numerous other things, the work she has done to advance social philosophy as a discipline by showing that areas of philosophy traditionally conducted without regard to social or political issues—such as metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of language—are both deeply implicated within and have the power to speak to issues of social justice. An incomplete but representative list of her contributions in this regard would include her articulation of new frameworks for understanding the concept of ideology and its critique; her elaboration of a materialist understanding of the nature of social practices and social structures; her clarification and defense of the notions of social and discursive construction, especially as they pertain to matters of race, gender, disability, and ideology; and her ongoing interrogation of the role that philosophy can play in shedding light on social struggles and promoting progressive social change. Haslanger has explored these themes in many publications over the years, most notably Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique (2012); her Spinoza Lectures, published as Critical Theory and Practice (2017); and many other papers, monographs, and publications.

    We would also like to honor Haslanger for her many contributions to the critique and improvement of philosophy as a professional discipline. The prize recognizes her role in founding and convening the Women and Philosophy Task Force, her work co-founding PIKSI Boston, and the many informal and less easily quantifiable ways she has devoted her time and energy to supporting new generations of critical social philosophers from diverse and marginalized backgrounds.

    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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