The Berggruen Institute seeks ideas that have the potential to shape a better human future. While modernity has produced a dramatic expansion of knowledge, it has not delivered a commensurate increase in our understanding of our shared human condition. We believe that philosophy, broadly understood as the disciplined intellectual pursuit of wisdom, has a key role to play in making our complex reality more comprehensible and to prepare us to make wiser choices about our future.
Each year we offer the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture, a $1 million award that recognizes humanistic thinkers whose ideas have helped us find direction, wisdom and improved self-understanding in a world being rapidly transformed by social, technological, political, cultural and economic change.
Martha C. Nussbaum has taken her transformative work as an academic philosopher into public debates about key questions of national and global political significance, making her one of the world’s leading public philosophers. Motivated by the desire to understand the conditions for well being in light of the complexity of human existence, she has used the power of literature to reveal and explore the central place of the emotions: vulnerability, anger and fear in moral and political life. A major theme of Nussbaum’s recent work has been the development of the philosophical foundations and practical applications of the “capability approach” to welfare economics. This approach provided a major impetus for the development by the United Nations of its Human Development Index (HDI), which takes into account not only income but also life-expectancy and education; and the use of the HDI has significantly shaped policy and practice around the globe. Nussbaum’s feminist commitment to the equality of women is evident in this, as in all her work.