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Think Tank Creates $1 Million Philosophy Prize Because 'Ideas Matter'

"What's really behind politics is culture ... and culture is philosophy."

The Berggruen Institute, an independent think tank based in Santa Monica, California, announced a $1 million prize for achievements in philosophy.

The reason, says billionaire philanthropist and Berggruen Institute chairman Nicolas Berggruen, is that, "ideas really matter."

Berggruen told HuffPost Live in an interview on Tuesday that he thinks philosophical achievements should be rewarded the same way that the Nobel Prize recognizes achievements in science, literature and human relations.

The prize would be the second-largest monetary award in the world for philosophy, behind the U.K.'s Templeton prize, which is worth about $1.8 million.

The annual prize winner will be chosen in fall of 2016 by a jury of nine leading thinkers from both the West and the East, including from India and China, said Berggruen.

The bridge between East and West also drives the creation of the Institute's Philosophy and Culture Center, the larger initiative that includes the philosophy prize. The center is a branch of the Institute's think tank that will address cross-cultural questions and issues.

While the Institute has focused in the past on politics and governance, it now looks to understand the origins of such institutions through their philosophical and cultural roots.

"What's really behind politics is culture ... and culture is philosophy, it's religion, it's the traditions that have really shaped us," Berggruen said.

Berggruen added that cultural relations will be key to a world that has two superpowers, the U.S. and China, which have very different philosophical traditions.

He explained that since "cultures here and in the Far East, especially China, are very very different," cross-cultural understanding will be important "not just for the curiosity and the pleasure of learning, but really because we have to coexist" as two world powers.

The Berggruen Institute partnered with The Huffington Post to launch The WorldPost in 2014. 

The institute's new center also includes plans for a fellowship program connecting thinkers with universities around the world and the Aspen-Berggruen Ideas Contest.

 

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