Prize Competition: The Goethe-Institut's Award for Young Philosophers

Prize Competition

"Universality vs. Relativity of Interpretations of Self and World - Opposition, Difference or Unity?"
Goethe-Institut's Award for Young Philosophers
2011 Edition in Intercultural Philosophy
Munich (Germany)

The Goethe-Institut’s Award for Young Philosophers

The Goethe-Institut has initiated a sponsorship award for young philosophers within the framework of the XXIIth German Congress of Philosophy. The prize will be awarded for the first time in Munich in 2011, within the broader context of the congress.

By offering this award for innovative next-generation philosophers, the Goethe-Institut seeks to contribute to empowering philosophy as a field of activity in international cultural and educational policy, and at the same time to clearly situate philosophy once again as a potential field of production for societal orientation.

The focus for 2011 is on the area of Intercultural Philosophy. Postdocs addressing issues of Intercultural Philosophy as outlined in what follows are encouraged to participate:

Universality vs. Relativity of Interpretations of Self and World – Opposition, Difference or Unity?

The accelerated transformation of cultures and forms of knowledge is generating mutually opposing movements world-wide. Numerous renaissances of traditional value horizons and interpretations of the world in various non-European philosophies are pointing up an unresolved problem. While western modes of interpretation of self and world are losing their orientative function and are paying for advances in knowledge with a loss of orientation, the various non-European philosophies of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism, as well as Hinduism and Islam, are claiming a renewed authoritativeness and definiteness of ultimate value horizons.

Concomitant with these developments, both tradition and breach with tradition count among the decisive challenges of a world in the process of accelerating coalescence. If both sides are to avoid persisting in unstable and potentially hostile antagonisms, transparency of premisses and respective delineation of the one side’s arguments and the other’s are necessary. At the same time, the current conflict between universal values and the concept of culturally relative value horizons can be reduced to fundamental questions concerning not only the relationship of cultures to each other, but also the cultures’ own, innermost cores. Tradition can turn dogmatic if it is believed that it may claim validity solely on the basis of its provenance. Breach with tradition can produce scepticism and relativism if it is believed that anything that eludes rational argumentation must be a priori suspect.

How can philosophy meet this challenge? Can it discover topoi of rapprochement or mediation between the relativity and scepticism of our scientific knowledge and the unquestionable authoritativeness of primary value horizons, between universality and relativity or particularity?

Clarification of these questions can be achieved only in philosophical contexts. And since universalistic and particularistic positions are to be found in equal measure in all world philosophies, this opposition per se is the issue to be investigated. What – the questions might run – are the potentials and limitations of both approaches? In what ways are both positions in fact internally linked and interrelated? How is rapprochement above and beyond the oppositions possible?

(Prof. Dr. Claudia Bickmann, Universität zu Köln)

Conditions for Entry

The call for papers is aimed at junior researchers, primarily post-docs, but is also open to doctoral and habilitation candidates and junior professors. There is no age limit.

Participation is expressly not limited to German-speaking philosophers. The prerequisite is the submission of a contribution in German or English that formulates new philosophical approaches to the topic area outlined above, and/or offering the prospect of initiating debates in an international context.

The Goethe-Institut has a fundamental interest in imparting science and scholarship to the public. It is therefore desirable for philosophical impulses to be developed in ways that are as much aligned as possible with actual practice in accordance with the perception of reality as living process.

Submission of Contributions

Contest contributions can be submitted through Monday, January 10 2011 to:

Frau Anja Riedeberger
Bereich 31 - Wissenschaft und Zeitgeschehen
Goethe-Institut, Zentrale München
Dachauer Str. 122
D-80637 München
Tel: +49 89 15921-446
Fax: +49 89 15921-237
Email: riedeberger(at)

Your contribution should be no longer than 20 pages (47,000 characters), and fulfill internationally accepted standards and requirements. You must also include a CV and a statement that your contribution was authored independently by you and was composed using only those resources that you have listed separately.


Selection from among the contributions submitted will be carried out by a jury chosen for this purpose. Among the members are representatives of the Philosophical Faculty of the University of Cologne, the Advisory Council on Science and Current Affairs of the Goethe-Institut, and representatives of the Goethe-Institut itself. The selection of the award winner for 2011 will be concluded by April 15 of the same year.


The award consists of a total of 3000 € earmarked as a subsidy for publication costs or project funding. The Goethe-Institut must be expressly mentioned in the publication or in the context of the project. An unearmarked disbursal is not possible.

The chosen candidate will be invited to the XXII. German Congress on Philosophy at the expense of the Goethe-Institut.

At the same time, the Goethe-Institut will endeavour to provide contacts with its institute branches abroad, to the extent that programmes in the framework of the Federal Government’s Department of International Cultural and Educational Policy are planned there that intersect with the award winner’s area of research.

Furthermore, the awardee will be given the option to register with the Alumniportal Deutschland for the purpose of “securing and expanding contacts and expertise and of using them for their personal and professional development“.