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How to Give Away a Million Dollars

The author has long argued that donating to save lives, restore sight, or enable a family to escape extreme poverty does more good than donating to a museum or opera. Now, having decided to keep none of the money accompanying the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture, he puts his argument to the test.

PRINCETON – It was recently announced that I am the winner of the 2021 Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture, an annual $1 million award for “major achievements in advancing ideas that shape the world.” I am, of course, delighted that my work has been recognized as doing what I have always hoped it would do: change the world for the better. I am honored to be joining eminent previous winners, of whom the most recent are Martha Nussbaum, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Paul Farmer, and I am thankful to Nicolas Berggruen for his interest and support – all too rare among wealthy investors – of philosophy and ideas.

Once the excitement of the news died down, I began to think about what I would do with the money. It did not take me long to decide to give it away.

First, my wife and I recognize that we have enough money to live comfortably and do the things that really matter to us, and we feel that our children are in a similar position. It helps, of course, that they live in Australia and, unlike much of the world, have safe drinking water, free or affordable health care, and free education for their children.