About the Award

Initiated by the Helmuth Plessner Society (HPG), the city of Wiesbaden founded a prize in honor of Helmuth Plessner, the so-called Helmuth Plessner Award. The prize consists of € 20,000. The HPG and Wiesbaden will award the prize every three years on Plessner’s birthday, the 4th of September. The first award was granted in the year 2014 to Michael Tomasello.

There are several reasons why the HPG initiated the Wiesbaden Helmuth Plessner Award. Helmuth Plessner was born in Wiesbaden in 1892. He lived in this Weltkurstadt (‘world spa town’) during the first twenty years of his life. His father, who was of Jewish origin, was a physician and director of a sanatorium and well-recognized in the city. After passing his Abitur (German university entrance qualification) at the Alexander-von-Humboldt-Gymnasium, Plessner began his studies of both zoology and philosophy in Heidelberg; later he studied philosophy in Göttingen and Erlangen. In 1920 he passed his Habilitation and became an associate professor of philosophy at the newly founded University of Cologne, where Max Scheler held a similar position. Plessner wrote his most important works in the 1920s at his parent’s dinner table in Wiesbaden, during the University of Cologne’s semester breaks. When in 1933 he was dismissed from his position at university due to his father’s Jewish descent, he decided to go into exile in the Netherlands, more specifically Groningen. After his remigration in 1949, now a sociologist at the university of Göttingen, he became one of the most important intellectuals of the young Federal Republic of Germany, alongside Horkheimer, Adorno, and Gehlen. Plessner’s book Die Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch is among the most prominent intellectual approaches of philosophical anthropology. After the revolutionary wave of 1989, his work Die Grenzen der Gemeinschaft (translated as The Limits of Community) from 1924 was considered a meaningful early analysis of the fundamental conflicts of the twentieth century, even beyond academic circles.

The city of Wiesbaden and the HPG have commonly agreed on the statute of the Helmuth Plessner Award. According to this statute, the awarding committee consists, on the basis of parity, of scientists of the Helmuth Plessner Society (Joachim Fischer (president), Marco Russo (vice-president), Olivia Mitscherlich-Schönherr (general secretary), Hans Peter Krüger (former president)), and of members who are nominated by the city of Wiesbaden (mayor Sven Gerich, Rose Lore Scholz (head of the Department of Culture), Tilman Allert (Goethe University Frankfurt), Detlev Reymann (University of Applied Sciences Wiesbaden), and, in addition, of the journalist Lorenz Jäger (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), who was recommended by both sides).

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