On the initiative of the Helmuth Plessner Society (HPG), the city of Wiesbaden founded a prize in honor of Helmuth Plessner, the Helmuth Plessner Award. The award carries a monetary prize of € 20,000. The HPG and the city of Wiesbaden award the prize every three years on Plessner’s birthday, September 4th. The award’s first recipient in 2014 was Michael Tomasello.
Helmuth Plessner was born in Wiesbaden in 1892 and lived in this Weltkurstadt (“world’s spa”) until he was twenty. His father, who was of Jewish origin, was a physician and director of a sanatorium and well respected in the city. After passing his Abitur (German university entrance qualification) at the Alexander-von-Humboldt-Gymnasium, Plessner began his zoology and philosophy studies in Heidelberg; later he studied philosophy in Goettingen and Erlangen. He passed his habilitation in 1920 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 at his parents’ dinner table in Wiesbaden, during the University of Cologne’s semester breaks. When he was dismissed from his position in 1933 due to his father’s Jewish descent, he went into exile in Groningen in the Netherlands. Upon his remigration in 1949, he took a position in the sociology department at the University of Goettingen, becoming one of the most important intellectuals of the young Federal Republic of Germany alongside Horkheimer, Adorno, and Gehlen. Plessner’s book Levels of Organic Life and the Human is one of the most important contributions to philosophical anthropology. After the revolutionary changes of 1989, his 1924 work The Limits of Community came to be seen, even beyond academic circles, as a valuable early analysis of the crucial conflicts of the twentieth century.
The city of Wiesbaden and the HPG together formulated the bylaws governing the Helmuth Plessner Award. In line with these bylaws, the awards committee is made up of four members of the Helmuth Plessner Society (Joachim Fischer, president; Marco Russo, vice-president; Olivia Mitscherlich-Schoenherr, general secretary; Hans-Peter Krueger, former president) and four individuals 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) as well as the journalist Lorenz Jaeger (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), who was recommended by both.