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For Second Kluge Prize, A Double Win

Philosopher, Historian To Split $1 Million Award

By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 29, 2004; Page C01

Yale historian Jaroslav Pelikan and French philosopher Paul Ricoeur are winners of the Library of Congress's second John W. Kluge Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Human Sciences. The two scholars will share the $1 million award, which will be announced today by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.

The awards ceremony will be held Dec. 8 at the library. The prize, named for media magnate Kluge, honors achievement in the humanities and social sciences. The first winner was Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski.


The Library of Congress's prize honors Yale historian and philosopher Paul Ricoeur, who lives in Paris after years in America. (Arturo Patten -- Library of Congress)

Of Pelikan and Ricoeur, Billington said, "Each illustrates an exemplary approach to humanistic scholarship."

Born in 1923 in Akron, Pelikan graduated from Concordia College in Fort Wayne, Ind. He received a divinity degree from the Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis and his doctorate from the University of Chicago.

He was a professor at Valparaiso University in Indiana, Concordia Theological Seminary and the University of Chicago. He got a job as a history professor at Yale University and from 1973 to 1978 was dean of the graduate school. He has written about and translated the works of Martin Luther and is author of "The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine," a five-volume series, and other books.

In a written statement, Billington said that Pelikan "is concerned with the history and practice of worship in its doctrinal and creedal forms over two millennia."

Ricoeur was born in Valence, France, in 1913. He studied philosophy in Rennes and received degrees from the University of Rennes in 1932 and from the Sorbonne in 1935 and 1950. Over the years he was a professor at College Cevenol, the University of Strasbourg and the Sorbonne.

He eventually moved to the United States and taught philosophy at Yale and the University of Chicago. He went back to France in 1991 and lives in Paris.

He has written (or co-written) a long list of books, including "What Makes Us Think?" and "Memory, History, and Forgetting."

In a statement, Billington said that Ricoeur "draws on the entire tradition of western philosophy to explore and explain common problems: What is a self? How is memory used and abused? What is the nature of responsibility? He is a constant questioner -- always pressing to understand the nature and limits of what constitutes our humanity."

When asked why the two men have to share a prize -- why not give one man a prize this year and the other a prize next, Billington replied, "We could have done it some other way. It was hard to pick one, frankly, and honor the process. It seemed like a good idea, illustrating two different modes of scholarship."

He added, "I don't think we're going to make this a regular habit."


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