Prof. Dr. Erasmus Mayr awarded major prize for philosophy

Portrait Erasmus Mayr
Prof. Dr. Erasmus Mayr, Chair of Philosophy (Bild: FAU/Georg Pöhlein)

The German Prize for Philosophy and Social Ethics is worth 100,000 euros.

Prof. Dr. Erasmus Mayr, Chair of Practical Philosophy at FAU, has been awarded the 2021 German Prize for Philosophy and Social Ethics for his outstanding contributions to practical philosophy. For example, he has explored the question of how there can be space for real action in the natural world if everything that occurs in nature is caused by events that previously occurred in accordance with the laws of nature. In his internationally regarded monograph ‘Understanding Human Agency’ (Oxford University Press 2011), Mayr set out to resolve conflicts between how we see ourselves as active agents and the contemporary and modern perception of natural order. The award also pays tribute to Mayr’s precisely formulated arguments in his essays about ethics and legal philosophy.

Awarded by the Max Uwe Redler Foundation in Hamburg, the German Prize for Philosophy and Social Ethics is the most prestigious award in the field of philosophy in German-speaking countries. The Senator for Science and Research of the Free City of Hamburg, Katharina Fegebank, presented the award during a ceremony in Hamburg City Hall on 11 November.

‘Erasmus Mayr’s work in practical philosophy is characterised by a rare combination of precision, diligence and originality,’ said the jury led by Peter Strohschneider, Chairman of the Max Uwe Redler Foundation about its decision. The theory Mayr develops in ‘Understanding Human Agency’ not only shows how actions have a place in the physical world. The theory also takes the central role seriously that intentions and reasons play in understanding human actions and shows how this role is reconcilable with the idea that actions are an expression of human activity and natural phenomena at the same time. ‘The strength of composition, the determined manner in which problems are discussed, the originality of Mayr’s argumentation and the historic depth of this work is impressive,’ writes the jury in its statement. The book masterfully documents the author’s knowledge of the theories of Aristotle, Locke, Hume and Wittgenstein of causality and action.

Prof. Dr. Erasmus Mayr

Erasmus Mayr, who is 42, has been Professor of Practical Philosophy at FAU since 2015. After graduating in both philosophy and law, he completed his dissertation in philosophy with ‘summa cum laude’ at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) in Munich in 2007, for which he received the Wolfgang Stegmüller Prize of the German Society for Analytic Philosophy. This was followed by a judicial clerkship and several years as a junior research fellow at Queen’s College Oxford. In 2015, Mayr completed his habilitation at LMU Munich and was appointed professor at FAU in the same year. He focuses on action theory, fundamental problems in ethics and metaethics and political and legal philosophy.

About the prize

The German Prize for Philosophy and Social Ethics was awarded for the first time in 2014. It is awarded for outstanding contributions by contemporary philosophers. The prize is awarded by the jury based on a list of nominations for which renowned philosophers in Germany and abroad submit their suggestions.