Economics and Philosophy Scholar Wins Book Award of Greater Monetary Value Than Pulitzer and National Book Awards

Nov 6, 2007 — Dr. James Otteson, professor of economics and philosophy and director of the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program at Yeshiva University, has been named the first place winner of the 2007 Templeton Enterprise Awards for his seminal book Actual Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2006). The awards are among the largest in the publishing industry, with the top prize of $50,000 exceeding that of both the Pulitzer Prizes and the National Book Awards.

Given by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the prominent national educational organization, the awards are presented annually to scholars under 40 years of age who have produced the very best books and articles in the field of humane economics and culture over the previous two years.

“I am deeply humbled by this highly prestigious award,” said Otteson, a 39-year-old who lives in River Vale, NJ with his wife and four children. “Growing up in a single parent household in Joliet, Illinois, I could only have dreamed of such an honor. But the topic of ethics from all perspectives – historical, political, philosophical, cultural, social, and economic – has always interested me. To be cited for my work exploring this topic and illuminating the processes by which ethics are both informed by and inform these perspectives is truly gratifying.”

Actual Ethics offers a moral defense of the ‘classical liberal’ political tradition and applies it to several of today’s vexing moral and political issues, according to the publisher.

“Otteson argues that a Kantian conception of personhood and an Aristotelian conception of judgment are compatible and even complementary. He shows why they are morally attractive, and perhaps most controversially, when combined, they imply a limited, classical liberal political state. Otteson then addresses several contemporary problems – wealth and poverty, public education, animal welfare, and affirmative action – and shows how each can be plausibly addressed within the Kantian, Aristotelian and classical liberal framework. Written in clear, engaging, and jargon-free prose, Actual Ethics gives students and general audiences an overview of a powerful and rich moral and political tradition that they might not otherwise consider.”

Richard M. Joel, president of Yeshiva University, offered high praise for Otteson, who joined YU at the beginning of the fall semester from the University of Alabama, where he chaired the philosophy department.

“We are extremely privileged to count Jim among our most distinguished young faculty and administrators,” Joel said. “He is one of the most outstanding young scholars and thinkers in the country, as evidenced by his selection for the Templeton award. And we know that his keen erudition, creative pedagogy, and commitment to imparting the highest ethical values will have a profound impact on our students, as well as our institution as a whole.”

“There was a strong consensus within ISI and its panel of judges that Dr. Otteson’s important work was the class of the field,” remarked Dr. Rich Brake, director of ISI’s Culture of Enterprise Initiative, which sponsored the book award program.

“Jim’s interdisciplinary approach to the study of political economy, his strong concern for the ethical component of economic and political life, and his reminder that the strictures of justice places moral requirements and limitations on both private and public actors in our economy, are a refreshing alternative to the overly empirical and statist biases embedded in most economic studies today,” said Brake.

“Plus, Actual Ethics was a remarkably easy and enjoyable read,” continued Brake, “that puts at the disposal of the ordinary reader such great thinkers as Aristotle and Kant, and then applies their insights to the pressing economic and political questions of the day in a way that is enlightening and fun. That’s pretty hard to do, but Dr. Otteson pulled it off with ease and élan,” concluded Brake.

Otteson is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame who earned his master’s degrees in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Chicago, from which he also received his PhD.

Prior to his appointments at Yeshiva University, he served on the University of Alabama faculty since 1997. He was awarded early tenure in 2002 and three years later was appointed chair of the philosophy department.

Otteson specializes in the history of modern philosophy, political philosophy, and the history of ethics. He has authored nearly two dozen papers and other writings, and lectured around the world on these and related topics. He serves on the editorial and review boards for a number of publications, including the Adam Smith Review, History of Philosophy Quarterly, Political theory, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, and the Journal of Scottish Philosophy.

Founded in 1886, Yeshiva University brings together the heritage of Western civilization and the ancient traditions of Jewish law and life. More than 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students study at YU’s four New York City campuses: the Wilf Campus, Israel Henry Beren Campus, Brookdale Center, and Jack and Pearl Resnick Campus. YU’s three undergraduate schools –– Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women, and Sy Syms School of Business ––– offer a unique dual program comprised of Jewish studies and liberal arts courses. Its graduate and affiliate schools include Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. YU is ranked among the nation’s leading academic research institutions.

(Editor’s Note: Otteson is available for interviews. Contact Hedy Shulman, 212-960-5488, hshulman@yu.edu to make arrangements.)

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