Rebecca Goldstein to Receive National Humanities Medal from President Obama

September 3, 2015

The Center for Inquiry extends its heartfelt congratulations to Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, who will be given the National Humanities Award by President Obama for her lifetime of inspiring and enlightening work in philosophy, literature, and the history of science. Dr. Goldstein is an honorary member of the Board of Directors of CFI, an organization that promotes science, reason, and humanist values, and this summer delivered the keynote address at CFI’s international Reason for Change conference.

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The White House announced today that the ten winners of the 2014 National Humanities Award, including Dr. Goldstein, will be given their medals by President Obama on September 10 in the East Room. The award is intended to honor those who have demonstrated the power and impact of the humanities on American life.

“We are delighted that Rebecca Goldstein has received this well-deserved recognition,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “This award is a fitting one, indeed, as her work exemplifies the importance of the humanities. Few writers are as gifted as Rebecca Goldstein is in fiction, or as insightful as she is in nonfiction. Her wide-ranging body of work is philosophically compelling, richly rewarding, and deeply humane, engaging both our intellect and our emotions, and in the process making us laugh, cry, sigh ... and think. Whether writing about Plato, Spinoza, or the joys and travails of love, Dr. Goldstein unfailingly manages to illuminate the human condition.”

The White House praised Dr. Goldstein for “bringing philosophy into conversation with culture” in its official citation, stating, “In scholarship, Dr. Goldstein has elucidated the ideas of Spinoza and Gödel, while in fiction, she deploys wit and drama to help us understand the great human conflict between thought and feeling.”

Goldstein first earned national prominence in 1983 as a writer of fiction for her first novel, the critically acclaimed bestseller The Mind-Body Problem. She has since published six other novels, including 36 Arguments for The Existence of God: A Work of Fiction, in 2010. Having earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton and a “genius grant” as a MacArthur Fellow, she is also the author of several influential nonfiction books including Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel, which was named one of the top science books of 2005 by Discover Magazine, and of Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity, which received the Koret International Prize for Jewish Scholarship. She has been awarded several honorary doctorates, Guggenheim and Radcliffe fellowships, and is a Humanist Laureate. Her newest book is Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away, for which she won the 2014 Morris D. Forkosch Award from the Council for Secular Humanism, a program of CFI.

She is currently an honorary member of the Center for Inquiry Board of Directors, along with physicist Lawrence Krauss and journalist and author Susan Jacoby. She has spoken at two of CFI’s Women in Secularism conferences, and keynoted the 2015 Reason for Change conference. Rebecca Goldstein identifies as a humanist, and apparently this is the first time that the National Humanities Medal has been awarded to someone who has openly identified as such. 

See Rebecca Goldstein deliver a presentation at CFI’s Women in Secularism 2 conference on “The Mattering Map.”

See the National Endowment for the Humanities’ official announcement.

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI‘s web address is www.centerforinquiry.net.