Philanthropist Nicolas Berggruen’s Big Bet on Philosophy

By Alexandra Wolfe

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PHOTO: SHAYAN ASGHARNIA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The financier discusses expanding his Berggruen Institute and why the world needs more big ideas

What the world needs now, says Nicolas Berggruen, is more philosophy. He thinks that the great thinkers of human history just might provide some solutions in our time of political and economic upheaval. “I always felt philosophy…doesn’t get enough attention,” says Mr. Berggruen, a philanthropist and financier who seven years ago launched the Berggruen Institute, an unusual think tank with an endowment of $1 billion. “We’re still shaped by ideas and by the people that created them thousands of years ago.” He hopes to encourage scholars and intellectuals to engage with the great traditions founded by such figures as Socrates and Confucius.

His institute, which aims to develop ideas in politics, economics and social organization, has just given out its first $1 million Berggruen Prize for philosophy (to the Canadian scholar Charles Taylor). Mr. Berggruen, 55, is now starting work on a physical space for the institute. The “secular monastery,” as he calls it, will house around 50 thinkers on 400 acres of land in the hills of Los Angeles. Architects Herzog & de Meuron are working on the plans.

Read More in The Wall Street Journal