Posts Tagged ‘Peace’

Obama’s Nobel Prize: Philosophical Objections

October 12, 2009

A Nobel prize is, presumably, awarded for accomplishment. It is not awarded for intentions, aspirations, or fine sentiments. I have yet to hear of a Nobel Prize in Physics being awarded to a physicist for intending to discover a universally accepted unified field theory, or of a Nobel Prize in Literature being awarded to somebody for aspiring to write a brilliant novel. I think most people would agree that a prize awarded purely on the basis of intentions or aspirations is absurd. Anyone can have fine sentiments; what’s truly admirable is having the courage to act on those sentiments, and the knowledge and skills to make them a reality.

But in awarding President Obama the Nobel Prize for Peace, the Nobel Committee has behaved no less absurdly than if they were to award me the Nobel Prize for Medicine because I gave a stirring speech about how wonderful it would be to find a cure for cancer. No speech, however well-chosen the words and however charismatic the delivery, is going to provide a cure for cancer. Likewise, while Obama may have promised a new era of “hope” and “change”, it is not at all clear nine months into his presidency that he has been able (or even willing) to deliver on any of his promises. And given that he was nominated as a potential recipient a mere two weeks into his office (nominations were due on February 1st) makes the award all the more preposterous.

Even a child is able to tell the difference between saying you are going to do something and actually doing it. But it seems the Nobel Committee, and much of the international community, have totally taken leave of their senses and forgotten this basic distinction.

This may seem like a minor issue, with all that’s going on in the world. But I think it’s symptomatic of a larger problem endemic within society — a problem where we regularly mistake words for deeds, symbols for actions, and abstractions for reality. Something to consider as the Nobel laureate for Peace plans to continue his war.