The Journal of the History of Ideas awards the Selma V. Forkosch Prize ($750) for the best article published in the journal each year.

The winner of the JHI‘s Selma V. Forkosch Prize for the best article published in 2023 is Abram Kaplan for “Occupy the Commonplaces: Machiavelli and the Aristotelian Tradition of the Topics” (volume 84, no. 1, pp. 29–50).

The judging committee provides this statement about the article:

Abram Kaplan’s essay can well be characterized by his own description of Machiavelli’s approach to the erudite tradition of ancient works: for us to call his article just a fine and very erudite piece of Machiavelli scholarship would be “too neutral a term to describe the attitude and intention with which” (p. 29) the author “storms” through Machiavelli’s Prince, his ancient sources, and the scholarship on Machiavelli. Writing in a crisp and energetic style, Kaplan convincingly argues that Machiavelli’s attitude toward ancient tradition was not only aggressively critical about ideal commonwealths but that he even seized and occupied certain classical commonplaces to irreverently promote his own political project—going for “effectual truth” instead of imaginary ideals. The author’s exemplary case is Machiavelli’s take on Aristotle. Machiavelli had erased “The philosopher” altogether by avoiding his name although it is indeed Aristotle’s “ideal” political philosophy which is crushed by Machiavelli. Notwithstanding, Kaplan shows how Machiavelli in fact appropriated Aristotle’s Topics, i.e. “The philosopher’s” logical tools for truths of probability, and used it widely—constantly “confronting rules with examples” from history, and dismissing any universal theoretical approach. By the (Aristotelian) Topics, Machiavelli aimed for “effectual truth” instead of imaginary ideals of politics. Abram Kaplan’s paper expresses a new, irreverent approach to the uses and abuses of the classical canon and offers a quite novel perspective on Machiavelli’s break with the classical tradition. We believe that this article is a study of potentially wide significance.

Honorable mention for the 2023 prize:
Michael Brinley, “Linguistic Diplomacy: Roman Jakobson between East and West, 1956–68” (volume 84, issue 2, pp. 337–63).