This volume collects the notable published book reviews of Martha C. Nussbaum, a philosopher and high profile public intellectual who comments often on issues in philosophy, politics, gender equality, economics, and the law. Many of her engagements have been through the medium of the book review, which she has published prolifically in academic journals and in high profile venues like The New Republic and The New York Times for over 20 years. This volume collects 25 of what she considers to (...) be her key reviews. The reviews date from 1986 and range to the present, and engage with authors like Roger Scruton, Allan Bloom, Charles Taylor, Judith Butler, Richard Posner, Catherine MacKinnon, and other prominent intellectuals of our time. Throughout, her views defy ideological predictability, heralding interesting work from unlikely sources, deftly critiquing where it is deserved, and generally providing a compelling picture of how intellectuals might engage with broad social concerns. Nussbaum will provide a new introduction that explains her selection, and provides her view of the role of public intellectuals. (shrink)
Since Rawls's Political Liberalism is by now the subject of a wide and deep philosophical literature, much of it excellent in quality, it would be foolhardy to attempt to say something about each of the major issues of the work, or to sort through debates that can easily be located elsewhere. I have therefore decided to focus on a small number of issues where there is at least some chance that a fresh approach may yield some new understanding of the (...) text: Rawls's distinction between “reasonable” and “unreasonable” comprehensive doctrines; the psychological underpinnings of political liberalism; and the possibility that political liberalism might be extended beyond the small group of modern Western societies that Rawls's historical remarks suggest as its primary focus. I also include a discussion of the much-debated issue of civility and public reason, which could hardly be avoided given its prominence in the book's reception. This paper should therefore be read not as a comprehensive account of the work but as one person's attempt to grapple, very incompletely and imperfectly, with a book that is as great as any philosophy has seen on this topic of great human urgency. (shrink)
“Philosophy is constitutive of good citizenship. It becomes part of what you are when you are a good citizen – a thoughtful person. Philosophy has manyroles. It can be just fun, a game that you play. It can be a way you try to approach your own death or illness, or that of a family member. I’m just focusing on the place where I think I can win over people, and say ‘Look here, you do care about democracy don’t you? (...) Then you’d better see that philosophy has a place.’”. (shrink)
Martha Nussbuam is one of the most prolific and original philosophers working today. Influenced by ancient philosophy, she has written on the relationship between fiction, the emotions and moral reasoning. With Amartya Sen she developed the capabilities approach to human well-being, which helped shape the UN’s Human Development Index. She is Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago.
Martha Nussbaum (2007). Ethics of Narration. In Peter Gratton, John Panteleimon Manoussakis & Richard Kearney (eds.), Traversing the Imaginary: Richard Kearney and the Postmodern Challenge. Northwestern University Press.
John Fischer challenges me to defend my arguments regarding the badness of death; I sharpen my position, but make some concessions, discussing the possibility of postmortem harm. In response to John Deigh, I defend the account of disgust given in Hiding from Humanity, together with the research of Paul Rozin that I follow there. I discuss Patrick Devlin’s conservative position, agree that we need to object to its emphasis on solidarity, not only to its emphasis on disgust, and argue that (...) Deigh’s statement of Devlin’s position is too kind to Devlin. In response to Henry Richardson, I summarize my reasons for thinking that the classical social contract tradition cannot handle well the problems posed by the issue of justice for people with disabilities, and that even Rawls’s position requires major modification if it is to do so. I explore differences between Richardson’s position and my own on the issues of self-respect, liberty, and primary goods. (shrink)
All modern liberal democracies have strong reasons to support an idea of toleration, understood as involving respect, not only grudging acceptance, and to extend it to all religious and secular doctrines, limiting only conduct that violates the rights of other citizens. There is no modern democracy, however, in which toleration of this sort is a stable achievement. Why is toleration, attractive in principle, so difficult to achieve? The normative case for toleration was well articulated by John Locke in his influential (...) A Letter Concerning Toleration , although his attractive proposal thus rests on a fragile foundation. Kant did much more, combining a Lockean account of the state with a profound diagnosis of radical evil, the tendencies in all human beings to militate against stable toleration and respect. But Kant proposed no mechanism through which the state might mitigate the harmful influence of radical evil, thus rendering toleration stable. One solution to this problem was proposed by Rousseau, but it has deep problems. How, then, can a respectful pluralistic society shore up the fragile human basis of toleration, especially in a world in which we need to cultivate toleration not only within each state, but also among peoples and states, in this interlocking world? Key Words: toleration emotion evil liberal democracy Locke Mill Kant Rousseau. (shrink)
Cass Sunstein and Martha Nussbaum bring together an all-star cast of contributors to explore the legal and political issues that underlie the campaign for animal rights and the opposition to it. Addressing ethical questions about ownership, protection against unjustified suffering, and the ability of animals to make their own choices free from human control, the authors offer numerous different perspectives on animal rights and animal welfare. They show that whatever one's ultimate conclusions, the relationship between human beings and nonhuman animals (...) is being fundamentally rethought. This book offers a state-of-the-art treatment of that rethinking. (shrink)
Valadez' book is an excellent investigation of the question of group rights. Nonetheless, there are some serious objections to group rights that he does not investigate. Groups contain hierarchies of power: thus giving legal privileges to a group is usually tantamount to giving more power to those already in power within the group. Groups have unclear and changing boundaries of membership; group rights often reify the current definition of a group and militate against change. Finally, there are 'dispersed groups' that (...) may be very important in people's identity, but that do not figure in the usual discussions of group ethno-cultural rights; the group of women, groups defined by sexual orientation, profession or the love of something. Such groups are unlikely to win legal privileges but then, giving legal privileges to the ethno-cultural groups makes them more salient by contrast with the 'dispersed groups'. I investigate these points, using a variety of examples. Key Words: group rights identity race Valadez women. (shrink)
Higher education makes an importantcontribution to citizenship. In the UnitedStates, the required portion of the ``liberalarts education'' in colleges and universitiescan be reformed so as to equip students for thechallenges of global citizenship. The paperadvocates focusing on three abilities: theSocratic ability to critize one's owntraditions and to carry on an argument on termsof mutual respect for reason; (2) the abilityto think as a citizen of the whole world, notjust some local region or group; and (3) the``narrative imagination,'' the ability to (...) imaginewhat it would be like to be in the position ofsomeone very different from oneself. The paperdiscusses the role of the ``liberal arts''curriculum in U.S. education and asks howEuropean universities, with their differentstructure, might promote these three abilities. (shrink)
John Rawls argues, in The Law of Peoples , that a principle of toleration requires the international community to respect `decent hierarchical societies' that obey certain minimal human rights norms. In this article, I question that line of argument, using women's inequality as a lens. I show that Rawls's principle would require us to treat the very same practices of the very same entity differently if it happens to set up as an independent nation rather than a state within a (...) nation, and I criticize the consequences to which this asymmetry leads. I argue that Rawls gives us no good reason to think that we cannot justify a much richer set of norms for all the world's societies. I argue, however, that issues of justification should be sharply distinguished from issues of implementation, and that respect for the moral significance of national sovereignty ought to restrain us from intervention in all but the most extreme cases. Key Words: Rawls women equality international relations justice. (shrink)
: In this commentary on Eva Feder Kittay's Love's Labor: Essays on Women, Equality, and Dependency, I focus on Kittay's dependency theory. I apply this theory to an analysis of women's inadequate access to high-quality, cost-effective healthcare. I conclude that while quandaries remain unresolved, including getting men to do their share of dependency work, Kittay's book is an important and original contribution to feminist healthcare ethics and the development of a normative feminist ethic of care.
Any defense of universal norms involves drawing distinctions among the many things people actually desire. If it is to have any content at all, it will say that some objects of desire are more central than others for political purposes, more indispensable to a human being's quality of life. Any wise such approach will go even further, holding that some existing preferences are actually bad bases for social policy. The list of Central Human Capabilities that forms the core of my (...) political project contains many functions that many people over the ages have preferred not to grant to women, either not at all, or not on a basis of equality. To insist on their centrality is thus to go against preferences that have considerable depth and breadth in traditions of male power. Moreover, the list contains many items that women over the ages have not wanted for themselves, and some that even today many women do not pursue – so in putting the list at the center of a normative political project aimed at providing the philosophical underpinning for basic political principles, we are going against not just other people's preferences about women, but, more controversially, against many preferences (or so it seems) of women about themselves and their lives. To some extent, my approach, like Sen's, avoids these problems of paternalism by insisting that the political goal is capability, not actual functioning, and by dwelling on the central importance of choice as a good. But the notion of choice and practical reason used in the list is a normative notion, emphasizing the critical activity of reason in a way that does not reflect the actual use of reason in many lives. (shrink)
This book is a study of ancient views about 'moral luck'. It examines the fundamental ethical problem that many of the valued constituents of a well-lived life are vulnerable to factors outside a person's control, and asks how this affects our appraisal of persons and their lives. The Greeks made a profound contribution to these questions, yet neither the problems nor the Greek views of them have received the attention they deserve. This book thus recovers a central dimension of Greek (...) thought and addresses major issues in contemporary ethical theory. One of its most original aspects is its interrelated treatment of both literary and philosophical texts. The Fragility of Goodness has proven to be important reading for philosophers and classicists, and its non-technical style makes it accessible to any educated person interested in the difficult problems it tackles. This new edition features an entirely new preface by Martha Nussbaum. (shrink)
Most economists and some philosophers distinguish individual utilities from interpersonal social values. Even if challenges to that conceptual distinction can be met, further philosophically interesting questions arise. I pursue three in this paper, using, as context for the discussion, health economics and its attempt to discern empirically a social welfare function to help guide rationing decisions. (1) To discern these utilities and values in a manner that is morally appropriate if they are to influence rationing decisions, who should be queried? (...) To discern individual health state utilities, persons in precisely those states should be asked (generically, patients), but for social values, representatives of the general public should be. (2) To discern social values, what should representatives of the public be asked? They should be asked person trade-off (PTO) questions that encompass their own self-interest, not PTO questions that focus only on others. (3) What must public representatives understand before they respond to such questions? Despite the philosophically complex problem of patient adaptation, they should understand (among other things) the health state utilities elicited from actual patients with the conditions at issue. (shrink)
Virtue ethics is standardly taught and discussed as a distinctive approach to the major questions of ethics, a third major position alongside Utilitarian and Kantian ethics. I argue that this taxonomy is a confusion. Both Utilitarianism and Kantianism contain treatments of virtue, so virtue ethics cannot possibly be a separate approach contrasted with those approaches. There are, to be sure, quite a few contemporary philosophical writers about virtue who are neither Utilitarians nor Kantians; many of these find inspiration in ancient (...) Greek theories of virtue. But even here there is little unity. Although certain concerns do unite this disparate group (a concern for the role of motives and passions in good choice, a concern for character, and a concern for the whole course of an agent''s life), there are equally profound disagreements, especially concerning the role that reason should play in ethics. One group of modern virtue-theorists, I argue, are primarily anti-Utilitarians, concerned with the plurality of value and the susceptibility of passions to social cultivation. These theorists want to enlarge the place of reason in ethics. They hold that reason can deliberate about ends as well as means, and that reason can modify the passions themselves. Another group of virtue theorists are primarily anti-Kantians. They believe that reason plays too dominant a role in most philosophical accounts of ethics, and that a larger place should be given to sentiments and passions -- which they typically construe in a less reason-based way than does the first group. The paper investigates these differences, concluding that it is not helpful to speak of virtue ethics, and that we would be better off characterizing the substantive views of each thinker -- and then figuring out what we ourselves want to say. (shrink)
Nietzsche claimed to be a political thinker in Ecce Homo and elsewhere. He constantly compared his thought with other political theorists, chiefly Rousseau, Kant and Mill, and he claimed to offer an alternative to the bankruptcy of Enlightenment liberalism. It is worthwhile re-examining Nietzsche's claim to offer serious criticisms of liberal political philosophy. I shall proceed by setting out seven criteria for serious political thought: understanding of material need; procedural justification; liberty and its worth; racial, ethnic and religious difference; gender (...) and family; justice between nations; and moral psychology. I shall argue polemically that on the first six issues Nietzsche has nothing to offer, but that on the seventh, moral psychology, he makes a profound contribution. Serious political theory, however, needs to forget about Nietzsche and turn to those thinkers he found so boring - the liberal Enlightenment thinkers. (shrink)
The philosophers of the Hellenistic schools in ancient Greece and Rome (Epicureans, Stoics, Sceptics, Academics, Cyrenaics) made important contributions to the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of psychology. This volume, which contains the proceedings of the Fifth Symposium Hellenisticum, describes and analyses their contributions on issues such as: the nature of perception, imagination and belief; the nature of the passions and their role in action; the relationship between mind and body; freedom and determinism; the role of pleasure as a (...) goal; the effects of poetry on belief and passion. Written with a high level of historical and philosophical scholarship, the essays are intended both for classicists and for specialists interested in the philosophy of mind. (shrink)
Bringing together a group of outstanding new essays on Aristotle's De Anima, this book covers topics such as the relation between soul and body, sense-perception, imagination, memory, desire, and thought, which present the philosophical substance of Aristotle's views to the modern reader. The contributors write with philosophical subtlety and wide-ranging scholarship, locating their interpretations firmly within the context of Aristotle's thought as a whole.u.
This volume brings together Nussbaum's published papers on the relationship between literature and philosophy, especially moral philosophy. The papers, many of them previously inaccessible to non-specialist readers, explore such fundamental issues as the relationship between style and content in the exploration of ethical issues; the nature of ethical attention and ethical knowledge and their relationship to written forms and styles; and the role of the emotions in deliberation and self-knowledge. Nussbaum investigates and defends a conception of ethical understanding which involves (...) emotional as well as intellectual activity, and which gives a certain type of priority to the perception of particular people and situations rather than to abstract rules. She argues that this ethical conception cannot be completely and appropriately stated without turning to forms of writing usually considered literary rather than philosophical. It is consequently necessary to broaden our conception of moral philosophy in order to include these forms. Featuring two new essays and revised versions of several previously published essays, this collection attempts to articulate the relationship, within such a broader ethical inquiry, between literary and more abstractly theoretical elements. (shrink)