Non-reductionist naturalism: Nussbaum between Aristotle and Hume

Res Publica 11 (2):157-183 (2005)
Martha Nussbaum proposes a universal list of human capabilities as the basis for fundamental political principles. She claims that the list, in an Aristotelian spirit, might be justified by an ongoing inquiry into valuable human functionings for the good life. Here I argue that the attractiveness of Nussbaum’s theory crucially depends on the philosophical possibility of a non-reductionist understanding of naturalism and on resolving the tensions between ethical and political aspects of the role of capabilities. Through a comparison of Nussbaum’s approach with those of Aristotle and (less familiarly) Hume, I try to show that in these alternative versions we find valuable resources for the kind of non-reductionist model which might, in line with Nussbaum’s own objectives, provide the basis for a capabilities-based critique of dominant modes of normative theorizing and their influence in public discourse
Keywords Aristotle  capabilities  equality  Hume  justice  Martha Nussbaum  naturalism  perfectionism  Rawls  social contract
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DOI 10.1007/s11158-005-1483-6
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