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)
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)
Should laws about sex and pornography be based on social conventions about what is disgusting? Should felons be required to display bumper stickers or wear T-shirts that announce their crimes? This powerful and elegantly written book, by one of America's most influential philosophers, presents a critique of the role that shame and disgust play in our individual and social lives and, in particular, in the law.Martha Nussbaum argues that we should be wary of these emotions because they are associated in (...) troubling ways with a desire to hide from our humanity, embodying an unrealistic and sometimes pathological wish to be invulnerable. Nussbaum argues that the thought-content of disgust embodies "magical ideas of contamination, and impossible aspirations to purity that are just not in line with human life as we know it." She argues that disgust should never be the basis for criminalizing an act, or play either the aggravating or the mitigating role in criminal law it currently does. She writes that we should be similarly suspicious of what she calls "primitive shame," a shame "at the very fact of human imperfection," and she is harshly critical of the role that such shame plays in certain punishments.Drawing on an extraordinarily rich variety of philosophical, psychological, and historical references--from Aristotle and Freud to Nazi ideas about purity--and on legal examples as diverse as the trials of Oscar Wilde and the Martha Stewart insider trading case, this is a major work of legal and moral philosophy. (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)
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)
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.
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)
In this comprehensive collection of essays, most of which appear for the first time, eminent scholars from many disciplines—philosophy, economics, sociology, political science, demography, theology, history, and social psychology—examine the causes, nature, and consequences of present-day consumption patterns in the United States and throughout the world.
The ethics of Aristotle , and virtue ethics in general, have enjoyed a resurgence of interest over the past few decades. Aristotelian themes, with such issues as the importance of friendship and emotions in a good life, the role of moral perception in wise choice, the nature of happiness and its constitution, moral education and habituation, are finding an important place in contemporary moral debates. Taken together, the essays in this volume provide a close analysis of central arguments in Aristotle's (...) Nicomachean Ethics and show the enduring interest of the questions Aristotle raises. (shrink)
This article argues that political liberalism, of the type formulated by John Rawls and Charles Larmore and further developed in Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum's capabilities approach, is superior to more comprehensive political views both in domestic and in global affairs. Perfectionist liberalism as advocated by John Stuart Mill and Joseph Raz attempts to erase existing religions and replace them with the religion of utility or autonomy. This is wrong, because in the ethico-religious environment of reasonable disagreement that we inhabit (...) all comprehensive forms of political morality pose a threat to people's liberty and equality. Only thin and narrow conceptions of value like the ones suggested by Rawls, Larmore, Sen, and Nussbaum can guarantee the respect for diversity that is needed in a pluralistic world. Although Rawls famously failed to extend this idea from domestic to transnational matters, the argument of the article is that not only do the principles of political liberalism apply to global mat.. (shrink)
In this short and powerful book, celebrated philosopher Martha Nussbaum makes a passionate case for the importance of the liberal arts at all levels of education. Historically, the humanities have been central to education because they have rightly been seen as essential for creating competent democratic citizens. But recently, Nussbaum argues, thinking about the aims of education has gone disturbingly awry both in the United States and abroad. Anxiously focused on national economic growth, we increasingly treat education as though its (...) primary goal were to teach students to be economically productive rather than to think critically and become knowledgeable and empathetic citizens. This shortsighted focus on profitable skills has eroded our ability to criticize authority, reduced our sympathy with the marginalized and different, and damaged our competence to deal with complex global problems. And the loss of these basic capacities jeopardizes the health of democracies and the hope of a decent world. In response to this dire situation, Nussbaum argues that we must resist efforts to reduce education to a tool of the gross national product. Rather, we must work to reconnect education to the humanities in order to give students the capacity to be true democratic citizens of their countries and the world. Drawing on the stories of troubling--and hopeful--educational developments from around the world, Nussbaum offers a manifesto that should be a rallying cry for anyone who cares about the deepest purposes of education. (shrink)
Frank Palmer, Richard Eldridge, and Martha Nussbaum explore the contributions that imaginative literature can make to ethics. From three different moral philosophical perspectives, they argue that reading literature can help persons to achieve greater moral understanding. This essay examines how each author conceives of moral understanding, particularly in its emotional dimension, and how each thinks that reading literature can promote moral understanding. The essay also considers some implications of this work for religious ethics.
ABSTRACT ABSTRACT: A close philosophical analysis of the emotion of anger will show that it is normatively irrational: in some cases, based on futile magical thinking, in others, based on defective values.