Career[ edit ] When she became the first woman to hold the Junior Fellowship at Harvard , Nussbaum received a congratulatory note from a "prestigious classicist" who suggested that since "female fellowess" was an awkward name, she should be called hetaira , for in Greece these educated courtesans were the only women who participated in philosophical symposia. Her book The Fragility of Goodness, on ancient Greek ethics and Greek tragedy, made her a well-known figure throughout the humanities. On this basis she has proposed analyses of grief, compassion, and love,  and, in a later book, of disgust and shame. She testified in the Colorado bench trial for Romer v. Evans , arguing against the claim that the history of philosophy provides the state with a "compelling interest" in favor of a law denying gays and lesbians the right to seek passage of local non-discrimination laws. The debate continued with a reply by one of her sternest critics, Robert P.
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Career[ edit ] When she became the first woman to hold the Junior Fellowship at Harvard , Nussbaum received a congratulatory note from a "prestigious classicist" who suggested that since "female fellowess" was an awkward name, she should be called hetaira , for in Greece these educated courtesans were the only women who participated in philosophical symposia. Her book The Fragility of Goodness, on ancient Greek ethics and Greek tragedy, made her a well-known figure throughout the humanities.
On this basis she has proposed analyses of grief, compassion, and love,  and, in a later book, of disgust and shame. She testified in the Colorado bench trial for Romer v. Evans , arguing against the claim that the history of philosophy provides the state with a "compelling interest" in favor of a law denying gays and lesbians the right to seek passage of local non-discrimination laws. The debate continued with a reply by one of her sternest critics, Robert P.
She suggests that one can "trace this line to an old Marxist contempt for bourgeois ethics, but it is loathsome whatever its provenance". These discussions will be known as the Martha C. Nussbaum Student Roundtables. Discussing literary as well as philosophical texts, Nussbaum seeks to determine the extent to which reason may enable self-sufficiency.
She eventually rejects the Platonic notion that human goodness can fully protect against peril, siding with the tragic playwrights and Aristotle in treating the acknowledgment of vulnerability as a key to realizing the human good. Fragility brought attention to Nussbaum throughout the humanities.
It garnered wide praise in academic reviews,   and even drew acclaim in the popular media. Nussbaum champions multiculturalism in the context of ethical universalism , defends scholarly inquiry into race, gender, and human sexuality , and further develops the role of literature as narrative imagination into ethical questions. At the same time, Nussbaum also censured certain scholarly trends.
She excoriated deconstructionist Jacques Derrida saying "on truth [he is] simply not worth studying for someone who has been studying Quine and Putnam and Davidson ". The New York Times praised Cultivating Humanity as "a passionate, closely argued defense of multiculturalism" and hailed it as "a formidable, perhaps definitive defense of diversity on American campuses". Sex and Social Justice[ edit ] Sex and Social Justice sets out to demonstrate that sex and sexuality are morally irrelevant distinctions that have been artificially enforced as sources of social hierarchy ; thus, feminism and social justice have common concerns.
Rebutting anti-universalist objections, Nussbaum proposes functional freedoms, or central human capabilities, as a rubric of social justice. Nussbaum notes that liberalism emphasizes respect for others as individuals, and further argues that Jaggar has elided the distinction between individualism and self-sufficiency.
Emphasizing that female genital mutilation is carried out by brute force, its irreversibility, its non-consensual nature, and its links to customs of male domination , Nussbaum urges feminists to confront female genital mutilation as an issue of injustice. Nussbaum defines the idea of treating as an object with seven qualities: instrumentality , denial of autonomy, inertness, fungibility , violability, ownership, and denial of subjectivity.
Her characterization of pornography as a tool of objectification puts Nussbaum at odds with sex-positive feminism. At the same time, Nussbaum argues in support of the legalization of prostitution , a position she reiterated in a essay following the Spitzer scandal , writing: "The idea that we ought to penalize women with few choices by removing one of the ones they do have is grotesque.
Salon declared: "She shows brilliantly how sex is used to deny some people—i. Nussbaum argues that individuals tend to repudiate their bodily imperfection or animality through the projection of fears about contamination. This cognitive response is in itself irrational, because we cannot transcend the animality of our bodies. Noting how projective disgust has wrongly justified group subordination mainly of women, Jews , and homosexuals , Nussbaum ultimately discards disgust as a reliable basis of judgment.
Nussbaum in Turning to shame, Nussbaum argues that shame takes too broad a target, attempting to inculcate humiliation on a scope that is too intrusive and limiting on human freedom.
Nussbaum sides with John Stuart Mill in narrowing legal concern to acts that cause a distinct and assignable harm. In an interview with Reason magazine, Nussbaum elaborated: Disgust and shame are inherently hierarchical ; they set up ranks and orders of human beings. They are also inherently connected with restrictions on liberty in areas of non-harmful conduct.
For both of these reasons, I believe, anyone who cherishes the key democratic values of equality and liberty should be deeply suspicious of the appeal to those emotions in the context of law and public policy. He rebukes her for "contempt for the opinions of ordinary people" and ultimately accuses Nussbaum herself of "hiding from humanity".
Nussbaum has recently drawn on and extended her work on disgust to produce a new analysis of the legal issues regarding sexual orientation and same-sex conduct. Nussbaum in Nussbaum posits that the fundamental motivations of those advocating legal restrictions against gay and lesbian Americans is a "politics of disgust".
These legal restrictions include blocking sexual orientation being protected under anti-discrimination laws see Romer v.
Evans , sodomy laws against consenting adults See: Lawrence v. Texas , constitutional bans against same-sex marriage See: California Proposition 8 , over-strict regulation of gay bathhouses, and bans on sex in public parks and public restrooms. To Devlin, the mere fact some people or act may produce popular emotional reactions of disgust provides an appropriate guide for legislating.
Nussbaum goes on to explicitly oppose the concept of a disgust-based morality as an appropriate guide for legislating. Nussbaum notes that popular disgust has been used throughout history as a justification for persecution. Drawing upon her earlier work on the relationship between disgust and shame, Nussbaum notes that at various times, racism , antisemitism , and sexism , have all been driven by popular revulsion. Nussbaum argues the harm principle, which supports the legal ideas of consent , the age of majority , and privacy , protects citizens while the "politics of disgust" is merely an unreliable emotional reaction with no inherent wisdom.
Furthermore, Nussbaum argues this "politics of disgust" has denied and continues to deny citizens humanity and equality before the law on no rational grounds and causes palpable social harms to the groups affected. She has 62 honorary degrees from colleges and universities in North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia, including from:   .
Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life
This volume, a revision of lectures given in , is a philosophical study comparing aspects of law and literature. Thus lawyers have a great deal to learn from literature, insofar as contact with the capacious imaginations of a Dickens or a Whitman can only enlarge the sensibilities of those who read them in a sufficiently open-minded, reflective way. It may be both too kind and overly reductive to ascribe to Poetic Justice such a thing as a thesis. This is the main reason, I suppose, for the dichotomy of responses to Nussbaum: some find this pullulating quality of her work exhilarating, while others just find it annoying. The Dickensian comparison is not fortuitous, of course, because although the text of reference is Hard Times and not A Christmas Carol, the moral antithesis is familiar enough: a coldly, blindly all-embracing utilitarianism versus a warm, empathetic humanism.
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