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Martha Nussbaum

American philosopher

Martha Craven Nussbaum (born May 6, 1947) is an American philosopher and the current Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, where she is jointly appointed in the Law School and the Philosophy department. She has a particular interest in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, political philosophy, feminism, and ethics, including animal rights.


  • When I arrived at Harvard in 1969, my fellow first-year graduate students and I were taken up to the roof of the Widener Library by a well-known professor of classics. He told us how many Episcopal churches could be seen from that vantage point. As a Jew (in fact a convert from Episcopalian Christianity), I knew that my husband and I would have been forbidden to marry in Harvard's church, which had just refused to accept a Jewish wedding. As a woman I could not eat in the main dining room of the faculty club, even as a member's guest. Only a few years before, a woman would not have been able to use the undergraduate library. In 1972 I became the first female to hold the Junior Fellowship that relieved certain graduate students from teaching so that they could get on with their research. At that time I received a letter of congratulation from a prestigious classicist saying that it would be difficult to know what to call a female fellow, since "fellowess" was an awkward term. Perhaps the Greek language could solve the problem: since the masculine for "fellow" in Greek was hetairos, I could be called a hetaira. Hetaira, however, as I knew, is the ancient Greek word not for “fellowess” but for “courtesan.”

Quotes about Martha NussbaumEdit

  • Divorced from Alan Nussbaum in 1987, Nussbaum embarked on a romantic liaison with Amartya Sen, the Indian-born Harvard scholar who won the 1998 Nobel Prize in economics and later moved to Cambridge University in England. Working with United Nations development initiatives in impoverished areas of the globe, she and Sen came up with what they called the "capabilities approach," a way of measuring a nation's achievements apart from its economic output. Their idea was to look at factors such as ownership of property, access to health care and political systems, and sovereignty over one's body in matters such as reproductive rights. Nussbaum's romance with Sen was the second of three major relationships that demonstrate how tightly woven are her personal and professional worlds. Nussbaum's current partner, author and U. of C. law professor Cass Sunstein, to whom she recently became engaged, is, like Alan Nussbaum and Sen, an internationally known scholar. Nussbaum, it could be argued, rarely dates below the genius level.
    • Julia Keller. The martha show: Celebrity scholar Martha Nussbaum gives fellow academics something to talk about. September 29, 2002. p. 1
  • What began to bother me about Nussbaum’s trajectory is that she is really not interested in the general issue of “religious violence” and the manner in which religious violence links up with religious sensibilities of one kind or another, whether perpetrated by the left or the right in India. What she is really interested in is mounting a political assault on what she identifies as the “Hindu Right,” and in this regard Nussbaum takes no prisoners... Alas, I fear, Martha Nussbaum has yet to resolve that “clash within” her own intellectual orientation.
    • Larson, Gerald James, Review of The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future. By Martha C. Nussbaum. Journal of the American Academy of Religion;Dec2009, Vol. 77 Issue 4, p. 990
  • What makes her stylistic choices here so disappointing is not just that they are beneath commonly held standards of professional scholarship, but that they fall short of the standards of conduct that Nussbaum herself (via Gandhi) sets for India and America. In its own way, is not her treatment of these all-too-human subjects a kind of “violence,” a seeking to put them in their place? ...Nussbaum either cannot or does not wish to take seriously the question of Muslim extremism within India, or a broader regional backdrop to sectarian tension and violence...
    • Jason A. Kirk (2008) Hindu Nationalism Five Years after Godhra, India Review, 7:1, 73-90, DOI: 10.1080/14736480801901238
  • Nussbaum, if she were truly a well-wisher of India, would educate herself about Indian philosophy, religion and culture and read reports about Indian events by other than her Marxist/Socialist friends and colleagues. She should, as a rhetorician, be especially interested in the fourth-century logician Vatsyayana’s identification of the vices and virtues of speech. The vices originating from speech, according to him are mithya (falsehood), parusha (caustic talk), soochana (calumny) and asambaddha (absurd talk). The virtues of speech are satya (veracity), hitavaachana (talking with good intention), priyavaachana (gentle talk) and svaadhyaaya (recitation of scriptures). Prof. Nussbaum may want to appear on the “right side of history” but that should not be at the expense of truth.
    • Prof. Ramesh N. Rao, Selective Outrage, Suspect Ethics, [1]

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