Volume 3, Issue 1, 2003
Nelarine Cornelius, Nigel Laurie
An Interview with Martha Nussbaum
Martha Nussbaum is one of the most prolific and distinguished philosophers in the English-speaking world. Since 1995 she has been Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago appointed in the Law School, Philosophy Department and Divinity School. She is an Associate in the Classics Department and the Political Science Department, an Affiliate of the Committee on Southern Asian Studies, a Board Member of the Human Rights Program and founder and Coordinator of a new Center for Comparative Constitutionalism. The Center aims to study the social forces that affect the
implementation of constitutional rights, especially for disadvantaged groups. She visits feminists in India each year to research the activities of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the problems of poor women in different countries. In Delhi she has worked with the UN Development Programme on a project on gender and governance, and has also worked with The Lawyer’s Collective, an activist group in Delhi working on women’s rights.
Born in 1947, she has taught at Harvard, Brown, and Oxford Universities and from 1986 to 1993 was a research advisor at the World Institute for Development Economics Research (WIDER) in Helsinki, a part of the United Nations University. At WIDER she worked with Amartya Sen on defining ways of measuring the quality of life, a project which combined philosophy with development economics. She has chaired the Committee on International Cooperation and the Committee on the Status of Women of the American Philosophical Association, been a member of the Association’s National Board, and (in 2000) President of
its Central Division; she has also been a member of the Council of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Board of the American Council of Learned Societies. She received the Brandeis Creative Arts Award in Non-Fiction for 1990, and the PEN Spielvogel-Diamondstein Award for the best collection of essays in 1991. Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education (1997) won the Ness Book Award of the Association of American Colleges and Universities in 1998 and the Grawemeyer Prize for Education in 2002, and Sex and Social Justice (1998) won the book award of the North American Society for Social Philosophy in 2000. Her other books are: Aristotle’s De Motu Animalium (1978), The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy (1986), Love’s Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature (1990), The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics (1994), Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination in Public Life (1996), For Love of Country (1996), Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach (2000) and Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions (2001). Among her ten edited volumes are The Quality of Life (with Amartya Sen) 1993; Women, Culture, and Development (with Jonathan Glover) 1995; Sex, Preference, and Family (with David Estlund) 1997, and Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in American Religious Traditions (with Saul Olyan) 1998. A dialogue called Emotions as Judgments of Value was staged as a play in Stockholm in 1999 and she has a contract to write a book on the genre of the philosophical dialogue for Harvard University Press.
Her current work in progress includes Hiding From Humanity: Disgust and Shame in the Law (the Remarque Lectures delivered at New York University in 2001) and The Cosmopolitan Tradition (the Castle Lectures delivered at Yale University in 2000). In 2002 she delivered the Tanner Lectures at Australian National University in Canberra, under the title Beyond the Social Contract: Toward Global Justice; she also gave Tanner lectures on the same theme in Cambridge, England, in March, 2003. She has received numerous honorary degrees and is an Academician in the Academy of Finland.