Martha C. Nussbaum


“Knowledge is not a guarantee of good political behavior, but ignorance is a virtual guarantee of bad behavior. In a world full of simple stereotypes, we will only preserve democratic values of debate and mutual respect if we try hard to understand the past and the present.”

Martha C. Nussbaum the 20th century female philosopher, born in 6 May 1947 in New York City is an American philosopher. Martha Nussbaum received her BA from New York University (NYU) and her MA and PhD from Harvard. She has taught at Harvard University, Brown University and Oxford University and now she is giving her services at University of Chicago. She has interest in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy and her main interests are Political philosophy, ethics and feminism. The notable theory by Nussbaum is Capability Approach: “a function must not be performed in just any way, but in a truly human way” (The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy). It means that one should able to live a life according to their abilities and able to enjoy all their power. The multidisciplinary writing style including philosophy, literature, social and political theory, and her research conducted in non-Western traditions, has made her work accessible and significant to multiple audiences (Burbules). She is author of many notable books, essays, articles and she has also edited 15 books. In addition to this, she has received honorary degree from 50 universities across the world. She has also received many awards from politics to philosophy to human right to feminism to economics (The University of Chicago).

In her book, “Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs Humanities” she talks about how we can have a good democracy in our country. She says that, “To keep democracy vital, we urgently need the abilities that the humanities foster. First, we need critical thinking: the ability to debate respectfully with others, to tell a good argument from a bad one, to examine tradition and prejudice in a Socratic spirit.” Nussbaum believes that to ensure a good democracy we should give importance to humanity. She says that, “If we cut the humanities, our nation will be the loser, both economically and politically” and she believes that to understand the humanity in a better way the first and most important thing is critical thinking (New York Times).

Why one should study about Nussbaum? Before knowing about Nussbaum whenever I heard this word philosopher I was having the image of a gentleman in my mind whose life is extraordinary and someone who is very different from common people. After studying about Nussbaum the whole idea about philosophers in mind is change. We should study Martha Nussbaum because she is the first female philosopher and she has experience many challenges for a female and for a feminist philosopher in male dominated society. For instance, in one of her interview she says that she face discrimination, sexual harassment, family problems such as she marry a Jew guy without her parents’ permission, she was having a baby when she a university student and she was suppose to take care of her alcoholic mother. More or less these all are common problems which anyone can face in their life. Nussbaum has gone through all of these challenges and she has written a lot about how to deal with such problems. Her work is not only a piece of philosophy but also it is a great guideline for everyone particular for young women. Secondly, I think we should study Nussbaum because she is among very few western philosophers who have study and conduct research in non-western communities. Nussbaum has study in west and conducted her research in India about economy, democracy and other female related issues, which gives her work more diversity. In her interview to History channel she says that, “before study outside of the west I was ignorant.” I think that it will be more interesting and knowledgeable to study such philosophers who have examples from not only west but also from other parts of the world too. Thirdly, Nussbaum is greatly influence by Aristotle, Plato, Adam Smith and many other great philosophers and also greatly influence by ancient Roman and Greek philosophy. They all have a leading role in philosophy the problem is that they have great ideas but difficult to understand. Nussbaum has written a lot about their ideologies and theories in easy way and she has also related their ideologies to today’s world and to the lives of common people. Therefore I believe that while studying Nussbaum one can have better understand of ancient philosophy too.


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