Martha Craven Nussbaum – USA

Martha Nussbaum (born Martha Craven on May 6, 1947) is an American philosopher, with a particular interest in ancient philosophy, political philosophy and ethics. She was born in New York, the daughter of George Craven, a Philadelphia lawyer, and Betty Warren, a homemaker. She studied theatre and classics at New York University, getting a Bachelor of Arts in 1969, and gradually moved to philosophy while at Harvard, where she received a MA in 1972 and a PhD in 1975, studying under G. E. L. Owen. This period also saw her marriage to Alan Nussbaum (divorced in 1987), conversion to Judaism, and the birth of her daughter Rachel, who would become a professor of German History.

She taught philosophy and classics at Harvard in the 1970s and early 1980s, before moving to Brown. Her 1986 book The Fragility of Goodness, on ancient ethics, was particularly influential, and made her a well-known figure throughout the humanities. (full text wikipedia).

Martha Craven Nussbaum – USA

Download: Martha C. Nussbaum: ‘Women and Human Development, The Capabilities Approach, Feminism and International Development‘, 316 pages.

The debate over whether philosophy should play a mandarin or public role has been a contentious one throughout American intellectual history. In the hands of thinkers like Sidney Hook and John Dewey, philosophy turned its attention “from the problems of philosophers toward the problems of men,” as Dewey wrote in “Reconstruction in Philosophy” (1920). After the Second World War, the mainstream of American philosophy became reclusively “analytic,” orienting itself around the study of logic, mathematics and the philosophy of science,
while maintaining only a tenuous connection to the world at large. With John Rawls’s “A Theory of Justice” (1971), academic philosophy initiated a wary rapprochement with its more socially engaged past, using the analytic idiom to address age-old questions of justice. Nussbaum’s work has played an important part in this revival, as she has extended Rawls’s liberal insights to examine questions of gender, race and international development. She insists that philosophy be rigorous and, above all, useful. Whereas Ludwig Wittgenstein once
compared philosophers to garbage men sweeping the mind clean of wrongheaded concepts, Nussbaum believes they should be “lawyers for humanity” – a phrase she borrows from Seneca, her favorite Stoic thinker. Part wonk, part sage, Nussbaum is determined to make philosophy relevant to the modern world. (full text).

Recommended texts: … history of philosophy, biography> American philosopher (1947-). In The Fragility of Goodness (1986) and The Therapy of Desire (1994) Nussbaum argues for the continuing relevance of the moral philosophy of Aristotle and the schools of the Hellenistic era. An on-line example of her use of this method may be found in “Victims and Agents: What Greek tragedy can teach us about sympathy and responsibility.” She employs more modern literary texts as significant sources of insight into human emotions and decision-making in Love’s Knowledge (1990). Recommended Reading: Martha Craven Nussbaum, Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life (Beacon, 1997); Martha Craven Nussbaum, Cultivating Humanity (Harvard, 1998); Martha Craven Nussbaum, Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach (Cambridge, 2000); Martha Craven Nussbaum, Sex & Social Justice (Oxford, 2000); and Ronald L. Hall, The Human Embrace: The Love of Philosophy and the Philosophy of Love: Kierkegaard, Cavell, Nussbaum (Penn. State, 1999). (full text).

Some excerpts of her work:

… which is found inside of the dictionary of philosophical terms and names , a concise guide to technical terms and personal names often encounters in the study of philosophy;

Martha Craven Nussbaum. At 55, she is America’s foremost philosopher, a title retired since Ralph Waldo Emerson died in 1882. Nussbaum is halfway into a weeklong seminar whose purpose is to teach business leaders how to think about “Core Values for a Global Society.” The class’s immediate assignment: to stage The Trojan Women, the ancient Greek play whose main character, Hecuba, the queen, finds her homeland conquered in war by the Greek army. Think of it as an encounter with terrorists. All of the things that define Hecuba — her title, her freedom, her luxuries, even her children — are gone in an instant. Who is she, deep down, minus every shred of her title and her identity? And here’s a question for the class — and the rest of us — to ponder: Is there any part of us that is safe from the whims of fate? (full text).

her books:


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