Martha Nussbaum received her BA from NYU and her MA and PhD from Harvard. She has taught at Harvard, Brown, and Oxford Universities. From 1986 to 1993, Ms. Nussbaum was a research advisor at the World Institute for Development Economics Research, Helsinki, a part of the United Nations University. She has chaired the Committee on International Cooperation and the Committee on the Status of Women of the American Philosophical Association, and currently chairs its new Committee for Public Philosophy. She has been a member of the Association's National Board. In 1999-2000 she was one of the three Presidents of the Association, delivering the Presidential Address in the Central Division. Ms. Nussbaum has 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 won the Ness Book Award of the Association of American Colleges and Universities in 1998, and the Grawemeyer Award in Education in 2002. Sex and Social Justice won the book award of the North American Society for Social Philosophy in 2000. Hiding From Humanity won the Association of American University Publishers Professional and Scholarly Book Award for Law in 2004. She has received honorary degrees from thirty-seven colleges and universities in the U. S., Canada, Asia, and Europe, including Grinnell College, Williams College, The College of William and Mary, The University of St. Andrews (Scotland), the University of Edinburgh (Scotland), Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium), the University of Toronto, the Ecole Normale Supérieure (Paris), the New School University, the University of Haifa, Ohio State University, and Georgetown University. She received the Grawemeyer Award in Education in 2002, the Barnard College Medal of Distinction in 2003, the Radcliffe Alumnae Recognition Award in 2007, and the Centennial Medal of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University in 2010. She is an Academician in the Academy of Finland. In 2009 she won the A.SK award from the German Social Science Research Council for (WZB) for her contributions to "social system reform," and the American Philosophical Society's Henry M. Phillips Prize in Jurisprudence.
Professor Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, appointed in the Philosophy Department, Law School, and Divinity School. She is an Associate in the Classics Department and the Political Science Department, a Member of the Committee on Southern Asian Studies, and a Board Member of the Human Rights Program. She is the founder and Coordinator of the Center for Comparative Constitutionalism.
Her publications include Aristotle's De Motu Animalium (1978), The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy (1986, updated edition 2000), Love's Knowledge (1990), The Therapy of Desire (1994), Poetic Justice (1996), For Love of Country (1996), Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education (1997), Sex and Social Justice (1998), Women and Human Development (2000), Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions (2001), Hiding From Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law (2004), Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership (2006), The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future (2007), Liberty of Conscience: In Defense of America's Tradition of Religious Equality (2008), From Disgust to Humanity: Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law (2010), and Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (2010). Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach will be published in 2011. She has also edited fourteen books. Her Supreme Court Foreword, "Constitutions and Capabilities," appeared in 2007 and will ultimately become a book to be published by Harvard.
Professor Nussbaum's CV is available from her upon request.
Martha Nussbaum Recorded Interviews & Lectures
Martha Nussbaum on Elucidations (Dept. of Philosophy podcast)
Please see Professor Nussbaum's CV on her website for a complete list of publications.
31111. Rawls. This course will study John Rawls’s two great works of political philosophy, A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism, trying to understand their argument as well as possible. We will also read other related writings of Rawls and some of the best critical literature. Assessment will take the form of an eight-hour take-home final exam, except for those who gain permission to choose the paper option, who will write a 20-25 page paper. (I) Winter 2014.
51200. Workshop: Law and Philosophy: Life and Death. (=LAWS 61512, RETH 51301, HMRT 51301, PLSC 51512, GNSE 50101) PQ: Students are admitted by permission of the two instructors. They should submit a c.v. and a statement (reasons for interest in the course, relevant background in law and/or philosophy) to the instructors by e mail. Usual participants include graduate students in philosophy, political science, and divinity, and law students. This is a seminar/workshop many of whose participants are faculty from various related disciplines. It admits approximately ten students. Its aim is to study, each year, a topic that arises in both philosophy and the law and to ask how bringing the two fields together may yield mutual illumination. Most sessions are led by visiting speakers, from either outside institutions or our own faculty, who circulate their papers in advance. The session consists of a brief introduction by the speaker, followed by initial questioning by the two faculty coordinators, followed by general discussion, in which students are given priority. Several sessions involve students only, and are led by the instructors. Students write a 20-25 page seminar paper at the end of the year. The course satisfies the Law School Substantial Writing Requirement. There are approximately four meetings in each of the three quarters. Students must therefore enroll for all three quarters. Autumn, Winter, Spring.
50250. Greek Tragedy and Philosophy. PHIL 50100. (=RETH 50250, LAWS 96303). PQ: Admission by permission of the instructor. Permission must be sought in writing by September 15. An undergraduate major in philosophy or some equivalent solid philosophy preparation, OR a solid grounding in Classics, including language training.
In other words, those who qualify on the basis of philosophical background do not have to know ancient Greek, but someone without such preparation may be admitted on the basis of knowledge of Greek and other Classics training of the sort typical of our Ph.D. students in Classics. An extra section will be held for those who can read some of the materials in Greek.
Ancient Greek tragedy has been of continuous interest to philosophers, whether they love it or hate it. But they do not agree about what it is and does, or about what insights it offers. This seminar will study the tragic festivals and a select number of tragedies, also consulting some modern studies of ancient tragedy. Then we shall turn to philosophical accounts of the tragic genre, including Plato, Aristotle, the Greek and Roman Stoics, Seneca, Lessing, Schlegel, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Iris Murdoch, and Bernard Williams. If we have time we will include some study of ancient Greek comedy and its philosophical significance. (I or IV) Autumn 2013.
Cicero's De Finibus and Hellenistic Ethics. (=Classics, Divinity, and Law) Cicero's dialogue De Finibus (On Ends) is his attempt to sort out the major arguments for and against the ethical theories characteristic of Epicureanism, Stoicism, and the "New Academy." It thus provides us with some of our best information about the views of these schools, as well as with critical arguments of great interest. We will read extracts from the dialogue in Latin, focusing on Epicureanism (Books I and II) and Stoicism (Books III and IV), and we will study the entire work in translation, along with relevant primary sources for the views of the schools (the surviving letters of Epicurus, central texts of Greek and Roman Stoicism). The course will thus aim to provide a solid introduction to the major ethical theories of the Hellenistic period.
The course is open to all who have had five quarters of Latin, or equivalent preparation. Translation will always take place during the first hour, and students without Latin are invited to take the course for an R or audit, arriving after that time and doing all the readings in translation. In some cases Independent Study numbers may be arranged for students who want to do some of the course requirements (paper and exam essays) without Latin. (IV) Winter 2012.
31900. Feminist Philosophy. (=GNDR 29600, LAWS 47701, HMRT 31900, PLSC 51900, RETH 41000) Undergraduates may enroll only with the permission of the instructor. The course is an introduction to the major varieties of philosophical feminism: Liberal Feminism (Mill, Wollstonecraft, Okin, Nussbaum), Radical Feminism (MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin), Difference Feminism (Gilligan, Held, Noddings), and Postmodern "Queer" Feminism (Rubin, Butler). After studying each of these approaches, we will focus on political and ethical problems of contemporary international feminism, asking how well each of the approaches addresses these problems. M. Nussbaum. This seminar will take place during the first five weeks of the term (March 28-April 27, 2011). Spring 2011.
50320. Distribution, Taxes, and Social Justice (=LAWS 98703) Non-law students should apply to the instructors by November 1, 2010. This interdisciplinary seminar will examine normative theories of social justice (Rawls, Sen, and others) in the context of a focus on tax policy and other practical strategies for addressing inequality (education, affirmative action). The focus throughout will be on inequality in the United States. Students enrolled will write a seminar paper (20-25 pages). With D. Weisbach (Law). Spring 2011.
21416/31416. Religion and the First Amendment Open to college and grad students. The course will cover the major legal issues in this area, focusing on the relationship between the Establishment clause and the Free Exercise clause. Some background reading in philosophy (e.g. Hobbes, Locke) will begin the class, and some comparative reading about other countries (especially India) will end it. Spring 2005.
21441/31441. Aristophanes Open to college and grad students. Prerequisites: Four prior courses in Greek. We will read Lysistrata in Greek, and several other plays in translation. In the process we will study the form and Content of Old Comedy, and relevant issues about sex, gender, and the body. Winter 2004.
21551/31551. Greek Tragedy: Sophocles' Philoctetus Open to college and grad students. Prerequisites: Greek 2003. Sophocles' Philoctetes shows a good man suffering excruciating pain because of events that were not his fault. It refers often to the emotion of pity, and it connects that emotion closely with the idea of justice, as Neoptolemus, moved by the sight of pain, comes to understand the wrongfulness of his earlier actions. A close reading of the play in Greek will be combined with a more general investigation of pity, the central tragic emotion. Through readings in English from authors including Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau, and Nietzsche, we will study the role of pity in philosophical attacks on tragedy, and we will ask how, and whether, these attacks may be answered. Translation will occur during a set portion of the class, and auditors without Greek who wish to join in the discussions in English may therefore skip those parts. Their participation is strongly encouraged. Winter 2005.
21800/31800. Fear of Death Open to college and grad students. Prerequisites: Knowledge of Latin. Hellenistic philosophers, both Greek and Roman, were preoccupied with questions about death and debated them with a depth and intensity that makes them still highly influential in modern philosophical debate about the same issues. We focus on several major Latin writings on the topic (i.e., Lucretius Book III and extracts from Cicero and Seneca). We study the philosophical arguments in their literary setting and ask about connections between argument and its rhetorical expression. We read pertinent material from Plato, Epicurus, Plutarch, and a few modern authors. Winter 2002.
21918/31918. Decision-making: Principles and Foundations
Open to college and grad students. Prerequisites: Consent of instructor. The course will be co-taught with Douglas Baird. Individuals, particularly those in leadership positions, are called upon to make decisions on behalf of others. This course offers a rigorous study of how philosophers and others have examined the process of decision-making. We also focus on the tools they have used, including those from behavioral economics and game theory. We discuss moral dilemmas and some of the more common pathologies of decision-making: akrasia, self-deception, and blind obedience to authority. Spring 2004, Spring 2008.
24209/34209. Cicero’s De Officiis (On Duties). (=LATN 27209/37209) PQ: Five quarters of Latin or equivalent, or option to audit. This course is a study of one of the most influential works in the whole history of Western political thought—a primary foundation for modern ideas of global justice and the just war. We understand it in the context of Cicero’s thought and its background in Hellenistic philosophy, and we also do readings in translation that show its subsequent influence. Optional translation sessions held in first hour of each class. Winter 2010.
25209/35209. Emotion, Reason, and Law. PQ: Consent of instructor. Emotions figure in many areas of the law, and many legal doctrines (from reasonable provocation in homicide to mercy in criminal sentencing) invite us to think about emotions and their relationship to reason. In addition, some prominent theories of the limits of law make reference to emotions: thus Lord Devlin and, more recently, Leon Kass have argued that the disgust of the average member of society is a sufficient reason for rendering a practice illegal, even though it does no harm to others. Emotions, however, are all too rarely studied closely, with the result that both theory and doctrine are often confused. (A). Spring 2010.
31900. Feminist Philosophy Open to grad students and college students with consent of instructor. Prerequisites: Consent of instructor. This course is an introduction to the major varieties of philosophical feminism: Liberal Feminism (Mill, Wollstonecraft, Okin, Nussbaum); Radical Feminism (MacKinnon, Dworkin); Difference Feminism (Gilligan, Held, Noddings); and Postmodern "Queer" Feminism (Rubin, Butler). After studying each of these approaches, we focus on political and ethical problems of contemporary international feminism, asking how well each of the approaches addresses these problems. *Special note: Also IDENT to HMRT 31900. Spring 2003.
419. John Stuart Mill (=DIV RE 430, LAW 743, Pol Sci 439, GENDST 290). PQ: Consent of instructor. A careful study of Mill's utilitarianism in relation to his ideas of self-realization and of liberty. We will study closely at least Utilitarianism, On Liberty, the Essays on Bentham and Coleridge, The Subjection of Women, and the Autobiography, trying to figure out whether Mill is a Utilitarian or an Aristotelian eudaimonist, and what view of "permanent human interests" and of the malleability of desire and preference underlies his political thought.
50109 Rawls on Justice. This course will study John Rawls’s two great works of political philosophy, A Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism, trying to understand their argument as well as possible. We will also read other related writings of Rawls and some of the best critical literature. In the latter third of the course we will examine critiques of Rawls from several points of view, including the capabilities approach of Nussbaum and Sen. PQ: This course is open by permission of the instructor, and those who wish to attend should email the instructor by Sept. 20, giving an account of prior preparation in philosophy. An undergraduate major or the equivalent preparation is a necessary condition.
51001. Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism Open to grad students. Prerequisites: A minimum prerequisite is an undergraduate major in philosophy or the equivalent course work in philosophy. What is a nation, and why might it be appropriate to be attached to one's own nation in a special way? Are there any good reasons why we should not always have equal concern for all human beings and seek to promote their good equally? (And who has the burden of proof here, the cosmopolitan or the defender of local loyalties?) If there are such reasons, do they give us reason to make the nation special, rather than to focus on other, frequently narrower, loyalties, such as those to one's family, ethnic or religious group, sports team? Why did Marcus Aurelius say that his first lesson in being a good person was "not to be a fan of the Greens or Blues at the races, or the light-armed or heavy-armed gladiators at the circus"? Why did Sir Walter Scott say that a person who lacks patriotic emotion for his own native land "living shall forfeit fair renown/And, doubly dying, shall go down/To that foul hell from whence he sprung,/Unwept, unhonored, and unsung?" Why did Wilfred Owen say, of the better man of the future, "He wars on Death -- for Life/Not men -- for flags."? How is each philosophical position linked to a distinctive understanding of the good man and of manly virtue? What is patriotic emotion, and how is the apparently benign emotion of love of country linked to other more problematic emotions, such as anger, fear, the sense of humiliated masculinity, etc.? We will pursue these questions by reading a wide range of philosophical authors who have addressed the topic. *Special note: Enrollment limited to 25. Permission of the instructor required, and this should be sought in writing (e mail) by September 20. Autumn 2006.
51200. Law-Philosophy Seminar This is a seminar/workshop most of whose participants are faculty from various area institutions. It admits approximately ten students by permission of the instructors. Its aim is to study, each year, a topic that arises in both philosophy and the law and to ask how bringing the two fields together may yield mutual illumination. There are twelve meetings throughout the year, always on Mondays from 4 to 6 PM. Half of the sessions are led by local faculty, half by visiting speakers. The leader assigns readings for the session (which may be by that person, by other contemporaries, or by major historical figures), and the session consists of a brief introduction by the leader, followed by structured questioning by the two faculty coordinators, followed by general discussion. Students write a 20-25 page seminar paper at the end of the year. The course satisfies the Law School Writing Requirement. The schedule of meetings will be announced by mid-September, and prospective students should submit their credentials to both instructors by September 20. Past themes have included: practical reason; equality; privacy; autonomy; global justice; pluralism and toleration; war; sexuality and family.
Students are admitted by permission of the instructors. They should submit a c.v. and a statement (reasons for interest in the course, relevant background in law and/or philosophy) by September 20 to Nussbaum and Leiter by e mail. Usual participants include graduate students in philosophy, political science, and divinity, and law students. The theme for 2008-9 will be Religious Liberty and Toleration.
Co-taught with Professor Brian Leiter (Law). Ongoing.
51401. Religion and the State Open to grad students. Prerequisites: Enrollment limited to 25, and by permission of the instructor. Candidates should submit a description of their background and relevant preparation (in philosophy, religion, and law) by the Friday before the first day of classes. This course will study philosophical issues that arise in connection with the Church-State relationship: establishment, free exercise, non-discrimination on grounds of religion, non-discrimination on grounds of sex and gender, respect for pluralism, and others. We will study some major conceptions of the Church-State relationship, asking how these conceptions influence the nature of the family, the role of women in society, and other important goods. John Rawls's Political Liberalism is one work that we will study in depth, along with criticisms from a variety of viewpoints, and along with major historical antecedents in the Western tradition, including Locke's Letter on Toleration, Moses Mendelssohn's Jerusalem, Kant's Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone, and Marx's On the Jewish Question. We will devote a substantial portion of the course to studying the major developments in this area in U. S. Constitutional Law, but the approach of the course will be comparative, and we will also study material from India, Israel, South Africa, and Europe. Autumn 2003.
51515. Contemporary Virtue Ethics Open to grad students. Prerequisites: Enrollment limited to 25. Permission of the instructor required, and this should be sought in writing (e mail) by September 20. A minimum prerequisite is an undergraduate major in philosophy or the equivalent course work. This class will study the revival of the ethics of virtue in contemporary moral philosophy, considering, among others, Iris Murdoch, John McDowell, Philippa Foot, Nancy Sherman, Henry Richardson, Annette Baier, Rosalind Hursthouse, and Bernard Williams. Is virtue ethics a single movement, with a single set of philosophical motivations and normative commitments, or a more complicated plurality of positions and motivations? What is the relationship of virtue ethics to the idea of ethical theory? To the aspiration to put reason in charge of human life? Is virtue ethics inherently conservative, deferring to socially formed passions and patterns of conduct, or is (some form of) it capable of radical criticism of entrenched social norms, e.g. of class and gender? We will be alluding to the Greeks throughout, so some background in ancient Greek ethics is highly desirable. Autumn 2004, Autumn 2011.
52300. Education and Moral Psychology Open to grad students. This seminar will study some classic works in the philosophy of education, asking what account of children they articulate and how their educational proposals are connected both to psychological analysis and to normative ethical and political ideas. Included will be philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, the Greek and Roman Stoics, Rousseau, Kant, J. S. Mill, Dewey, and Rabindranath Tagore, but also thinkers about childhood and education who were not professional philosophers, such as Friedrich Froebel, Johann Pestalozzi, Maria Montessori, and Donald Winnicott. We will ask about how education is related to important goals of the personal life, such as happiness and autonomy, but also how it is related to important goals of a shared political life, such as mutual respect and compassionate attention to human need. Autumn 2007.