To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control.

— Martha C. Nussbaum

The most dreamy Martha C. Nussbaum quotes that are glad to read

Knowledge is no guarantee of good behavior, but ignorance is a virtual guarantee of bad behavior.


Our emotional life maps our incompleteness: A creature without any needs would never have reasons for fear, or grief, or hope, or anger.


Philosophers should be, as Seneca put it, 'lawyers for humanity'.

Make what you think and feel count; the examined life has global dimensions.


Nudity quickly becomes unremarkable when generally practiced.


The great tragedy in the new feminist theory in America is the loss of a sense of public commitment.... Hungry women are not fed by this, battered women are not sheltered by it, raped women do not find justice in it, gays and lesbians do not achieve legal protections through it.


The humanities prepare students to be good citizens and help them understand a complicated, interlocking world. The humanities teach us critical thinking, how to analyze arguments, and how to imagine life from the point of view of someone unlike yourself.


As human beings, we ought to be vulnerable.

We shouldn't try to say that we can be self-sufficient or do everything that's necessary for a good life on our own, because we need other people.


Life is about more than earning a living, and if you're not in the habit of thinking about it, you can end up middle-aged or even older and shocked to realize that your life seems empty.


The humanities teach us the value, even for business, of criticism and dissent.

When there's a culture of going along to get along, where whistleblowers are discouraged, bad things happen and businesses implode.


Business leaders love the humanities because they know that to innovate you need more than rote knowledge. You need a trained imagination.


I think the obstacle for women is that their lives are intertwined with the lives of men. Change at the very deepest level of one's daily life and one's being is required if women are to be really equal.


When I came to Harvard, there were no tenured women except one, who was in a chair reserved for a woman. It's still an uphill battle, and I encountered great sexism in parts of my career, but I have to say that things are a lot better than they used to be. There are many women today doing wonderful work all over the academy.


About Martha C. Nussbaum

Quotes 49 sayings
Profession Philosopher
Birthday May 6, 1947

People have a deep need to be legislators, and the idea of autonomy has become very precious.


If you really do want to increase women's status, you could focus on just that, but you'd probably better focus also on women's education. Access to artificial contraception, I would say, is also a very important determinant of women's status.


Radio was, in a way, a very philosophical medium.

You could make an argument on the radio, and people listened to it. Television is already harder because people's attention span becomes shorter with television. Cut to a commercial and all that.


Singapore and China, which don't want to encourage democratic citizenship, are expanding their humanities curricula. These reforms are all about developing a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.


Today, I think, the state of philosophizing about democracy is very healthy.

It bridges political science and philosophy, as it should.


Notice that all the traditional things philosophers do, looking for validity and soundness, promote civic friendship. That sounds pretty pie in the sky, yes, but I actually believe it.


It's a good thing that we're protected by tenure and academic freedom, but we should realize that it creates a risk of getting cut off. Scholars should write, at least sometimes, for the general public.


We have to change men's expectations, as they grow up, regarding their share of domestic work, of child care, but also of elder care, which is less pleasant and which men don't want to do.


The great philosophers of the past who wrote so beautifully - Rousseau, John Stuart Mill - had to write beautifully because they had to sell their work to journals. They had to sell books to the general public because they could not hold positions in universities. Mill was an atheist, and, therefore, could not hold a position in a university.


As we tell stories about the lives of others, we learn how to imagine what another creature might feel in response to various events. At the same time, we identify with the other creature and learn something about ourselves.


With the rise of capitalism, it became more obvious that people pursue individual self-interest. The great nationalist in Italy, Giuseppe Mazzini, a wonderful philosopher, said that we need the nation. We need something that people can lean on, from which they can then reach out to the whole world. The idea of all humanity is too vague. It can't motivate human aspiration in a reliable way.


I do think there's a lot of bad writing, and I worry about that in philosophy.

I worry about it even more in literary studies, but I wouldn't blame it on any one methodology.


But the life that no longer trust another human being and no longer forms ties to the political community is not a human life any longer.


You have to pay so much to see theater, even in Chicago.

In the Greek theater, you didn't have to pay anything. You actually had to go, and you just sat there all day.


People don't just want to feel satisfied. They actually want to act.


I think we need government to play a part in having a health policy that makes nursing care available for the increasing numbers who are going to need it.


I am a very big fan of the nation, actually.

In Cicero's time, there was this idea that although we were members of the whole world of human beings, we also needed to connect our imaginations to a smaller unit. The smaller unit was something we knew we could live or die for, as Cicero died for the Roman republic.


The thing that I find so bad about anger is the desire for payback.

Of course, it is very human to wish for revenge. Your mother has died in the hospital, and the first thought a lot of people have is, I'll sue the doctor. You feel helpless, and you think, I'm less helpless if I'm doing something active that makes someone else pay. And social media make it easy to inflict all kinds of pain on other people. But what good does it do?


The GDP approach doesn't address many aspects of human life: health, education, political liberty, religious liberty, employment opportunities. And these are not all that well correlated with gross domestic product. We also have to think about equality among groups. And freedom of speech and religion. China always ranks near the top of developing countries these days, but there are lots of things we might see as lacking in China.


I think the imagination helps us move out of the purely oppositional mentality and see the world in a richer and more variegated way.


When a profession is protected by academic freedom and tenure, it tends to turn inward. To a large extent that's good.


There are no general-interest media that all of us can tap into.

I'm not a good person to talk to about social media. I just avoid it. I'm suspicious also of the culture of venting. But the bigger question is, How can we in this media world have a genuine civic conversation? I mean, look at Franklin Roosevelt. He had these radio talks that all Americans listened to, and there was a common civic conversation that came out of it.


I think that's what we really need in America, for people to hear each other.

And I think philosophy could do a little bit better on that.


In our swamp of media sensationalism and group-speak, BOSTON REVIEW stands out as a bold voice for reason and argument, one of the very, very few places that offers intelligence, integrity, and variety.


The EU might have become a large federal nation.

But they would have had to do things differently. Number one, they would've had to make people feel like participants in a common project of autonomous law-giving. Much more political accountability, much more participation. That didn't happen, I think, because the movers and shakers were more concerned with economic union than political union.


Property rights can improve a woman's ability to stand up to violence in the home. You might think education and employment are important because they give women exit options, but property is as well. Give women equal property rights to inherited land, then they have an asset they can take out of the marriage. This gives husbands strong incentives to not beat them.


Disgust relies on moral obtuseness. It is possible to view another human being as a slimy slug or a piece of revolting trash only if one has never made a serious good-faith attempt to see the world through that person’s eyes or to experience that person’s feelings. Disgust imputes to the other a subhuman nature. How, by contrast, do we ever become able to see one another as human? Only through the exercise of imagination.


You can’t really change the heart without telling a story.


After all, the nation is not just an entity.

It's a story. It's a story of what's salient, what brought us together, what we are willing to live and die for.


The Greek tragedies and comedies are like a roadmap to all the ways in which trying to live this rich, full life can go wrong. You could get into a war. You could find that you have members of your family on the wrong side of a political crisis. You could be raped. You could find that your child has gone crazy because of some horrible experience she's had.


There's a gap in perceptions between women and men.

Women feel much freer than they did, but still, when alcohol is involved, especially, there's a lot of sexual assault, and a lot of confusion about that. So, we need to focus a lot more on what consent is and on the importance of affirmative consent.


Economists get impatient with philosophy.

They are often trained as skilled mathematicians. They don't like going back to ordinary language and first principles.


TV has a lot of problems, but I think the Internet and social media have a lot more. Under the cover of anonymity people say the most vicious things.


Choice matters. You might have the opportunity to eat a nutritious diet, though you might choose to eat a lousy diet. What matters is the opportunity.


There was a time, before I was in graduate school, when political philosophy pretty much ceased to exist. The positivists thought there were only two things you could do: conceptual analysis or empirical investigation. Any kind of political theory or even ethical theory was nonsense.


A person in torment is not going to give you anything.

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