Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities

Princeton University Press

In this short and powerful book, celebrated philosopher Martha Nussbaum makes a passionate case for the importance of the liberal arts at all levels of education.

Historically, the humanities have been central to education because they have been seen as essential for creating competent democratic citizens. But recently, Nussbaum argues, thinking about the aims of education has gone disturbingly awry in the United States and abroad. We increasingly treat education as though its primary goal were to teach students to be economically productive rather than to think critically and become knowledgeable and empathetic citizens. This shortsighted focus on profitable skills has eroded our ability to criticize authority, reduced our sympathy with the marginalized and different, and damaged our competence to deal with complex global problems. And the loss of these basic capacities jeopardizes the health of democracies and the hope of a decent world.

In response to this dire situation, Nussbaum argues that we must resist efforts to reduce education to a tool of the gross national product. Rather, we must work to reconnect education to the humanities in order to give students the capacity to be true democratic citizens of their countries and the world.

Drawing on the stories of troubling--and hopeful--educational developments from around the world, Nussbaum offers a manifesto that should be a rallying cry for anyone who cares about the deepest purposes of education.

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About the author

Martha C. Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics in the Philosophy Department, Law School, and Divinity School at the University of Chicago. She is the author of many books, including "Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law" (Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Mar 25, 2012
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Pages
184
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ISBN
9781400842018
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / Aims & Objectives
Education / Educational Policy & Reform / General
Education / Essays
Education / Philosophy, Theory & Social Aspects
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Martha C. Nussbaum
Anger is not just ubiquitous, it is also popular. Many people think it is impossible to care sufficiently for justice without anger at injustice. Many believe that it is impossible for individuals to vindicate their own self-respect or to move beyond an injury without anger. To not feel anger in those cases would be considered suspect. Is this how we should think about anger, or is anger above all a disease, deforming both the personal and the political? In this wide-ranging book, Martha C. Nussbaum, one of our leading public intellectuals, argues that anger is conceptually confused and normatively pernicious. It assumes that the suffering of the wrongdoer restores the thing that was damaged, and it betrays an all-too-lively interest in relative status and humiliation. Studying anger in intimate relationships, casual daily interactions, the workplace, the criminal justice system, and movements for social transformation, Nussbaum shows that anger's core ideas are both infantile and harmful. Is forgiveness the best way of transcending anger? Nussbaum examines different conceptions of this much-sentimentalized notion, both in the Jewish and Christian traditions and in secular morality. Some forms of forgiveness are ethically promising, she claims, but others are subtle allies of retribution: those that exact a performance of contrition and abasement as a condition of waiving angry feelings. In general, she argues, a spirit of generosity (combined, in some cases, with a reliance on impartial welfare-oriented legal institutions) is the best way to respond to injury. Applied to the personal and the political realms, Nussbaum's profoundly insightful and erudite view of anger and forgiveness puts both in a startling new light.
Martha C. Nussbaum
Anger is not just ubiquitous, it is also popular. Many people think it is impossible to care sufficiently for justice without anger at injustice. Many believe that it is impossible for individuals to vindicate their own self-respect or to move beyond an injury without anger. To not feel anger in those cases would be considered suspect. Is this how we should think about anger, or is anger above all a disease, deforming both the personal and the political? In this wide-ranging book, Martha C. Nussbaum, one of our leading public intellectuals, argues that anger is conceptually confused and normatively pernicious. It assumes that the suffering of the wrongdoer restores the thing that was damaged, and it betrays an all-too-lively interest in relative status and humiliation. Studying anger in intimate relationships, casual daily interactions, the workplace, the criminal justice system, and movements for social transformation, Nussbaum shows that anger's core ideas are both infantile and harmful. Is forgiveness the best way of transcending anger? Nussbaum examines different conceptions of this much-sentimentalized notion, both in the Jewish and Christian traditions and in secular morality. Some forms of forgiveness are ethically promising, she claims, but others are subtle allies of retribution: those that exact a performance of contrition and abasement as a condition of waiving angry feelings. In general, she argues, a spirit of generosity (combined, in some cases, with a reliance on impartial welfare-oriented legal institutions) is the best way to respond to injury. Applied to the personal and the political realms, Nussbaum's profoundly insightful and erudite view of anger and forgiveness puts both in a startling new light.
Martha C. Nussbaum
Should laws about sex and pornography be based on social conventions about what is disgusting? Should felons be required to display bumper stickers or wear T-shirts that announce their crimes? This powerful and elegantly written book, by one of America's most influential philosophers, presents a critique of the role that shame and disgust play in our individual and social lives and, in particular, in the law.

Martha Nussbaum argues that we should be wary of these emotions because they are associated in troubling ways with a desire to hide from our humanity, embodying an unrealistic and sometimes pathological wish to be invulnerable. Nussbaum argues that the thought-content of disgust embodies "magical ideas of contamination, and impossible aspirations to purity that are just not in line with human life as we know it." She argues that disgust should never be the basis for criminalizing an act, or play either the aggravating or the mitigating role in criminal law it currently does. She writes that we should be similarly suspicious of what she calls "primitive shame," a shame "at the very fact of human imperfection," and she is harshly critical of the role that such shame plays in certain punishments.

Drawing on an extraordinarily rich variety of philosophical, psychological, and historical references--from Aristotle and Freud to Nazi ideas about purity--and on legal examples as diverse as the trials of Oscar Wilde and the Martha Stewart insider trading case, this is a major work of legal and moral philosophy.

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