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Do not disturb

Bernard Williams

20 October 1994
The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics 
by Martha Nussbaum.
Princeton, 558 pp., £22.50, June 1994, 0 691 03342 0
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... states in which most Greek life had gone on in the Classical period. These schools continued to develop and to have influence in the Roman world, and indeed some of the principal sources on which MarthaNussbaum draws in her rich and interesting book were written in Latin. It is a work of scholarship, with many references and exegetical notes, but Nussbaum makes it very clear throughout that she ...

Rat Poison

David Bromwich

17 October 1996
Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life 
by Martha Nussbaum.
Beacon, 143 pp., $20, February 1996, 0 8070 4108 4
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... MarthaNussbaum is a classical scholar and moral philosopher who in several books and a great many essays has advanced a thesis about the cognitive power of emotions. Feeling, she says, is part of thought. Only ...

How do they see you?

Elizabeth Spelman: Martha Nussbaum

16 November 2000
Sex and Social Justice 
by Martha Nussbaum.
Oxford, 476 pp., £25, July 1999, 0 19 511032 3
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Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach 
by Martha Nussbaum.
Cambridge, 312 pp., £17.95, May 2000, 0 521 66086 6
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... sex’ includes but is not limited to what philosophers might or might not engage in between bouts of boozing at conventions. So what do philosophers talk about when they talk about sex? Well, as MarthaNussbaum’s two recent books illustrate, more than enough issues to keep social theorists, ethicists, legal scholars and hoteliers in business for a long time: topics that arise in connection with ...

If Oxfam ran the world

Martha Nussbaum

4 September 1997
Living High and Letting Die: Our Illusion of Innocence 
by Peter Unger.
Oxford, 187 pp., £35, October 1996, 0 19 507584 6
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... The basic life chances of human beings vary dramatically around the world. According to the 1996 Report of the United Nations Development Programme, the life expectancy of a child born today in Sierra Leone is 39.2 years, the life expectancy of a child born in Japan 79.6 years (US 76.1, UK 76.3). In the developing world, daily calorie supply per capita ranges from 3223 in Barbados to 1505 in Somalia ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: The Open Left Project

27 August 2009
... companies. In his quest for a definition of the left, Purnell has settled on a move from equality of opportunity to ‘equality of capability’, a phrase nicked from the work of Amartya Sen and MarthaNussbaum. Except that, not having the Aristotle, he doesn’t mean it quite the way they do. The Open Left project is sponsored and overseen by Demos, one of those nifty think-tanks where besuited ...


Stephen Mulhall: The intolerance of liberalism

22 July 2004
Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame and the Law 
by Martha Nussbaum.
Princeton, 413 pp., £19.95, April 2004, 0 691 09526 4
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... citizen (the bearer of political rights and responsibilities). For Rawls, only a purely political liberalism of this kind can honestly avoid the charge of subverting its defining claim to neutrality. MarthaNussbaum’s new book, which analyses how far responses of shame and disgust should form the basis of lawmaking, explicitly presents itself as furthering this kind of liberal project; but she also ...

How to Write It

Sanjay Subrahmanyam: India after Independence

20 September 2007
India after Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy 
by Ramachandra Guha.
Macmillan, 900 pp., £25, April 2007, 978 0 230 01654 5
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The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence and India’s Future 
by Martha Nussbaum.
Belknap, 403 pp., £19.95, June 2007, 978 0 674 02482 3
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... audience but he misses the opportunity – if that is the right word – to have a real argument with others in the field. The problem of narrative exposition finds a quite different solution in MarthaNussbaum’s The Clash Within, a book less than half the size of Guha’s doorstop. After training in Hellenistic philosophy and the interpretation of Aristotle, Nussbaum has begun in recent years to ...

Dive In!

Bruce Robbins: Hegelian reflections

2 November 2000
Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in 20th-Century France 
by Judith Butler.
Columbia, 268 pp., £12, June 1999, 0 231 06451 9
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... is often overlooked in accounts of Butler’s career, especially polemical ones. It is the one book left unmentioned, for example, in last year’s much-discussed broadside in the New Republic by MarthaNussbaum. To catch Butler in the act of not thinking about sex is no doubt less interesting to her more gladiatorial critics than skewering her for her deconstructive sins. Some will certainly find ...

Let every faction bloom

John Patrick Diggins

6 March 1997
For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism 
edited by Joshua Cohen.
Beacon, 154 pp., $15, August 1996, 0 8070 4313 3
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For Love of Country: An Essay on Patriotism and Nationalism 
by Maurizio Viroli.
Oxford, 214 pp., £22.50, September 1995, 0 19 827952 3
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Bonds of Affection: Americans Define Their Patriotism 
edited by John Bodnar.
Princeton, 352 pp., £45, September 1996, 0 691 04397 3
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Buring the Flag: The Great 1989-90 American Flag Desecration Controversy 
by Robert Justin Goldstein.
Kent State, 453 pp., $39, July 1996, 0 87338 526 8
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... the Second World War: much of the Sixties generation remains convinced that it started the Cold War. It is no coincidence that the latest debate over patriotism should have begun when the philosopher MarthaNussbaum, with her Sixties sensibilities, responded to a New York Times op-ed article by Richard Rorty, a relatively senior philosopher who identifies with the Old Left of the Forties. Rorty had ...

Third Natures

Christopher Minkowski: The Kāmasūtra

21 June 2018
Redeeming the ‘Kamasutra’ 
by Wendy Doniger.
Oxford, 181 pp., £14.99, March 2016, 978 0 19 049928 0
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... heterodox past and its pluralist present’, rather than ‘a small India, bundled around a drastically downsized version of Hinduism’. With developments in India and the US in mind, Doniger and MarthaNussbaum edited a collection of essays by Indian and American writers called Pluralism and Democracy in India: Debating the Hindu Right. The volume appeared in 2015, but the articles look back to ...

Speaking Azza

Martin Jay: Where are you coming from?

28 November 2002
Situatedness; Or, Why We Keep Saying Where We’re Coming From 
by David Simpson.
Duke, 290 pp., £14.50, March 2002, 0 8223 2839 9
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... critic, in challenging the role that literature has played in cultivating then wallowing in ambiguities and aporias, when it should be providing ways of going beyond them. Against thinkers such as MarthaNussbaum and Richard Rorty, he refuses to celebrate the literary as a way to avoid or perpetually defer addressing hard epistemological questions as to how we can know a real world whose solidity ...

Nutty Professors

Hal Foster: ‘Lingua Franca’

8 May 2003
Quick Studies: The Best of ‘Lingua Franca’ 
edited by Alexander Star.
Farrar, Straus, 514 pp., $18, September 2002, 0 374 52863 2
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... to analyse their families, only to be accused of invasion of privacy (he was run out of his college, and went straight to law school). Another telling story concerns the after-trial tribulations of MarthaNussbaum, who, as an expert witness in the 1993 Colorado Amendment 2 Case involving gay rights, appeared to fudge the meaning of a Greek word for anal intercourse as well as the attitude of Plato and ...

Not Not To Be

Malcolm Schofield: Aristotle’s legacy

17 February 2005
A New History of Western Philosophy. Vol. I: Ancient Philosophy 
by Anthony Kenny.
Oxford, 341 pp., £17.99, June 2005, 0 19 875273 3
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... cultural density and complexity of ancient Greek thought, and to explore its development within broader or more specific historical contexts. A.A. Long’s recent book on Epictetus, like the work of MarthaNussbaum and Richard Sorabji on ancient philosophical therapy, reminds us of something lost in the modern academy and not at all prominent in Kenny, but regarded by all major Greek and Roman thinkers ...

Frisks, Skips and Jumps

Colin Burrow: Montaigne’s Tower

6 November 2003
Michel de Montaigne: Accidental Philosopher 
by Anne Hartle.
Cambridge, 303 pp., £45, March 2003, 0 521 82168 1
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... to the language games of the Philosophical Investigations, there have been and are many philosophers of a wide range of political shadings (Michael Oakeshott, Richard Rorty, Bernard Williams, MarthaNussbaum) who breathe the air of the tower far more easily than they do that of the stove. Maybe if this tendency continues, Montaigne will one day come to seem as significant a figure in the history of ...

Am I right to be angry?

Malcolm Bull: Superfluous Men

2 August 2018
Age of Anger: A History of the Present 
by Pankaj Mishra.
Penguin, 416 pp., £9.99, February 2018, 978 0 14 198408 7
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... if you weren’t already, has a long pedigree. Seneca thought anger ‘the most hideous and frenzied of all the emotions’ because it rushes to judgment and seeks revenge at any cost. More recently, MarthaNussbaum has argued that anger is ‘highly likely to lead us astray’ rather than enable us to act in a way that will benefit us or anyone else. But it isn’t self-evident that they are asking the ...

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