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If our world is to be a decent world in the future, we must acknowledge right now that we are citizens of one interdependent world, held together by mutual fellowship as well as the pursuit of mutual advantage, by compassion as well as self interest, by a love of human dignity, in all people, even when there is nothing to gain from cooperating with them. Or rather even when we have to gain the biggest thing of all: participation in a just and morally decent world. Martha Nussbaum Frontiers of Justice 2006: p324

I first encountered Martha Nussbaum through her book Sex and Justice  (1999), and have been a cautious fan ever since.

I thank her for her discussions of the issues of narrative and ‘cultivating humanity’; of the importance of capabilities, rights and human flourishing; for her tentative list of central human capabilities; for her ideas of shame and disgust;for her work beyond the narrow confines of a US academic; for the ideas of cosmopolitanism; for her concerns about gender and sexuality; for her ‘religious tolerance’; for her concern with anmals and disability;  and for her passion for a ‘decent world culture’ and a world moral community;   She is surely one of the world’s leading philosophers and feminists and ~i think provides a good grounding for developing a better sociology. .

Martha Nussbaum’s Central Human Functional Capabilities.

  1. Life.  Being able to live to the end of a human life of normal length; not dying prematurely or before one’s life is so reduced as to be not worth living
  2. Bodily Health and Integrity.  Being able to have good health, including reproductive health; being adequately nourished; being able to have adequate shelter
  3. Bodily Integrity.  Being able to move freely from place to place; being able to be secure against violent assault, including sexual assault, marital rape, and domestic violence; having opportunities for sexual satisfaction and for choice in matters of reproduction.
  4. Senses, imagination, thought.  Being able to use the senses; being able to imagine, to think, and to reason – and to do these things in a “truly human” way, a way informed and cultivated by an adequate education, including, but by no means limited to, literacy and basic mathematical and scientific training; being able to use imagination and thought in connection with experiencing and producing expressive works and events of one’s own choice (religious, literary, musical etc.); being able to use one’s mind in ways protected by guarantees of freedom of expression wit respect to both political and artistic speech and freedom of religious exercise; being able to have pleasurable experiences and to avoid nonbeneficial pain
  5. Emotions.  Being able to have attachments to things and persons outside ourselves; being able to love those who love and care for us; being able to grieve at their absence; in general being able to love, to grieve, to experience longing, gratitude, and justified anger; not having one’s emotional developing blighted by fear or anxiety.  (Supporting this capability means supporting forms of human association that can be shown to be crucial in their development.
  6. Practical reason.  Being able to form a conception of the good and to engage in critical reflection about the planning of one’s own life.  (This entails protection for the liberty of conscience.)
  7. Affiliation.  (a) Being able to live for and in relation to others, to recognize and show concern for other human beings, to engage in various forms of social interaction; being able to imagine the situation of another and to have compassion for the situation; having the  capability for both justice and friendship.  (Protecting this capability means, once again, protecting institutions that constitute such forms of affiliation, and also protecting institutions that constitute such forms of affiliation, and also protecting the freedoms of  assembly and political speech.)  (b)  Having the social bases of self-respect and nonhumiliation; being able to be treated as a dignified being whose worth is equal to that of others.  (This entails provisions of nondiscrimination.)
  8. Other species.  Being able to live with concern for and in relation to animals, plants, and the world of nature
  9. Play.  Being able to laugh, to play, to enjoy recreational activities.
  10. Control over one’s environment.  (a) Political: being able to participate effectively in political choices that govern one’s life; having the rights of political participation, free speech, and freedom of association (b) Material: being able to hold property (both land and movable goods); having the right to seek employment on an equal basis with others; having the freedom from unwarranted search and seizure. In work, being able to work as a human being, exercising practical reason and entering into meaningful relationships of mutual recognition with other workers.

From Martha Nussbaum Sex and Social Justice. 1999: 41-2; but it can be found everywhere in her work (eg Frontiers of Justice); and most recently in Creating Capabilities (2011) and Development and Change, Forum 2006 Vol 37, No 6 November 2006 p1325-7, where she also comments on problems with the list – page 1315.

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