Friday, February 26, 2010

Interview with Martha Nussbaum on "From Disgust to Humanity"

From "The Nation" (February 25, 2010), an interview with professor Martha Nussbaum on her new book "From Disgust to Humanity. Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law" (Oxford University Press, 2010):

Interview with Martha Nussbaum

"I don't think any emotion should be trusted on its own without being constantly in dialogue with moral principles. At every point, whether it's anger or fear or any emotion - even compassion, which can, of course, lead you to favor your family against other people - you should always be asking, Is this consistent with the idea of a society of people who are free and equal? Disgust, though, is different because it has this singular type of irrationality. It's not noncognitive; it has an idea. But the idea repudiates some aspect of ourselves. It embodies a kind of self-loathing. In the case of compassion, compassion can be uneven; it can target people in a partial way. Or anger can be wrong about the facts. But disgust always has this edgy irrationality about it. It's a way of fleeing from yourself. Whether it's useful in evolutionary terms, that I leave to evolutionary scientists. Probably it is. That doesn't mean that in the law we should rely on it. The imagination of humanity, of course, can be unreliable too. But all we're really asking is that people see the other people as people."

Martha Nussbaum is Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago.

See my post on Nussbaum's new book here.

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