A distinguished professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago, a prolific writer and award-winning thinker, Martha Nussbaum stands as one of our foremost authorities on law, justice, freedom, morality, and emotion. In From Disgust to Humanity, Nussbaum aims her considerable intellectual firepower at the bulwark of opposition to gay equality: the politics of disgust. Nussbaum argues that disgust has long been among the fundamental motivations of those who are fighting for legal discrimination against lesbian and gay citizens. When confronted with same-sex acts and relationships, she writes, they experience "a deep aversion akin to that inspired by bodily wastes, slimy insects, and spoiled food--and then cite that very reaction to justify a range of legal restrictions, from sodomy laws to bans on same-sex marriage." Leon Kass, former head of President Bush's President's Council on Bioethics, even argues that this repugnance has an inherent "wisdom," steering us away from destructive choices. Nussbaum believes that the politics of disgust must be confronted directly, for it contradicts the basic principle of the equality of all citizens under the law. "It says that the mere fact that you happen to make me want to vomit is reason enough for me to treat you as a social pariah, denying you some of your most basic entitlements as a citizen." In its place she offers a "politics of humanity," based not merely on respect, but something akin to love, an uplifting imaginative engagement with others, an active effort to see the world from their perspectives, as fellow human beings. Combining rigorous analysis of the leading constitutional cases with philosophical reflection about underlying concepts of privacy, respect, discrimination, and liberty, Nussbaum discusses issues ranging from non-discrimination and same-sex marriage to "public sex." Recent landmark decisions suggest that the views of state and federal courts are shifting toward a humanity-centered vision, and Nussbaum's powerful arguments will undoubtedly advance that cause. Incisive, rigorous, and deeply humane, From Disgust to Humanity is a stunning contribution to Oxford's distinguished Inalienable Rights series.
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.
All known societies exclude one or more minority groups, frequently employing a rhetoric of disgust to justify stigmatization. For instance, in European anti-Semitism, Jews were considered hyper-physical and crafty; some upper-caste Hindus find the lower castes dirty and untouchable; and people with physical disabilities have been considered subhuman and repulsive. Exclusions vary in their scope and also in the specific disgust-ideologies underlying them. In The Empire of Disgust, scholars present an interdisciplinary and comparative study of varieties of stigma and prejudice in India and USA—along the axes of caste, race, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, religion, and economic class—pervading contemporary social and political life. In examining these forms of stigma and their intersections, the contributors present theoretically pluralistic and empirically sensitive accounts that explain group-based stigma and suggest forward-looking remedies, including group resistance to subordination as well as institutional and legal change, equipped to eliminate stigma in its multifaceted forms.
This book explores the intersubjective nature of disgust, the fascination that often accompanies it—along with repulsion—and the ethical implications of the experience. With attention to what emotions do rather than what they necessarily are, it examines the ways in which disgust works to create structures of meaning about selfhood, interpersonal relationships, and the worlds we inhabit. Offering a critique of existing approaches to disgust, the author advances a feminist intersubjective perspective, drawing on the work of Jessica Benjamin to understand the relational aspects of disgust encounters. Thus, the focus is not on defining disgust definitively, nor debating what objects invoke disgust, nor on whether it is a universal experience, but on the effects of disgust once invoked, what the experience does and the impact it has. Through a case study of incarceration and death by self-inflicted strangulation—a death that was later ruled a homicide—this volume sheds light on the nature of the ethical demands of disgust and its nature as an active struggle for recognition. As such, A Politics of Disgust will appeal to scholars of gender studies, social theory and philosophy with interests in the emotions and intersubjectivity.
What is the role of disgust or revulsion in early modern English literature? How did early modern English subjects experience revulsion and how did writers represent it in poetry, plays, and prose? What does it mean when literature instructs, delights, and disgusts? This collection of essays looks at the treatment of disgust in texts by Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne, Jonson, Herrick, and others to demonstrate how disgust, perhaps more than other affects, gives us a more complex understanding of early modern culture. Dealing with descriptions of coagulated eye drainage, stinky leeks, and blood-filled fleas, among other sensational things, the essays focus on three kinds of disgusting encounters: sexual, cultural, and textual. Early modern English writers used disgust to explore sexual mores, describe encounters with foreign cultures, and manipulate their readers' responses. The essays in this collection show how writers deployed disgust to draw, and sometimes to upset, the boundaries that had previously defined acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, people, and literatures. Together they present the compelling argument that a critical understanding of early modern cultural perspectives requires careful attention to disgust.
We all age differently, but we can learn from shared experiences and insights. The conversations, or paired essays, in Aging Thoughtfully combine a philosopher's approach with a lawyer-economist's. Here are ideas about when to retire, how to refashion social security to help the elderly poor, how to learn from King Lear -- who did not retire successfully -- and whether to enjoy or criticize anti-aging cosmetic procedures. Some of the concerns are practical: philanthropic decisions, relations with one's children and grandchildren, the purchase of annuities, and how to provide for care in old age. Other topics are cultural, ranging from the treatment of aging women in a Strauss opera and various popular films, to a consideration of Donald Trump's (and other men's) marriages to much younger women. These engaging, thoughtful, and often humorous exchanges show how stimulating discussions about our inevitable aging can be, and offer valuable insight into how we all might age more thoughtfully, and with zest and friendship.
This volume collects the notable published book reviews of Martha C. Nussbaum, an acclaimed philosopher who is also a professor of law and a public intellectual. Her academic work focuses on questions of moral and political philosophy and on the nature of the emotions. But over the past 25 years she has also written many book reviews for a general public, in periodicals such as The New Republic and The New York Review of Books. Dating from 1986 to the present, these essays engage, constructively and also critically, with authors like Roger Scruton, Allan Bloom, Charles Taylor, Judith Butler, Richard Posner, Catharine MacKinnon, Susan Moller Okin, and other prominent intellectuals of our time. Throughout, her views defy ideological predictability, heralding valuable work from little-known sources, deftly criticizing where criticism is due, and generally providing a compelling picture of how philosophy in the Socratic tradition can engage with broad social concerns. For this volume, Nussbaum provides an intriguing introduction that explains her selection and provides her view of the role of the public philosopher.
This book of 10 engaging and original essays brings Spinoza outside the realm of academic philosophy, and presents him as a thinker who is relevant to contemporary problems and questions across a variety of disciplines.
Countries solemnly intone their commitment to human rights, and they ratify endless international treaties and conventions designed to signal that commitment. At the same time, there has been no marked decrease in human rights violations, even as the language of human rights has become the dominant mode of international moral criticism. Well-known violators like Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan have sat on the U.N. Council on Human Rights. But it's not just the usual suspects that flagrantly disregard the treaties. Brazil pursues extrajudicial killings. South Africa employs violence against protestors. India tolerate child labor and slavery. The United States tortures. In The Twilight of Human Rights Law--the newest addition to Oxford's highly acclaimed Inalienable Rights series edited by Geoffrey Stone--the eminent legal scholar Eric A. Posner argues that purposefully unenforceable human rights treaties are at the heart of the world's failure to address human rights violations. Because countries fundamentally disagree about what the public good requires and how governments should allocate limited resources in order to advance it, they have established a regime that gives them maximum flexibility--paradoxically characterized by a huge number of vague human rights that encompass nearly all human activity, along with weak enforcement machinery that churns out new rights but cannot enforce any of them. Posner looks to the foreign aid model instead, contending that we should judge compliance by comprehensive, concrete metrics like poverty reduction, instead of relying on ambiguous, weak, and easily manipulated checklists of specific rights. With a powerful thesis, a concise overview of the major developments in international human rights law, and discussions of recent international human rights-related controversies, The Twilight of Human Rights Law is an indispensable contribution to this important area of international law from a leading scholar in the field.
A man admits that, when drunk, he tried to have sex with an eighteen-year-old girl; she is arrested and denies they had intercourse, but finally begs God's forgiveness. Then she is publicly hanged alongside her attacker. These events took place in 1644, in Boston, where today they would be viewed with horror. How--and when--did such a complete transformation of our culture's attitudes toward sex occur? In The Origins of Sex, Faramerz Dabhoiwala provides a landmark history, one that will revolutionize our understanding of the origins of sexuality in modern Western culture. For millennia, sex had been strictly regulated by the Church, the state, and society, who vigorously and brutally attempted to punish any sex outside of marriage. But by 1800, everything had changed. Drawing on vast research--from canon law to court cases, from novels to pornography, not to mention the diaries and letters of people great and ordinary--Dabhoiwala shows how this dramatic change came about, tracing the interplay of intellectual trends, religious and cultural shifts, and politics and demographics. The Enlightenment led to the presumption that sex was a private matter; that morality could not be imposed; that men, not women, were the more lustful gender. Moreover, the rise of cities eroded community-based moral policing, and religious divisions undermined both church authority and fear of divine punishment. Sex became a central topic in poetry, drama, and fiction; diarists such as Samuel Pepys obsessed over it. In the 1700s, it became possible for a Church of Scotland leader to commend complete sexual liberty for both men and women. Arguing that the sexual revolution that really counted occurred long before the cultural movement of the 1960s, Dabhoiwala offers readers an engaging and wholly original look at the Western world's relationship to sex. Deeply researched and powerfully argued, The Origins of Sex is a major work of history.
When the states ratified the Bill of Rights in the eighteenth century, the Fourth Amendment seemed straightforward. It requires that government respect the right of citizens to be "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." Of course, "papers and effects" are now digital and thus more vulnerable to government spying. But the biggest threat may be our own weakening resolve to preserve our privacy. In this potent new volume in Oxford's Inalienable Rights series, legal expert Stephen J. Schulhofer argues that the Fourth Amendment remains, as the title says, more essential than ever. From data-mining to airport body scans, drug testing and aggressive police patrolling on the streets, privacy is under assault as never before--and we're simply getting used to it. But the trend is threatening the pillars of democracy itself, Schulhofer maintains. "Government surveillance may not worry the average citizen who reads best-selling books, practices a widely accepted religion, and adheres to middle-of-the-road political views," he writes. But surveillance weighs on minorities, dissenters, and unorthodox thinkers, "chilling their freedom to read what they choose, to say what they think, and to associate with others who are like-minded." All of us are affected, he adds. "When unrestricted search and surveillance powers chill speech and religion, inhibit gossip and dampen creativity, they undermine politics and impoverish social life for everyone." Schulhofer offers a rich account of the history and nuances of Fourth Amendment protections, as he examines such issues as street stops, racial profiling, electronic surveillance, data aggregation, and the demands of national security. The Fourth Amendment, he reminds us, explicitly authorizes invasions of privacy--but it requires justification and accountability, requirements that reconcile public safety with liberty. Combining a detailed knowledge of specific cases with a deep grasp of Constitutional law, More Essential than Ever offers a sophisticated and thoughtful perspective on this important debate.
American constitutional law has undergone a transformation. Issues once left to the people have increasingly become the province of the courts. Subjects as diverse as abortion rights and firearms regulations, health care reform and counterterrorism efforts, not to mention a millennial presidential election, are more and more the domain of judges. What sparked this development? In this engaging volume, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson argues that America's most brilliant legal minds have launched a set of cosmic constitutional theories that, for all their value, are undermining self-governance. Thinkers as diverse as Justices William Brennan and Antonin Scalia, Professor John Hart Ely, Judges Robert Bork and Richard Posner, have all produced seminal interpretations of our Founding document, but ones that promise to imbue courts with unprecedented powers. While crediting the theorists for the sparkling quality of their thoughts, Judge Wilkinson argues they will slowly erode the role of representative institutions in America and leave our children bereft of democratic liberty. The loser in all the theoretical fireworks is the old and honorable tradition of judicial restraint. The judicial modesty once practiced by Learned Hand, John Harlan, and Oliver Wendell Holmes has given way to competing schools of liberal and conservative activism seeking sanctuary in Living Constitutionalism, Originalism, Process Theory, or the supposedly anti-theoretical creed of Pragmatism. Each of these seemingly disparate theories promises their followers an intellectually respectable route to congenial political outcomes from the bench. Judge Wilkinson calls for a plainer, simpler, self-disciplined commitment to judicial restraint and democratic governance, a course that alas may be impossible so long as the cosmic constitutionalists so dominate contemporary legal thought.
Polls and election results show Americans sharply divided on same-sex marriage, and the controversy is unlikely to subside anytime soon. Debating Same-Sex Marriage provides an indispensable roadmap to the ongoing debate. Taking a "point/counterpoint" approach, John Corvino (a philosopher and prominent gay advocate) and Maggie Gallagher (a nationally syndicated columnist and co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage) explore fundamental questions: What is marriage for? Is sexual difference essential to it? Why does the government sanction it? What are the implications of same-sex marriage for children's welfare, for religious freedom, and for our understanding of marriage itself? While the authors disagree on many points, they share the following conviction: Because marriage is a vital public institution, this issue deserves a comprehensive, rigorous, thoughtful debate.
This book takes a serious look at Nietzsche as political thinker and relates his political ideas to the dominant traditions of modern political thought. It also demonstrates Rousseau's crucial role in Nietzsche's understanding of modernity.
Disgust has a strong claim to be a distinctively human emotion. But what is it to be disgusting? What unifies the class of disgusting things? Colin McGinn sets out to analyze the content of disgust, arguing that life and death are implicit in its meaning. Disgust is a kind of philosophical emotion, reflecting the human attitude to the biological world. Yet it is an emotion we strive to repress. It may have initially arisen as a method of curbing voracious human desire, which itself results from our powerful imagination. Because we feel disgust towards ourselves as a species, we are placed in a fraught emotional predicament: we admire ourselves for our achievements, but we also experience revulsion at our necessary organic nature. We are subject to an affective split. Death involves the disgusting, in the shape of the rotting corpse, and our complex attitudes towards death feed into our feelings of disgust. We are beings with a "disgust consciousness", unlike animals and gods-and we cannot shake our self-ambivalence. Existentialism and psychoanalysis sought a general theory of human emotion; this book seeks to replace them with a theory in which our primary mode of feeling centers around disgust. The Meaning of Disgust is an original study of a fascinating but neglected subject, which attempts to tell the disturbing truth about the human condition.
Winner of the 2006 Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Organized Section Best First Book Award from the American Political Science Association Winner of the 2006 W.E.B. DuBois Book Award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists Ange-Marie Hancock argues that longstanding beliefs about poor African American mothers were the foundation for the contentious 1996 welfare reform debate that effectively "ended welfare as we know it." By examining the public identity of the so-called welfare queen and its role in hindering democratic deliberation, The Politics of Disgust shows how stereotypes and politically motivated misperceptions about race, class and gender were effectively used to instigate a politics of disgust. The ongoing role of the politics of disgust in welfare policy is revealed here by using content analyses of the news media, the 1996 congressional floor debates, historical evidence and interviews with welfare recipients themselves. Hancock's incisive analysis is both compelling and disturbing, suggesting the great limits of today's democracy in guaranteeing not just fair and equitable policy outcomes, but even a fair chance for marginalized citizens to participate in the process.