Fear, not faith, is what underlies religious intolerance, according to philosopher Martha Nussbaum. She will lecture about the topic Nov. 16 at 1 p.m. in the University of Virginia’s Minor Hall Auditorium. The talk is free and open to the public.
Hosted by U.Va.’s Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, Nussbaum also will lead a discussion about humanities and higher education at 3 p.m. in the same location, as part of the institute’s yearlong reflection on “the future of the University.”
Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, draws from philosophy, history and literature in her research, which has covered topics from feminism to disabilities to emotions, including disgust, shame and love.
In her 2012 book, “The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age,” she explores how legitimate anxieties become distorted and displaced into laws and policies biased against those considered different, most recently Muslims in the U.S. and Europe. By understanding the sources of these fears, she writes, we can overcome them and extend the rights we want for ourselves to others.
“Martha Nussbaum is not only a distinguished philosopher who has widely influenced thinking on ethics and practical reason, but she has also become one of the major public intellectuals in the United States,” English professor and institute director Michael Levenson said. “Her international reputation rests on a long series of books and articles, including recent studies on human capabilities, on disgust and on the place of the humanities in a democratic society.”
Nussbaum received her B.A. from New York University and her master’s degree and Ph.D. from Harvard University. She has taught at Harvard, Brown and Oxford universities. She has chaired the Committee on International Cooperation and the Committee on the Status of Women of the American Philosophical Association, and currently chairs its new Committee for Public Philosophy.
A sampling of her books includes “The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy” (1986, updated in 2000); “Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education” (1997), which won the Ness Book Award of the Association of American Colleges and Universities in 1998; “Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership” (2006); “The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India’s Future” (2007); and “Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities” (2010).
Her 20th book, “Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice,” will be published next year. She has also edited 15 books.
With Nussbaum’s interdisciplinary approach, she also has appointments in the philosophy department, law school and divinity school at Chicago. In addition, she is an associate in the classics and political science departments, a member of the Committee on Southern Asian Studies and a board member of the Human Rights Program. She is the founder and coordinator of the Center for Comparative Constitutionalism.
This year, Nussbaum received the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Sidney Hook Memorial Award, given every three years to “a scholar who has achieved distinction in teaching undergraduates, who has made significant contributions to his or her discipline through published research and who has demonstrated leadership in the cause of liberal arts education.”