Nussbaum, Martha Craven

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NUSSBAUM, Martha Craven

Born 6 May 1947, New York, New York

Daughter of George and Betty Warren Craven; married Alan J.Nussbaum, 1969 (divorced); children: Rachel

Philosophy and Classics Professor Martha Craven Nussbaum attended Wellesley College from 1964 to 1966 and received a B.A. from New York University in 1969. She earned an M.A. from Harvard University in 1971 and a Ph.D. in classical philology from Harvard in 1975. Nussbaum was an assistant and later associate professor of philosophy and classics at Harvard from 1975 to 1983. She then returned to Wellesley as a visiting associate professor of philosophy and classics from 1983 to 1984 before accepting a faculty position at Brown University, where she taught from 1985 to 1995. Nussbaum left Brown in 1995 and served as Weidenfeld Visiting Professor at Oxford University in the spring of 1996. She then moved to Chicago and is currently the Ernst Freund Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago Law and Divinity Schools.

In Poetic Justice: Literary Imagination and Public Life (1996), Nussbaum surveys classic works of literature like Charles Dickens' Hard Times and Richard Wright's Native Son to explain how literature can make readers better people. She reveals the ways in which literature provides a view of the thoughts and emotions of others and shows the worth of people that are often marginalized by society. Learning from literature requires what Nussbaum calls "literary imagination," which she describes by saying "I defend literary imagination precisely because it seems to me an essential ingredient of an ethical stance that asks us to concern ourselves with the good of other people whose lives are distant from our own."

In Cultivating Humanity: A Classic Defense of Reform in Liberal Education (1997), Nussbaum addresses contemporary curricular reform in American higher education. She argues today's "new education" is producing "citizens of the world" whose critical thinking skills allow them to transcend issues such as race, gender, and ethnicity in their "quest for truth." Nussbaum's theories are based on the ancient philosopher Seneca's idea that a worthy person seeks and respects the ability to reason in whomever it is found, regardless of class or citizenship. Nussbaum's three core values of liberal education are critical self-examination, the ideal of the world citizen, and the development of the narrative imagination. After developing her theories in the early chapters, Nussbaum takes the reader into a wide array of college classrooms across the U.S. to see how well particular programs are adhering to her philosophy. Along the way, she defends women's studies, gay studies, and African American studies programs and insists upon their contribution to both critical reasoning and world citizenship. Cultivating Humanity was nominated for a Rea Book award from the Boston Review of Books.

In Sex and Social Justice (1998), Nussbaum articulates a new and distinct conception of feminism based on traditional liberal political thought, but also appreciative of radical feminists who are opposed to such traditional views. Nussbaum seeks to bring both traditional and radical thought together as a solution to the global problems of poverty, illiteracy, and male-dominated legal systems. Several of the essays in this collection also address the importance of equal rights for gay men and lesbians. Although some of these essays were previously published, they have been extensively revised and updated.

Nussbaum has served on the editorial boards and published dozens of articles in many prestigious scholarly journals, including Philosophy and Literature, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Yale Classical Studies, Ethics, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, and New Literary History. She has also written book reviews for leading newspapers and book review journals in the U.S. and abroad, including the Times (London)

Literary Supplement, New York Review of Books, Boston Globe, New Republic, London Review of Books, and the New York Times Book Review. She has lectured and participated in conferences throughout the U.S. and Europe and served in elected positions in several leading academic associations, including the American Council of Learned Societies and the American Philosophical Society. Among her awards are a Literary Lion Award from the New York Public Library in 1993 and a Spielvogel-Diamondstein Prize for best collection of essays for Love's Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature (1990).

Other Works:

Aristotle's De Motu Animalium (1978). The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy (1986). The Therapy of Desire: Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics (1994). For Love of Country: A Debate on Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism (1996). Upheavals of Thought: A Theory of the Emotions, forthcoming. Feminist Internationalism, forthcoming.


Reference works:

CA (1992); WW in America 1999 (1998).

Other references:

University of Chicago Law School Faculty Directory.

Web site:

Martha Nussbaum's Curriculum Vitae, available online at