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Martha C. Nussbaum

  • Knowledge is no guarantee of good behavior, but ignorance is a virtual guarantee of bad behavior.

  • Play teaches people to be capable of living with others without control; it connects the experiences of vulnerability and surprise to curiosity and wonder, rather than to crippling anxiety.

  • You can’t really change the heart without telling a story.

    • Martha C. Nussbaum
  • Our emotional life maps our incompleteness: A creature without any needs would never have reasons for fear, or grief, or hope, or anger.

    • Martha C. Nussbaum
  • To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control ...

    • Martha C. Nussbaum
  • ... education is not just about the passive assimilation of facts and cultural traditions, but about challenging the mind to become active, competent, and thoughtfully critical in a complex world. This model of education supplanted an older one in which children sat still at desks all day and simply absorbed, and then regurgitated, the material that was brought their way.

  • I suggest ... that large-souled and compelling art is generally concerned with the recognition of the common in the strange and the strange in the common ...

    • Martha C. Nussbaum,
    • introduction, in Martha C. Nussbaum, For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism ()
  • ... anger is not only not necessary for the pursuit of justice, but also a large impediment to the generosity and empathy that help to construct a future of justice.

  • If you've been betrayed by a spouse or a partner, it's much easier to focus on causing that person pain than it is to turn forward and actually create a life that's worth of you in the future.

  • ... there is nothing inevitable or 'natural' about racial hatred, fear of immigrants, a passion to subordinate women, or disgust at the bodies of people with disabilities. We did this, all of us, and we can, and must undo it.

  • ... envy is born of insecurity.

  • Fear and monarchy pair nicely. But democracy means you have to work with people you may not like but you must still believe are your equals. And a fearful people never trust the other side.

  • Fear requires the belief that you will be harmed, and it is easily manipulated by rhetoric.

  • Fear has a way of running ahead of careful thought.

  • Hope really is a choice, and a practical habit.

  • Thinking is hard, fear and blame are easy.

  • ... fearful people want protection and care. They turn to a strong absolute ruler in search of care.

  • There's a lot of fear around in the U.S. today and this fear is often mingled with anger, blame, and envy. Fear all too often blocks rational deliberation, poisons hope, and impeded constructive cooperation for a better future.

  • Every single university student should study philosophy. You need to lead the examined life and question your beliefs. If you don't learn critical thinking, then political debate degenerates into a contest of slogans.

    • Martha C. Nussbaum
  • It is always easier for people to face backward than to face forward.

    • Martha C. Nussbaum
  • We are not just bundles of atoms being pushed around. But, there's something spiritual about us whether we give that a religious interpretation or not. And so, it's that sense of there being dignity to life that I associate with the word God. I mean, that's probably a pretty radical and agnostic way of interpreting it. But, that's what I think.

    • Martha C. Nussbaum
  • There is no reason why an American scholar cannot by himself or herself develop an adequate understanding of another culture. And I don't find any reason to suppose that the birth within a culture automatically confers understanding.

    • Martha C. Nussbaum
  • When I am disgusted by certain American politicians, I fantasize moving away to Finland - a country in which I have worked a little, and which I see as a pure blue and green place of unpolluted lakes, peaceful forests, and pristine social-democratic values.

    • Martha C. Nussbaum

Martha C. Nussbaum, U.S. philosopher, classicist