Die Zeit Interviews Martha Nussbaum About ‘Justice for Animals’

Because They Feel

DIE ZEIT: You wrote a book of love, as you say, after your daughter died. It is dedicated to her and to the whales. It is quite unusual to speak about personal tragedy in a major philosophical book. Why did you decide to mourn in this way?

Martha Nussbaum: Actually, it isn’t unusual at all. Three previous books of mine were dedicated to Rachel, during her lifetime. But I think it’s true that people typically don’t have a lot to say about deceased dedicatees, since they were not part of their own philosophical work. In Rachel’s case, we had worked together on animal rights for years – she was a lawyer for animal rights – and published four articles together, all on whales. So given that I am using our joint work in the book, it was important to talk about her. Also, the book was not written after her death; she read drafts of many chapters, about half of which were done before she died.

ZEIT: How does grief shape this book?

Nussbaum: I don’t really speak about the tragedy: This is not a philosophical book like the classic "A Grief Observed," by English philosopher and novelist C. S. Lewis, which dissects grief and mourning through an autobiographical account of his mourning for his wife Helen. I might write such a book in the future. But this is an ordinary philosophical book about issues of urgent importance that were Rachel’s life’s work, and I liked the idea that I could contribute to furthering her cherished commitments in that way. My model was the Roman philosopher Cicero, who lost a beloved daughter when he was around my age and Tullia was around Rachel’s age. He did write a C. S. Lewis-type book, "On Self-Consolation," but we know nothing about it, since it did not survive. But we also know that he spent the rest of his life seeking to build a shrine to her memory. This book, if you will, is my shrine to Rachel, although I think it is more useful and appropriate than a physical shrine.

Read more at Die Zeit

Faculty books