During the past four decades, Martha Nussbaum has established herself as one of the preëminent philosophers in America, owing to her groundbreaking studies on subjects ranging from the ancient Greeks to modern feminism. In a Profile of Nussbaum published in 2016, Rachel Aviv wrote, “Her work, which draws on her training in classics but also on anthropology, psychoanalysis, sociology, and a number of other fields, searches for the conditions for eudaimonia, a Greek word that describes a complete and flourishing life. At a time of insecurity for the humanities, Nussbaum’s work champions—and embodies—the reach of the humanistic endeavor.”
Nussbaum’s latest book, “Citadels of Pride: Sexual Abuse, Accountability, and Reconciliation,” focusses on many of the themes she has written about before, from gender relations to the role of anger in human behavior. In it, she examines three fields—the federal judiciary, the performing arts, and college sports—and explains the distinct reasons that each one is particularly vulnerable to predatory men. But her book is also a plea to prevent the anger channelled by the #MeToo movement from overwhelming a commitment to due process. “Some women not only ask for equal respect but seem to take pleasure in retribution,” she writes. “Instead of a prophetic vision of justice and reconciliation, these women prefer an apocalyptic vision in which the former oppressor is brought low, and this vision parades as justice.”
I recently spoke by phone with Nussbaum, who is a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed the shortcomings of sexual-harassment laws, why pride is partially to blame for sexual abuse, and how to deal with transgressors who have not been convicted in a court of law.
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