Nussbaum Awarded Honorary Doctor of Laws from Harvard

Nussbaum at Harvard commencement

Professor Martha C. Nussbaum was among seven recipients of honorary degrees at Harvard University’s commencement ceremony on May 26, where she was awarded an honorary doctor of laws.

The following introduction and citation was read by Harvard Provost Alan M. Garber and Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow. Watch Nussbaum receive her honorary degree. (Video should start at the 3:04 mark). Read more about the ceremony in Harvard Magazine.


What does Greek tragedy teach us about goodness?

Why does democracy need the humanities?

How does love influence the pursuit of justice?

How can we understand the intelligence of emotions?

What are our ethical responsibilities to our fellow animals?

These are but a few of the many profound questions that have engaged the capacious intellect of our next honor and—one of the nation’s most prolific and thought-provoking humanistic scholars. 

She is a philosopher known for “look[ing] at human life from the inside, not from any great heights of abstraction.”

Her writings have been described as extraordinarily “perceptive about human emotions and vulnerability, and attentive to the realities of human situations [and] social interactions.”  

She is known, among other things, for the Capabilities Approach—a way of evaluating human well-being that “begins with a commitment to the equal dignity of all people, whatever their class, religion, caste, race or gender,” and focuses on the capabilities that enable people to lead full and fulfilling lives.

Educated at Wellesley, NYU, and Harvard, she served on the faculties of Harvard and Brown before launching a long career at the University of Chicago—where she holds an uncommon panoply of academic appointments: in Philosophy, in Law, in Classics, in Divinity, in Political Science, and in Southern Asian Studies.  

Her books and articles could fill a small library. Her awards read like a catalog of academic honors. 

We are pleased to add a second Harvard doctorate to the list. We honor Martha Nussbaum.  


Ethicist, classicist, humanist;

prolific, polymathic, profound;

a worldly-wise scholar of capacious capabilities

who illuminates our thinking on how one should live.