A Review of Nussbaum’s ‘Justice for Animals’ Asks ‘How Does a Just Society Treat Animals?’

How Does a Just Society Treat Animals?

For most people, most of the time, fellow feeling toward animals comes naturally. Who doesn’t wish for them decent treatment, deliverance from needless suffering, and “flourishing lives,” the three great aims of Martha C. Nussbaum’s Justice for Animals: Our Collective Responsibility?

Yet our benevolence tends to be selectively bestowed, following loose rules of moral consistency. Some animals, if they could put words to their encounters with humanity, would extol our gentleness and amazing altruism; others would ask how we can be so ruthless. We rightly question ourselves sometimes, wanting to better align what we believe with what we do or permit. We wouldn’t be “the rational animal” if we didn’t. What do we owe our fellow creatures? What does justice require?

In this task of recta ratio, we have an astute and sensitive guide in Martha Nussbaum. A noted philosopher, scholar in the Greek and Roman classics, and teacher of ethics and law in standing-room-only lectures at the University of Chicago, Professor Nussbaum in this book, her 23rd, lives up to her billing. Among her bestsellers: Citadels of Pride, The Fragility of Goodness, Sex and Social Justice, and The Therapy of Desire. Along with vast learning, she’s got the formula for catchy titles, and in her seventies (her book on that: Aging Thoughtfully) she has enough academic prizes, honorary degrees, and magazine profiles to outshine the collection of any celebrity intellectual.

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