Monday, June 20, 2011

3. Educating Citizens: The Moral (and Anti-Moral) Emotions


Thanks to Alisa, Amit, Lisa, and Peyton for initiating this discussion and for the invitation to be part of it. Now that we are entering week three, the burden of leading things off is much lighter, but it may be replaced by an expectation that subsequent commentators will distinguish themselves from their predecessors. In this regard, I'm afraid, my responses are bound to disappoint. My reading of Not for Profit echoes and amplifies comments offered by John and Eric over the last two weeks. Like them, I am part of the choir that shares Nussbaum's sense of urgency about the vulnerability of humanities education, and like them, I approached Not for Profit as someone who admires and has learned enormously from Nussbaum's work. For reasons similar to some of those already offered, I am puzzled about why she pursues this line of thinking to make her case. The this, in the case of chapter 3, is Nussbaum's turn to psychology to undergird an argument for democratic education. Where John's and Eric's posts address a kind of flatness that in the account of the humanities on offer in the book (where's the buzz?), I want to think a bit about what chapter 3 does and doesn't tell us about democracy. Let me sketch some of the main points of the argument and then register two worries about its implications.

"Educating Citizens" focuses on the internal dynamics that drive antidemocratic behavior and advances possible educational cures. How, Nussbaum asks, can we conceive an approach to education that will mitigate human desires to dominate and to marginalize and that will inculcate in everyone a heightened sense of compassion and a capacity to take responsibility both within and beyond national borders? By way of reply, she looks to the "psychology of human development" (30) to find the childhood roots of antidemocratic behavior. And she traces human beings' tendency to stigmatize others to feelings of disgust and shame. The sense of helplessness we all experience may produce a sense of empathy for other, vulnerable creatures; but, untrained, it can lead us to stigmatize others. Further, there are situational factors that exacerbate our bad behavior: our tendency to obey authority and our susceptibility to abusing others when we are in positions of dominance. Enlarging children's imaginative capacities and cultivating their skills as both compassionate beings and critical thinkers, Nussbaum argues, is crucial to enabling them to negotiate feelings of weakness rather than projecting them onto others and thus to salvaging democratic possibility in a profit-driven world.

My first worry is that Nussbaum presents a view of democratic education without explicitly acknowledging the paradoxical character of such an effort. When she asks readers to contemplate "the problems we face on the way to making students responsible democratic citizens who might think and choose well about a wide range of issues" (27), she does not pause to reckon with the tensions inherent in the idea of "making" democratic citizens. How should we think about the authority "we" exercise in producing subjects capable of thinking for themselves? This is not a particularly original point, and thus it is that much more surprising that Nussbaum's book, and chapter 3 particularly, appears to ignore it. The tension I have in mind here is beautifully (frighteningly) revealed in Louis Menand's June 6 New Yorker article on "why we have college." College, he writes, "takes people with disparate backgrounds and beliefts and brings them into line with mainstream norms of reason and taste. Independence of mind is tolerated in college, and even honored, but students have to master the accepted ways of doing things before they are permitted to deviate. Ideally, we want everyone to go to college, because college gets everyone on the same page. It's a way of producing a society of like-minded grownups" (74). Even if Menand's claim is facetious, if it's an overstatement, or if it's simply wrong, at the very least, it raises an uncomfortable question: how do we negotiate the dilemma of teaching students to think for themselves but do so in ways that are compatible with democratic ends?

Not to address this question is troubling in two ways. Insofar as it offers an un-tragic reading of the project of democratic education, it evades dilemmas of collective life about which Nussbaum has written so powerfully and which might provide a more robust answer to the question of "why democracy needs the humanities." Beyond this, the unselfconscious advocacy of a kind of social engineering may offer volatile fuel to the fires stoked by conservatives, who fear that colleges have become breeding grounds for "politically correct" thinking. For example, even though I aspire to "teach real and true things about other groups" (45), especially stigmatized groups, I fear that this formulation is both too bland and too inflammatory to convey the dilemmas such an aspiration engenders. Where the book offers maxims about democratic education, I longed to see Nussbaum work through an example—not merely an illustration—that would reveal the knottiness of the problems she asks us to confront and maybe offer a glimmer of alternative possibilities.

The second worry is that concentrating on the inner lives of individuals obscures historical and structural obstacles to democratic life. "We must acknowledge, sadly, that all human societies have created out-groups who are stigmatized as either shameful or disgusting, and usually both" (34-35), Nussbaum observes. Whether or not this is a universal quality of human being, the air of inevitability is deeply troubling and the suggestion that there is a psychological, perhaps evolutionary, explanation for undemocratic relations of power may have the inadvertent effect of letting everyone, especially the relatively powerful, off the hook. Does it, for example, enable American citizens to reckon with the causes and severity of racial inequality in health, wealth, education, political representation, safety, incarceration, and a wide range of other indicators of well-being? How should her recommendations be applied in the context of segregated schools? Here, I think, Nussbaum's appeal to psychology may work against the humane, egalitarian results she seeks. For instance, if we want to understand and challenge the gap in racial attitudes about the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the relative lack of compassion expressed by white citizens, then we may find rich resources in the humanities. But we may be stymied by comments like the following: "the tendency to segment the world into the known and the unknown probably lies very deep in our evolutionary heritage" (38). This concern is not limited to Not for Profit; instead it reflects a nagging sense that worthy and even inspiring calls for all of us to attend to the sources of our emotional responses and to broaden our sympathies can efface the injustices built into our everyday lives and the politics those injustices might engender. Despite our good intentions, we might be the descendants of the "bankers' daughters" of Richard Wright's nightmares, who "could read and weep and feel good about" the stories of others' suffering.

My point isn't simply that Nussbaum has not made her case in the way that I hoped she would make it. Her larger body of work testifies to the many possible avenues opened up for us by the literary, artistic, and philosophical traditions through which we struggle to make sense of our world. What I had hoped for, in the end, was a book that made the humanities come alive and rendered more fully the texture of democratic life. Where chapter 3 of Not for Profit concludes with a list of bullet points that suggest "what schools can and should do to produce citizens in and for a healthy democracy" (45), I thought wistfully about another closing, the final line of her chapter on Antigone, published 25 years ago. There Nussbaum explores, without preaching, what makes the play tragic, moving, democratic. And when she reads the Chorus' ode to Dionysus, she shows why democracy needs the humanities: "[The Chorus] suggest[s] that the spectacle of this tragedy is itself an orderly mystery, ambitiously yielding, healing without cure, whose very harmony (as we respond in common) is not simplicity but the tension of distinct and separate beauties" (The Fragility of Goodness, 82).


Lisa Ellis said...

Lawrie worries at the outset of her post that she has no distinct perspective to offer; she is wrong about that. We are now on to a new, very central, and very tough set of questions about psychology and democracy. Nussbaum gestures in a self-defeating way at the deep roots of stigmatizing and dominating behaviors. Lawrie finds a better Nussbaum in her earlier work on Antigone: there she avoids the mistake made in NFP of presuming sameness where there is always difference. Both within individuals and in any group there are always tensions that (as Lawrie points out) under the right circumstances can pull us toward acceptance and inclusion rather than stigma and domination. Lawrie is right to complain that psychological and evolutionary determinism lets the powerful off the hook. I share her puzzlement: how could Nussbaum have missed this rather ordinary (but still deadly) error? Maybe the answer to this smaller question of NFP's failure here lies in the earlier discussion on the blog of NFP's intended audience. Bullet points, arguments that obscure the antidemocratic elements of present-day privilege, illustrations rather than the complex, tension-filled, difficult examples called for by Lawrie: all these point to an audience of potential supporters rather than innovators or thinkers. NFP may do more good at Davos than in the classroom.... But I digress. Let's follow Lawrie in thinking about the hard questions attention to psychology and democracy can raise.

Peyton Wofford said...

Thank you, Lawrie, a fascinating post! Regarding the paradox of “making” democratic citizens, I was struck by Nussbaum’s comments on personal accountability. On page 43, Nussbaum argues, “…people behave badly when they are not held personally accountable. People act much worse under shelter of anonymity, as parts of a faceless mass, than they do when they are watched and made accountable as individuals.” Perhaps I’m looking at this too simply, but this revealed something about the differences between collective versus individualistic societies regarding autonomy. If higher education is designed to create like-minded citizens in a culture that prizes individualism, autonomy would seem to be in some danger. While working from a common foundation is pragmatic, it predetermines (in a broad sense) the outcomes of our thought processes, debates, and various critical-thinking activities. Although I am not an expert on the subject, this seems similar to the limits placed on our thought process by language. Our intellectual independence, then, is compromised. What happens when life gets more complex than the illustration provided? Is the lack of intellectual independence something “we” can recast when teaching “children not to be ashamed of need and incompleteness but to see these as occasions for cooperation and reciprocity?”

And what of the relationship between autonomy and anonymity? Anonymity, despite Nussbaum’s speed limit illustration, can also provide much needed security and confidence required to conduct moral inventory. Can it not function in a similar way in a larger context? Can it not be just the thing that allows citizens to voice dissent? The dissenting idea, not the person, is the thing, no? What about the role of autonomy (notably, academic freedom) and anonymity in the project of defending the humanities? In order to adequately defend the humanities as Nussbaum describes, what about higher education needs to change? Who are the dissenters in this process? This cannot simply be a matter of numerical majority/minority. How are they (perhaps, we?) helped by anonymity? These are just a few of the questions raised in my mind by Chapter 3, Lawrie’s post, and Lisa’s comment.

abahachi said...

Lawrie's post brought into focus one of the things that's been annoying me about NFP: the way that it simply ignores problems, objections and complexities. We're presented with three things that "are required" for democracy to function - a form of thought, a sensibility and a set of beliefs about human equality - without any discussion of whether they are actually always necessary (or realistic), compatible or mutually reinforcing. The idea that sometimes there might be tensions between them, let alone tensions between these things and the means required to bring them into being, simply doesn't enter the picture.

Given that the humanities are normally obsessed with complexities, ambiguities, details and exceptions, this seems distinctly odd. I'd entirely agree with Lisa that N. isn't preaching to the choir here - we'd be very happy with a bit of complexity, and indeed find the argument less persuasive in its absence. Whoever her intended audience is, she doesn't think much of its capacity to deal with ambiguity.

As a historian, I'd like to see a lot more attention to the history of the debate; at least since the French Revolution, people have been worrying about whether it's necessary to change people in order to change society, or vice versa (the whole NFP project echoes, rather feebly, Schiller's Aesthetic Education). But, as Lawrie says, there's not much point complaining that N. hasn't argued in the way we think she should have argued. To focus instead on an issue that arises out of the argument as she's presented it: does democracy require people to be perfect?

N. seems to assume that it does, but that immediately runs up against the fatalistic implications of these psychological theories, as Lawrie notes. Even if the education system can start reprogramming children along the lines suggested, what of the rest of the population? If democracy requires that everyone should be like Martha Nussbaum, we might as well give up now. Should we not think of democracy (and/or strive to develop a form of democracy) as a system that brings together, accommodates and manages conflicts between all sorts of people, including the selfish, bigoted and psychologically traumatised, as well as the enlightened liberals?

abahachi said...

Sorry, forgot to identify myself: Neville Morley, University of Bristol, UK. I hope you don't mind my joining it this fascinating discussion. I do feel a bit nervous about it, seeing as my interventions (albeit belated) served to kill off debate on the previous two chapters...

Lisa Ellis said...

Welcome, Neville, and thanks for your great comments. I particularly agree with you that democracy should bring all types of people together. That's the problem with the move to evolutionary psychology. We can gain insight into better and worse ways to nurture citizens from this study, but we must not use it to excuse ourselves from granting equal respect to everyone. No actual person embodies the qualities one would hope for in an ideal democratic citizen; everyone only approximates them. As you say, we need to accommodate all kinds of people.

Amit Ron said...

Thanks for the post and the comments. I too feel uncomfortable with the project of civilizing the emotional repertoire of students. Furthermore, Nussbaum's list of practical goals on pages 45-6 is problematic, as well as the language that accompanies it ("produce citizens in and for a healthy democracy"). I would not know how to "develop a capacity for genuine concern for others," "teach real and true things about other groups," or "teach children not to be ashamed of need and incompleteness." Therefore, I agree that it is not useful to address the problem of "making citizens" via the route of regulating emotions.

But I wonder in what other ways can we address the "paradox of making citizens." To quote Lawrie, "how do we negotiate the dilemma of teaching students to think for themselves but do so in ways that are compatible with democratic ends?" I am thinking about this question when I design or re-design courses but have to confess that I don't have a good answer. Any suggestions?

James Bourke said...

I think Neville raises the crucial question about Nussbaum’s approach in this chapter, and in the larger argument—does democracy really require that all citizens be perfect? Call me cynical, but I rather doubt that even Martha Nussbaum is “like Martha Nussbaum,” even if she may do better on this count than a lot of people. These doubts point to hard questions about what democracy really does involve, and in particular how much we can really expect of it. Still, I think some of Nussbaum’s claims might be salvaged in the service of rather less ambitious (and more nuanced) aims. She’s not wrong about the existence of deep-seated social/psychological patterns and tendencies that work against democratic equality, however suspicious folks might be of the evolutionary explanations she turns to (although I’d argue that these evolutionary claims need not be construed deterministically at all, and that Nussbaum is not so construing them). If this is so, then Nussbaum does make an important point—that one of the tools democrats can, and should, use against these tendencies is the system of education. The reservations Lawrie, Lisa, Peyton, Neville, and Amit have raised all seem very important to me—what’s involved in the “making” of citizens, who’s the “we” who’s doing it, and isn’t the whole picture of a good democratic citizen that the process is aiming at quite a bit more complex and difficult to pin down than N. suggests? Nonetheless, I think we should be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

I’d also like to raise a different set of concerns about Nussbaum’s turn to narratives of psychological development. Again I’m puzzled about the relationship of this argument to what I thought was Nussbaum’s purpose, namely a defense of the place of humanities curricula in higher education. Nussbaum’s claims about development (taking them for the moment at face value), would seem to make higher education a secondary concern, whereas the real focus of a project of democratic education should be in early childhood, when the problematic tendencies she catalogues strike their deepest roots. And in this context, especially, I’m at a loss to see what specifically the humanities are supposed to contribute, or, more precisely, why these early childhood problems call for a response that can only come from humanistic resources.

abahachi said...

Agreed, this chapter does seem to imply that at university level we're either too late, hence wasting our time, or simply putting the cherry on the cake. All I can offer in response to this is the anecdotal evidence that I do all I can to build discussion into my classes, to teach students the norms and etiquette of academic debate and to formulate their ideas as arguments (and there's a lot to be said for blogs in this regard, as it gives them the leisure to think through what they want to say, rather than just favouring the articulate and/or glib ones) - and it does seem to make a difference. Of course this is hardly a random sample of all citizens, but it does suggest that, while presumably these students possess the potential for critical thought, empathy etc. as a result of their early upbringing, it still needs to be developed and nurtured (and perhaps this is, at least in part, a matter of counter-acting the pernicious effect of later schooling).

A possible claim for the value of the humanities at this stage might be that they are particularly suited for learning how to engage in debate because (i) there is plenty of room for individual opinion, and even junior students have the potential to say interesting and sometimes original things, compared with (say) debates in particle physics; (ii) the stakes are, at least some of the time, relatively low, so students may feel less nervous about experimenting with ideas and questioning their own assumptions.

Alisa said...

I keep thinking that the question of audience is a really important one. Lawrie suggests that Nussbaum’s defense of the humanities for democracy is “un-tragic,” John called it “autocratic” or “didactic,” and Eric suggested it might just be “elitist.” None of us seem to disagree with those accounts.

Of course, the question of audience is important in an obvious sense that we’ve been discussing: it would give us an idea of the parameters of Nussbaum’s argument.

But I think it’s much more important in another sense: if Nussbaum’s not hitting the mark—if she isn’t convincing the unnamed critics of humanities education that the humanities have some value after all—someone has to. I think that this “someone” is all of us who get that “buzzy, exhilarated feeling” and who see our students get it, too.

So how are we to convince parents and students--many of whom think that the purpose of college is to get a good job--that the humanities are important? How are we to convince administrators, who are under increasing (fiscal) pressure to deliver what parents and students want? How are we to convince those who regard academics as a bunch of politically correct, liberal/communist indoctrinators who live in ivory towers and not in real America (or at least, the real world)? And—perhaps a bit closer to home for many political theorists—how do we convince our own department members that the humanities are relevant within the political science discipline itself?

Why isn’t it enough to say that democracies need their citizens to think about democracy? Isn’t it (or why isn’t it) obvious that the STEM disciplines, whatever their strengths, are not concerned with democracy?

Why isn’t it enough to say that the broad intellectual (artistic, literary, philosophical, political, historical) tradition embraced by the humanities—despite its bounty of flaws—is nevertheless a tradition that critiques, pushes, rejects, defends democracy, and that is reason enough to study it?

If this isn’t enough (and, apparently, Nussbaum thinks it isn’t), why isn’t it? And—if it isn’t—what is?

Lisa Ellis said...

Alisa's questions are too good for this beginning of an answer, but here goes (I also think we need to respond to the teaching/experience questions, but I won't do that here). A few years ago I spent a summer reading Locke's minor works. I was looking for an argument that wasn't there, but what I came away with was respect for the way he turned the full force of his argumentative power not only on his patriarchalist opponents but on everyone in public life. Whether it was the ultimate source of political legitimacy or some obscure legal difference, the intellectual energy was the same: ferocious. I found myself wishing that more of us were like that.

If our public culture is unworthy of us (and it is), maybe part of the reason is that too few of us are really pulling from our side, forcing interlocutors into making coherent arguments. I agree with what Michael Schudson said in his still-great "The Good Citizen" about our mythologizing a democratic public sphere that never really existed. I think all of us have criticized Nussbaum for making that kind of mistake. But you don't have to be falsely nostalgic to be critical, of course, and I think that our public discourse would be much, much better if intellectuals in general and political theorists in particular were more involved. We have a great example of that kind of involvement right here with our first guest poster, John Seery. John brings the full power of his political theoretical intellect to bear on present-day injustices like the exclusion of the young from office-holding. We need more of this. And we need more of many other styles of public engagement. Thinking of Lawrie's dead-accurate worry about our playing the role of Richard Wright's bankers' daughters who could read and weep and feel good about others' suffering helps me focus on what I don't mean: we don't need to spend all our time commenting within our community about what other members of our community have said about what's wrong with the world. From this "broad coalition of public engagement" point of view, there is nothing inherently wrong with Nussbaum aiming a set of superfically inspirational bullet points at the decision-making elite. It's just one mode of a multi-pronged effort. We need continuing intellectual contact with our former students, reminding them of how great it is to be able to think critically; we need more and better bloggers (got some of that going on :)); we need to hold our noses and get into the trenches, calling people to account for their terrible arguments. Remember the attack on Juan Cole (the U-Mich prof/blogger who was investigated for being a war critic): if there were a thousand of him, each of them would be safer, and the general level of public discourse would rise.

lawrie said...

Hi All,

As I have read the posts, I have wondered whether many of the reservations concern Nussbaum's rhetorical choices at least as much as the substance of her argument. The book aims to convince its audience (Davos bigwigs, concerned parents, policy-makers, would-be business majors?) that the humanities provide a vital set of skills. Much of what she says about those skills resonates with my own sense of what I hope to do in the classroom. If I'm not moved by bullet points, I am nonetheless deeply sympathetic with her appeal for openness to difference and change, appreciation of complexity and human fallibility, humility, enlarged concern, etc. Maybe the problem is the framing of the humanities as a skill-delivery-system. Has the book conceded too much in constructing an argument for the humanities in value-added terms?

I think this question returns us to Amit's post. Part of the difficulty is that framing the argument in this way suggests that our job in the classroom is relatively straightforward. But it's a constant struggle to figure out how to trouble students' assumptions without going too far, how to get them to see the value of multiple perspectives without leading them to conclude that all perspectives are equal, how to own my own interpretive commitments in a way that allows students to develop alternatives, and so on.

Further, I am not sure that "skill" language works in practice. When I cheerfully tell students that I expect them to be disoriented at least some of the time, that my course will provide more questions than answers, and that these are lessons as valuable as the equations they will take away from their quantitative analysis and economics courses, they do not, typically, applaud. The fact is that learning to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity is not only hard but it may even un-fit them for certain kinds of work (as I found out when I worked on Capitol Hill and drove my boss crazy with nuanced, reflective answers to questions that he preferred to have answered wrongly than unstraightforwardly). Being un-fit in this way may be good for democracy--I think it is, and I think Nussbaum would agree--but it is misleading to figure it as a skill. This gets to Alisa's concern, too: how can we say "enough" for skeptics to hear that democracy needs the humanities without losing everything in translation?

Several of the posts raise vital concerns about the public responsibilities of intellectuals. They cast in sharp relief the dangerously depoliticizing effects of understanding democratic citizenship via psychology. Where is history, as Neville asks? Where is the ferocity or the outrage at injustice? Where is the interpenetration of the universal and the particular that comes to life in great works of literature, music, art...?

Sorry, too many questions. I'll stop there.

Lisa Ellis said...

Yes!! What Lawrie said!

We are not the first political theorists to worry about how recognizing complexity and uncertainty unfits one for action. (!)

But we may well be doing our worrying under conditions that are newer than we realize. We want today's public sphere to fulfill the functions imagined for it by people who frequented eighteenth-century coffee houses. This will not happen without redesigning the institution for the new conditions: new time frames, new societal divides, new conditions of participation, most importantly perhaps a new gap between the epistemic conditions of intellectual respectability and those of political success. We need a new rhetoric: one that can be both honest and effective. These days intellectual respectability translates in the public sphere as *dis*honest. Everyone is presumed to be shilling for an interest and admissions of uncertainty read as weakness or evasion. I hardly need to cite the so-called ClimateGate e-mails to make my point.

Political theorists in the classroom can help people learn to be comfortable with uncertainty, plurality, and fallibilism. But we'll need a new public rhetoric too!

abahachi said...

There is presumably a theory from evolutionary psychology to explain why, in the face of a complex and uncertain world, most people demand simple and straightforward ideas and rules of conduct, even if they're wrong or unhelpful much of the time, rather than the intellectual skills to recognise and understand complexity and uncertainty. Presumably those who spent their time worrying about such things tended to get eaten by passing sabre-tooth tigers, so the human race has tended to select for the unreflective, action-orientated type.

Lawrie's comment about the relation of the universal and the particular encapsulates for me the contribution of the humanities to human understanding. I have to admit that, when I'm operating as a socio-economic historian of classical antiquity, I frequently get annoyed with my colleagues' habitual obsession with details and particularities, and allergy to any sort of generalisation - and then think much more warmly of them when dealing with economists and their habitual contempt for the particular and the historical.

Of course we need both, and what the humanities can provide is an appreciation of the contingent and the historical, of subtle differences and nuances. It is the discipline of the 'yes, but it's rather more complicated than that', of 'the devil is in the detail', of 'people are complicated'. Or, in the words of a mug I was given by one of my students yesterday, 'The simple answer is...that we just don't know'. Of course this is not likely to be popular stuff most of the time - but surely the current failures of neoclassical economics, the polar opposite of such an approach, ought to make this as near as we're going to get to 'our moment'?


Amit Ron said...

One more thought about the question of the audience. Who are we arguing against? Who does not want the humanities? Are we arguing against a straw opposition? It seems to me that we need to make a distinction between two kinds of "oppositions" which require two kinds of responses.

The first criticism comes mainly from conservatives and refers to the adequacy of the content of what the humanities teach. They argue that there is a lefty take-over of the agenda of the humanities and it needs to be replaced by different kind of history, literature, philosophy, etc. While sometimes the grudge is directed to the humanities at large or even to public education in general, conservatives do not want to take away the humanities. They want the humanities to develop skills which are not the democratic skills that Nussbaum would want to develop. I assume that the Texas curriculum wants the study of history to reinforce national pride, respect for traditional institutions, and so on.

The second "opposition" is not really a criticism. It comes from technocrats and technocratic-public that simply look at numbers: enrollment, graduation rates, prospective average income after graduation, clear program objectives and measurable outcomes, and alike. These people have nothing personal against the humanities. It simply that they have other priorities. To address this argument on its own terms, one needs to deal with the cost-benefit calculation. One way to do it is at the level of the personal cost-benefit calculation: the humanities give something that people cannot get elsewhere (church or TV) and is important for the good-life. The humanities give something that money can't buy.

Nussbaum takes a different route, which I think is more effective. She appeals to the societal cost-benefit calculation. We need humanities education not because of its individual feel-good effect but because it allows for collective reflections about the goals of social cooperation. When we give this answer, we don't say that we want people to study the humanities so that they can reflect on life's most persistent questions but that they can learn how to engage in a conversation about the shared norms that govern our lives.

Claire said...

Apologies for posting so late in the week. I hope it's not too late. What Nussbaum describes in Chapter 3 is her desire for more people to act with or exhibit what I would call moral courage: people who know the right thing to do AND who will be motivated to act on that belief. What really seems to be Nussbaum's concern is this statement: we need to understand how to produce more citizens of the former sort (people prepared to live with others on terms of mutual respect..) and fewer of the latter (people who seek the comfort of domination) (29). The questions raised in previous posts all say something similar to what concerns me also--so I won't repeat them here. But it seems that for moral courage, the humanities are neither necessary nor sufficient and I'm sure all of us can provide plenty of examples on either side. Along the lines of Lawrie's point above, I have always thought of the humanities and humanities education as subversive and they are subversive precisely because they undercut and question values that we might hold dear even in a democracy. If we talk about the humanities--it seems that it has to be all of them and not only the ones that promote things we already believe.
My question though is why does Nussbaum keep returning to Rousseau's Emile? He is precisely not the figure in educational theory I would deploy for this purpose.

Claire said...

sorry! I forgot to put my full name: Claire Katz, Texas A&M (philosophy and women's and gender studies)

abahachi said...

I have been having exactly the same thoughts about the use of Rousseau: surely this argument can work only with people who have never read Emile, and who know as little as possible about Rousseau?