This week we recommend “Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice”, by Martha C. Nussbaum.
Love and justice in political philosophy. At first sight, it seems to be a risky venture, and to a certain degree, this combination is a challenge for liberalism in the strict sense of the word and its commitment towards freedom and the individual’s independence.
In the words of the author, “philosophy should not be written in a way in which it is detached from ordinary life”. That is why the winner of the 2012 Prince of Asturias Social Sciences Award uses a conception of emotions as essential for understanding the world. The political liberalism of Martha C.Nussbaum is in keeping with the encouragement of human capabilities, one of those with most potential being the capacity to love.
Knowledge of love is the purpose of a series of books written by Nussbaum, which connect with classical philosophy, ethics, emotions and literature. This famous philosopher, who has written over thirty books and who has three hundred and published fifty articles and reviews in the most prestigious scientific journals, has emphasized the potential which the capacity to love has on building a fair civil society.
Is this not the same thing preached by most religions? The full respect demanded in any civil society does not have the same power as that which is upheld by the emotion of loving. A “civic-religion”? It is a question of taking advantage of the motivational capacities of emotions generated by love, which also repress those emotions inherent to human beings, such as envy or egoism.
Love, according to Martha Nussbaum, is an motion which relates to the search for happiness in the broadest sense, and an emotion which is able to encourage social bonds and compassion. This combination, used to supplement a base of respect, would help society to reach practical justice, in the sense understood by Plato: “real justice for real societies “, in Nussbaum’s words.
This provocative theory of social change shows how a truly fair society can be built through cultivating and studying the release of emotions, and, specifically, of love. The author points to several great political leaders as pioneers in understanding the importance of these emotions: Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr., inter alia.
This challenging philosophical proposal also attempts to close the gap between specialized philosophy and the general public. The Professor of Ethics in Society in the University of Stanford, Joshua Cohen states that the concept of justice “demands our devotion and our understanding. For this reason, it must grip our emotions”.