Professor Martha Nussbaum on ‘Anger, Powerlessness, and the Politics of Blame’

8 June 2018, 5.00 PM - 8 June 2018, 6.30 PM

Professor Martha Nussbaum

University of Bristol

The Institute of Greece, Rome, and the Classical Tradition is delighted to welcome Professor Martha Nussbaum to speak at its second Sir Jeremy Morse Lecture. The title of Professor Nussbaum's lecture is ‘Anger, Powerlessness, and the Politics of Blame’.

This lecture investigates the climate of simmering anger that disfigures most modern democracies, expressing itself in blaming and targeting of unpopular groups. Prof. Nussbaum argues that a philosophical analysis of anger and its roots in experience of powerlessness can help us as we move forward. Beginning with an example from Greek tragedy in which retributive anger is refashioned into constructive work and hope, she focuses on the role of retributive desires in most instances of everyday anger.

Prof. Nussbaum maintains that the desire for payback is counter-productive, since replicating the offense does not correct it. She then looks at the roots of retributive desires in experiences of helplessness and argues that there is just one species of anger that can help us as we move forward. Called “Transition-Anger” because it faces toward the future, it has the following content: “How outrageous that is! It must not happen again.” This type of anger eschews retributive thinking in favor of constructive work and hope. Prof. Nussbaum shows its relevance by studying the U. S. Civil Rights movement and the thought of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Registration for this lecture is required via Eventbrite.

Martha Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, as well as an Associate in the Classics Department and the Political Science Department. She is vice president of the Institute of Greece, Rome, and the Classical Tradition, a Board Member of the Human Rights Program, and the founder and Coordinator of the Center for Comparative Constitutionalism. She has received honorary degrees from thirty-seven colleges and universities in the U. S., Canada, Asia, and Europe, and has taught at Harvard, Brown, and Oxford Universities. Among her publications are Aristotle's De Motu Animalium (1978), The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy (1986), Women and Human Development (2000), Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions (2001), Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership (2006), Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (2010), The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age (2012), Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice (2013), and Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice (2016).

Sir Jeremy Morse (1928 - 2016) was Chancellor of the University of Bristol from 1989 to 2003, and former President of the IGRCT. Sir Jeremy was one of the Institute's staunchest supporters.

Martha Nussbaum, Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago

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