Prof. Martha C. Nussbaum

United States

A public philosopher of extraordinary scope, Prof. Martha C. Nussbaum’s prolific intellectual contributions range from ancient Greek and Roman philosophy to philosophy of education, philosophy of development economics, and philosophy of law. She has addressed such issues as emotions, distributive justice, and human rights, and has yielded findings and insights at the abstract level of cognition, which she has shown to make a material difference in the most important issues of our political and personal lives.

Born in New York City, Prof. Nussbaum earned a BA from New York University, and an MA and PhD in classical philology from Harvard University. She currently serves as the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, appointed in the Department of Philosophy and the Law School.

Among her many achievements, she is well known for the development of a political philosophy focused on human capabilities. She worked alongside Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen to create the Capabilities Approach, a measure of global welfare that provided an alternative to older concepts of development (increasing GDP per capita), with human capabilities – what a nation’s individuals are actually able to be and do – at its center. Prof. Nussbaum advocated a new concept – that normative justice should focus on the development of certain specified capabilities – and injected new insights into the discussion of human welfare policy and assistance for developing countries.

She also has written extensively on human emotions and their role in politics, law, and society. Her writing, invariably elegant and engaging, transcends the boundaries of academic discourse, winning over audiences around the world. Prof. Nussbaum’s oeuvre includes 24 books, and she has garnered numerous prizes, including, in recent years, the Inamori Ethics Prize, awarded by the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western Reserve University to international leaders who improve the condition of mankind; the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy – the most prestigious award offered in fields not eligible for a Nobel Prize; and the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture.

Prof. Nussbaum has received honorary degrees from 61 colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe, including the University of Haifa in 2002 and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2017. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (elected 1988), and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy and of the Academy of Finland.