Philosophy at the heart of powerless politics

“Orestes Pursued by the Furies”John Singer Sargent

The crises of tomorrow’s democracies come from the human aspect of ourselves. Beyond easily observable forces – scientific, political, or anything else – we seek to make connections with one another. Let’s turn to philosophy.

On May 1, Professor of Philosophy Martha Nussbaum will give the 2017 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. Throughout her career Nussbaum has shone in the public sphere as an intellectual sharing wisdom on the role of philosophy in everyone’s life. In her speech, “Powerlessness and the Politics of Blame,” Nussbaum will do just that. Probing intuitions and experience of our daily lives, Nussbaum will shed light on our emotions and reactions – such as fear, anger, and envy – and how they function in today’s democracies. In her piece in Aeon, she elaborates on the different ways of looking at anger.

I will be attending the lecture next month to cover more of the story.

I’ve been greatly moved by Nussbaum’s work as a philosopher and public intellectual. Her ideas and arguments have helped me develop a respect for humanity and analytic thinking in a way that no other scholar has. As I read her book “Not for profit,” I explored the purpose of college education that has driven me through my intellectual pursuits.

In my career at Indiana University, I’ve sought to create a wonder and unfettered pursuit of knowledge, especially philosophy and ethics, among science and pre-medical students. I drew inspiration from Nussbaum’s method of intellectual discourse and leverage between ancient philosophy and the public sphere. With an analytic approach to these forms of discourse that draw connections between disciplines through history, I presented ethical issues in science and medicine to other students. My friends and I formed a groundwork for learning that goes beyond the classroom and into the heart of how people learn.

Nussbaum’s writing on virtues and emotions such as anger have helped me instilled values of empathy and wisdom in other students. It is pertinent the nation recognizes the importance of philosophy and other humanities now more than ever.

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