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From Disgust to Humanity: Sexual Orientation and Constitutional Law (Inalienable Rights)by Martha C. Nussbaum
Synopses & Reviews
A distinguished professor of law and philosophy at the University of Chicago, a prolific writer and award-winning thinker, Martha Nussbaum stands as one of our foremost authorities on law, justice, freedom, morality, and emotion. In From Disgust to Humanity, Nussbaum aims her considerable intellectual firepower at the bulwark of opposition to gay equality: the politics of disgust.
Nussbaum argues that disgust has long been among the fundamental motivations of those who are fighting for legal discrimination against lesbian and gay citizens. When confronted with same-sex acts and relationships, she writes, they experience "a deep aversion akin to that inspired by bodily wastes, slimy insects, and spoiled food--and then cite that very reaction to justify a range of legal restrictions, from sodomy laws to bans on same-sex marriage." Leon Kass, former head of President Bush's President's Council on Bioethics, even argues that this repugnance has an inherent "wisdom," steering us away from destructive choices. Nussbaum believes that the politics of disgust must be confronted directly, for it contradicts the basic principle of the equality of all citizens under the law. "It says that the mere fact that you happen to make me want to vomit is reason enough for me to treat you as a social pariah, denying you some of your most basic entitlements as a citizen." In its place she offers a "politics of humanity," based not merely on respect, but something akin to love, an uplifting imaginative engagement with others, an active effort to see the world from their perspectives, as fellow human beings. Combining rigorous analysis of the leading constitutional cases with philosophical reflection about underlying concepts of privacy, respect, discrimination, and liberty, Nussbaum discusses issues ranging from non-discrimination and same-sex marriage to "public sex." Recent landmark decisions suggest that the views of state and federal courts are shifting toward a humanity-centered vision, and Nussbaum's powerful arguments will undoubtedly advance that cause.
Incisive, rigorous, and deeply humane, From Disgust to Humanity is a stunning contribution to Oxford's distinguished Inalienable Rights series.
"A meticulous consideration of the legal issues surrounding same-sex relations grounded in a far-reaching investigation of how the notion of disgust has determined both civil legislation and public opinion. Identifying a politics of disgust that centers on irrational fears of contamination, 'penetrability,' and loss of social 'solidarity,' Nussbaum (Hiding from Humanaity) opposes such problematic foundations for legislation with her own notion of a politics of humanity, based on the need for imaginative engagement with others. Linking imagination with America's founding principles of equality and respect, the author vindicates sexual orientation rights as instrumental to the pursuit of happiness, before engaging with contentious rulings on same-sex marriage, sodomy, and discrimination. An elegant and eloquent defender of sexual freedom, the author is at her best describing the insidious role of disgust in law. However, her frequent recourse to John Stuart Mill would seem to demand a more detailed defense of his ideas on harm, and her reflections on marriage add little to the debate. Nonetheless, as the recent public discourse about empathy among Supreme Court judges indicates, Nussbaum's passionate advocacy of the power of imagination is profound and timely." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Martha Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, appointed in Law, Philosophy, and Divinity. Her many books include Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law; Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education; Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership; and Liberty of Conscience: In Defense of America's Tradition of Religious Equality.
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