jurisprudence-newsletter2009-05.pdf - Jurisprudence May 2009 newsletter Adam Gearey Martha Nussbaum In this posting I want to look at the writing of the

jurisprudence-newsletter2009-05.pdf - Jurisprudence May...

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Jurisprudence May 2009 newsletter Adam Gearey Martha Nussbaum In this posting, I want to look at the writing of the philosopher Martha Nussbaum. Whilst Nussbaum is not writing natural law jurisprudence, her approach to the question of capabilities bears some interesting resemblances to some of the arguments that we find in natural law thinking. Nussbaum is attempting to articulate an idea of human capability- or a notion of the fundamental under-pinning of human being- that can found an argument about “dignity” that is cross cultural and cross temporal ( in other words not just limited to a time and a place). This is similar to what Finnis is attempting in Natural Law and Natural Rights . Nussbaum takes a “universalist” approach to capabilities. She has to argue for a concept of being that can “join all humans, across barriers of gender and class and race and nation” 1 - and moreover, given the explicitly feminist underpinnings of this thinking, can provide a basis for an argument about the “equality and dignity of women.” 2 This account directs capabilities towards a specific content: “what all human beings share”. Precisely because the capabilities approach focuses on “basic functions” rather than “power or status” it is particularly suited to an examination of the marginalised. This raises some important concerns- and has to confront arguments made by feminists that the very idea of human nature is flawed. The designation of human being
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