Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education

Martha Craven Nussbaum, Author
Martha Craven Nussbaum, Author Harvard University Press $28.5 (352p) ISBN 978-0-674-17948-6
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-674-17949-3
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Just when you thought the culture wars were over, the next combatants step in to take up their swords and shields. Nussbaum is a culture warrior who earned her stripes defending universities from charges of caving in to the demands of politically correct multiculturalists. In this vigorous response to critics, Nussbaum adopts an unusual approach in her defense of the college-level multicultural curriculum. Instead of casting multicultural instruction as a type of payback for the sins of Western racism and sexism, she artfully argues how the Western philosophical tradition itself leads directly to a multicultural agenda. The Socratic demand to examine ourselves, as Nussbaum sees it, requires that we study those unlike us. To understand our culture's influence on our economic, sexual, racial and social views, we must explore the influence the cultures of others have had on theirs. In short, we learn best by contrasting what we believe with what others believe, especially if the goal is to make us world-citizens, a view that, according to Nussbaum is as old as the Greco-Roman philosophy itself. Though at times flatly written, Nussbaum's arguments are convincing. She is careful to avoid the pitfalls of cultural relativism, and there is no debating the cosmopolitan effects of the educational process that she supports. Her work is a welcome addition to the ongoing debate about culture and curriculum. (Sept.)
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