Sunday, May 3, 2009

Poetic Justice

Martha Nussbaum would be upset: in preparation for Obama's Supreme Court appointee, the GOP has already launched a slew of 'trial-balloon criticisms,' including the following from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah):

Obama has also said a judge has to be a person of empathy...What does that mean? Usually that's a code word for an activist judge.

Nussbaum's call for poetic justice - for a richer understanding of neutrality that infuses rationality with the humaneness of a literary imagination - appears to be falling on deaf ears. Unfortunately. For as Nussbaum elucidates, the cultivation of empathy through a balanced emotional life of acknowledged vulnerability leads to more balanced judgments and theoretical reasoning about the human experience. Our emotional lives are cognitively rich - we need to promote empathy as an element of decision-making. We need to individualize, not generalize. We need to encounter others as subjects (not objects) with stories to tell.

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