Book 2 of 52 for 2012

Read in the car from Muhuru to Nairobi.

Nussbaum and I have a complicated relationship.  I wrote my senior project on her and her strange views of cosmopolitanism, which might as well have been called “why the west should be more aware, and how the ‘other’ should make that happen for us”.  Well lets call her new book “how to import western understandings of the individual to the 'not-west’.  Its not that her piece isn’t valid, telling, in many ways amazing, its just that…Its so…Western.  She makes the argument that the capabilities approach has been created by many non-western thinkers as well, but ultimately I still think its a very ivory twoer approach. And the westernization of the development complex is one of the main reasons development continues to be a failure.

I’d still give it 4 out of 5 stars though, because it least it is better than most pieces of development literature.

Given her rhetorical ferocity, I was surprised to find that Nussbaum was so soft-spoken when we met in her airy apartment in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. Dressed simply in a white T-shirt and black spandex leggings, she was tall and striking, with a square jaw and wavy, shoulder-length blond hair. Although she casually curled up on her living-room sofa, once we begin to talk it became apparent that there was little soft about her. She answered every question exhaustively, with a steely precision that let you practically see the footnotes hovering in the air. Her hair was still damp from a grueling Sunday routine: a 12-mile run along Lake Michigan followed by weight-lifting, intended as preparation for a fall marathon. (Because she “detests earphones,” she later told me, she runs to a mental soundtrack: fully memorized extracts from “The Marriage of Figaro.”)

Robert S. Boynton, “Who Needs Philosophy? A profile of Martha Nussbaum”

A superb philosopher, when she’s not writing, trains for a marathon with great opera in her head. If you’re looking for an example of aretê, this is it.

Nussbaum, Felix (1904-1944) - 1928c. The Desolate Street (Private Collection) by RasMarley
Via Flickr:
Oil on canvas; 56 x 43 cm. Felix Nussbaum was a German surrealist painter. He was born in Osnabrück the son of Rahel and Philipp Nussbaum. Philipp was a World War I veteran and German patriot before the rise of the Nazis. He was an amateur painter when he was younger, but was forced to pursue other means of work for financial reasons. He therefore encouraged his son’s artwork passionately. Nussbaum was a lifelong student, beginning his formal studies in 1920 in Hamburg and Berlin and continuing as long as the current political situation allowed him In his earlier works, Felix was heavily influenced by Vincent Van Gogh and Henri Rousseau and he eventually pays homage to Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà as well. Carl Hofer’s expressionist painting influenced Felix’s careful approach to color. In 1933, Nussbaum was studying on scholarship in Rome at the Berlin Academy of the Arts when the Nazis gained control of Germany. Adolf Hitler sent his Minister of Propaganda in April to Rome to explain to the artist elites how “a Nazi artist is to develop”, which entailed promoting heroism and the Aryan race. Nussbaum began to understand that a Jewish artist like himself could no longer remain at the academy. Felix and and his wife Felka would spend the next ten years in exile, mostly in Belgium. Thus began Felix’s emotional and artistic isolation. 1944 marked the fruition of the deadly Nazi machine’s plans for the Nussbaum family. Philipp and Rahel Nussbaum were killed at Auschwitz in February. In July, Felix and his wife were found hiding in an attic by German armed forces. They were arrested and given the numbers XXVI/284 and XXVI/285. On August 2, they arrived in Auschwitz and a week later, Felix’s fears came to reality. He was murdered at the age of 39. On September 3, Nussbaum’s brother was sent to Auschwitz. On September 6, his sister-in-law and niece were murdered in Auschwitz. In December, his brother – the last of the family – died from exhaustion in the camp at Stutthof. With one fell swoop, the Nussbaum family was officially and completely exterminated.