Nussbaum offers an explanation and a defence of the contribution that imagination and emotion can make to public discourse. In doing so, she pushes back against a naive conception of rationality that demands abstract, coldly technocratic approaches to public policy and law.
When first written her book engaged with important debates raging on the public stage. But reading it now in the first months of Trump’s presidency and as Republicans and far-right ideologues work brazenly to make life worse for so many people, her optimism and her faith in humanism feels like a voice from another world.
Regarding the judiciary and justice system, Nussbaum’s specific topic, I came away convinced that Supreme Court confirmation hearings have become pointless because they ask the wrong questions. Who is this person? Where do they come from? What is their sensibility? These questions—which hint at what kind of judicious spectator the nominee might be—are what matter, not questions about legal principles that invite nothing but dissimulation and the repetition of carefully prepared platitudes.
I mentioned something like this before, but we’ve accepted a radically deconstructive historiography & textualism as the basis of our public discourse, and it’s shredding the political fabric of our society.