We are thrilled to hear that regular Boston Review contributor Martha Nussbaum is the recipient of the 2021 Holberg Prize! A prestigious international honor, the Holberg Prize is awarded annually to a scholar who has made outstanding contributions to research in the humanities. “Truly a ‘public philosopher’, Nussbaum’s work has reached wide audiences across the world as well as influenced many areas of knowledge,” the selection committee commented. “Her writing is always scrupulous about arguments, perceptive about human emotions and vulnerability, and attentive to the realities of human situations, social interactions, and the many forms of dependence and interdependence that can arise within them.” Congratulations, Martha!
This news coincided with the celebration of International Women’s Day earlier this week, which is itself the capstone of Women’s History Month. To mark these occasions, today’s reading list highlights women thinkers from a range of philosophical traditions. The list includes Boston Review favorites Agnes Callard and Seyla Benhabib—on decision-making and philosophical truths respectively—as well as political philosophers Elizabeth Anderson and Katrina Forrester looking at the history of social insurance and the future of Rawlsian liberalism.
Nussbaum and Danielle Allen represent the ethicists, looking at the relationship between mourning and justice and the importance of civic agency, and questions of moral philosophy come to the fore in essays by F. M Kamm and the inimitable Judith Jarvis Thomspon. While the latter is most famous for her ‘unconscious violinist’ thought experiment, here she pivots her arguments on abortion to the realm of rights, arguing that “the idea that a fetus has rights cannot be bypassed as nonsense. We have to take it seriously.”
For five decades Anglophone political philosophy has been dominated by the liberal egalitarianism of John Rawls. With liberalism in crisis, have these ideas outlived their time?