Martha Nussbaum | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Martha Nussbaum

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On November 3, millions of Americans staggered through the motions of giving a shit about the job, the kids, the dog, and the gas bill. "How did this happen?" they asked each other numbly. "How are we going to survive another four years?" Dennis Loy Johnson, cofounder of small, Hoboken-based Melville House Publishing and proprietor of the literary Web site mobylives.com, was one such blue citizen. But rather than sit around and mope, he got busy and sent out a call to the progressive punditry, from Lewis Lapham to Billionaires for Bush, asking for answers to the question "What next?" Their collected manifestos hit bookstores three weeks later as What We Do Now--an unprecedented achievement in crash publishing. The directives cover a lot of familiar ground (teach, organize, support instant runoff voting), but there are some changeups as well. "Grow some balls," says writer Steve Almond. "Stop yawning over taxes," says blogger and former tax attorney Maud Newton. "Whenever President Bush has a good idea, work with him," says University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein. Sunstein's U. of C. colleague Martha Nussbaum contributes one of the most potent and elegant essays, in which she frames the torture at Abu Ghraib as the logical outcome of the Bush administration's embrace of a Hobbesian worldview. Current U.S. foreign policy, she argues, is in catastrophic violation of the categorical imperative that we treat others as ends in themselves, rather than simply as a means to our self-interested ends. By scorning Kantian ethics, she says, Bush--and Donald Rumsfeld, and the "arch-Hobbesian" Condoleeza Rice--have turned their backs on the fundamental principle of the international human rights movement: that every human life has meaning and requires respect. At this event Nussbaum leads a discussion about both the anthology and her contribution. Thu 2/10, 7:30 PM, Barbara's Bookstore, 1218 S. Halsted, 312-413-2665.

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