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The Quality of Life$

Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen

Print publication date: 1993

Print ISBN-13: 9780198287971

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198287976.001.0001

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Onora O'Neill: Justice, Gender, and International Boundaries

Onora O'Neill: Justice, Gender, and International Boundaries

(p.324) Onora O'Neill: Justice, Gender, and International Boundaries
The Quality of Life

Martha Nussbaum (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Nussbaum agrees with O’Neill's proposal and comments on the implication of it on women's lives. Nussbaum discusses the role of women's issues in development economics, then contrasts O’Neill's Kantian approach with her own Aristotelian one, and finally considers the issue of conflict of values, which has traditionally been thought to result in the conclusion that separate and distinct norms of quality of life are needed for the lives of women and men.

Keywords:   Aristotle, conflict of values, development, human being, human functioning, Kant, norms


In commenting on O'Neill's rich and penetrating account of justice to the vulnerable, I shall focus on the situation of women. O'Neill has performed a valuable service for the project as a whole by showing how many of the most urgent problems faced by women are cases of more general difficulties of the weak, the marginalized, the exploited. I find the argument for these links convincing; and I shall accept them, in what follows, as successfully established. But since issues concerning women were always central in the motivation and planning of this project, I want to focus these comments on that portion of O'Neill's discussion. First, I shall briefly describe the role of women's issues in the project as a whole. Then I shall comment on O'Neill's general Kantian approach to issues of gender, contrasting it with another available approach, one based upon Aristotle and other related ancient Greek discussions, that makes use of a concept of the human being and human functioning. Finally, I shall introduce an issue not explicitly raised by O'Neill, but intrinsic to the consideration of norms for women and men: the issue of conflict of values, one common approach to which has traditionally been thought to yield the conclusion that we need separate and distinct norms of quality of life for the lives of women and men.


Reflection on the situation of women in developing countries brings to the fore, with special vividness and urgency, certain more general philosophical problems. It was to investigate these problems — especially with a view to women's concerns — that we decide to arrange a meeting to promote foundational dialogue between philosophers and economists. First of all, the situation of women provides a particularly clear example of the defectiveness of views of development that construe development's aim in terms of utility — whether construed as happiness or as the satisfaction of desires and preferences. For, as Amartya Sen has documented, women who have lived their entire lives in situations of deprivation frequently do not feel dissatisfied with the way things are with them, even at the level of physical health.1 Since one necessary condition of much desiring seems to be the ability to imagine the object of desire, it is easy to see why severe limitations of experience, in the case of many of the world's women, should lead, as well, to limitations of desire. It is especially striking that (p.325) women who have been persistently taught that they should eat less than other members of their households will frequently report that their nutritional status and physical health are good, even when they can be shown to be suffering from physical ailments associated with malnutrition. If this is the case even with physical health, the situation must surely be far worse where education and many other capabilities are concerned. For example, women frequently report when polled that they do not desire more education. But how should we regard such answers? When such replies are given in situations in which it is clear that the women in question have little experience of education, little incentive (indeed, often a strong disincentive) from the society around them to pursue their education, and no clear paradigms of women's lives that have been transformed by education, it seems clear that their announced contentment with the uneducated life means relatively little.2 Desires adjust to deprivation; and the awareness of new possibilities frequently brings an increase in discomfort and dissatisfaction.3 Such facts should make us suspicious that utility, as a measure of quality of life, will be biased in the direction of maintaining the status quo, however defective; they should motivate the search for a more adequate measure.

Problems concerning women also motivated us to undertake, in this project, a detailed assessment of cultural relativism. I find it very interesting indeed that both Michael Walzer's qualified defence of a limited relativism and Charles Taylor's defence of a historically sensitive objectivism focus, as they do, on the example of women's position in society–Taylor claiming as a strength of his account that it can show the rationality of women's demand for equality, Walzer trying to assure us, up to a point, that his relativism does not have all the disturbing consequences for the position of women that one might have imagined. O'Neill seems to me to be plainly correct when she writes, ‘Any relativism tends to prejudice the position of the weak, whose weakness is mirrored and partly constituted by their marginalization in received ways of thought and by their subordination and oppression in established orders.’ It was with this worry in mind that we thought it important to investigate the whole issue of relativism, asking whether there was a coherent and satisfactory way of responding to the relativist's demand for concreteness and historical sensitivity while maintaining a more objective position that might be the basis for a convincing criticism of local traditions; asking, as well, whether there were forms of relativism that did not have negative and somewhat reactionary consequences. I believe that we have learned a lot from the project about how argument on this issue might go, and that we have a lot more to learn.4 It is good, as we pursue the issues further, to have O'Neill's powerful reminder of some of the motivating problems before us.

(p.326) [3]

Now I want to make some remarks about O'Neill's approach to the question of gender justice.5 O'Neill seems to me very convincing when she says that what we require is a methodology that is able, on the one hand, to abstract, in seeking a normative account, from certain contingent features of women's situations–features that may be defective and productive of deficiency in judgement and desire — and, on the other, to remain down to earth, rather than ideal, in what it does take into account. Her distinction between idealization and abstraction is an important one. Her criticisms of several different sorts of idealization of the human being, in both philosophy and economics, seem entirely just; such understandings have certainly impeded both professions in their approach to women's issues. So if I have some doubts about the particular procedure she proposes, it is against the background of a large measure of agreement with the general constraints she sets forth.6

Within these constraints, at least two different general accounts of gender justice seem to be available: an account based, as is O'Neill's, on the test of universalizability of principles, and the question about the consistency of the imagined result; and the approach that Julia Annas, Hilary Putnam, Amartya Sen, and I have in different ways described,7 an approach based on the concept of human functioning and an idea of the human being. (I think that as I understand this latter approach it is very closely affiliated to Charles Taylor's approach via the notion of strong evaluation; see my comment on his paper.)

O'Neill's Kantian approach asks us to abstract more or less totally from the content of the lives of the individuals we are asked to imagine, and then to think what universally sharable principles would have to govern their lives with one another, given that they are ‘numerous, diverse, and neither ideally rational nor ideally independent of one another’. By applying the test of universalizability, O'Neill, following Kant, is able to rule out principles that could not consistently be held by all of a plurality of potentially interacting beings. Among these will be various forms of deception and victimization. And if we then look at the actual lives of women in many societies, we will discover, O'Neill argues, that these lives exhibit the bad effects of these non‐universalizable principles.

I think that O'Neill puts the case for the Kantian approach as well as it can be put; and she does well in showing how a certain amount of very important ethical content can be generated out of the formal interest in consistency and universalizability. I am impressed by her discussions of exploitation and (p.327) deception. But I have doubts in the end about how far we can go in moral argument on this issue through an approach so thin on content. (An approach that discourages us from asking some of our most basic and ordinary questions, such as ‘Who are these people? What are they trying to do? What general abilities and circumstances do they have?’) These doubts will perhaps be clearer when I have described the other approach, as I understand it.

The approach through an idea of the human being and human functioning urges the parties involved in the argument to ask themselves what aspects of living they consider so fundamental that they could not regard a life as a fully human one without them. Put this way, it is not a request for a matter of metaphysical or biological fact, but a request for a particularly deep and searching kind of evaluative inquiry.8 This inquiry does abstract, certainly, from many concrete features of actual lives, for it asks us to consider what are the most important things that must turn up in any life that we will be willing to recognize as human. Asking this requires us to abstract from many local features of our lives that are more dispensable, and to explore those areas of life, those functions, that are the basis for our sense of recognition and affiliation, for our judgements of humanness, when we meet other humans from ways of life that are in many respects very different. Frequently this inquiry will be carried on (as I have argued elsewhere9) by myth‐making and story‐telling, in which we imagine beings who are like us in some ways and not in others, asking whether they count for us as human; or in which we imagine transformations, and ask whether the life in question is still a human life or some other sort of life. Several remarks can now be made about the differences between this approach and the Kantian approach.

1. Here, in contrast to the Kantian's focus on the formal characteristics of principles, we are all along talking about content, and the actual living of lives — though at a very general level. This inquiry is, in fact, continuous with a more general inquiry into the quality of life, or what the ancient Greeks (who did much to develop this approach) would have called the question of human flourishing, or the good life for a human being. It provides some parameters for such an inquiry, by showing us which lives fall altogether beyond the pale of humanness.

2. In this inquiry, much of the important moral work is done by the imagination, and by our deepest emotions about what our imagination produces; in the Kantian approach, by contrast, the work is supposed to be done by the formal notion of consistency, a notion the consideration of which involves the intellect, far more than the imagination or emotions. Kant himself was certainly rather hostile to the role played by emotions in practical judgement; although this may (p.328) not be a necessary feature of the Kantian approach, it has certainly had a great deal of influence on many modern Kantians.10

3. In the approach through the idea of human functioning, we are learning about how we understand ourselves, about our deepest attachments and commitments and the reasons for them. In the Kantian approach, by contrast, we are learning certain things about what rational consistency requires of all rational beings, but (deliberately) not much about the specific sort of rational being we are, or about why we care about what we do care about, consistency included.

4. The approach through human functioning makes it very easy to apprehend the fact that lives may contain conflicting obligations or values. For the stories of human life on which such an approach frequently relies show us how progress in one area of life can bring tensions, and even deficiencies, in other areas — and in general how full the world is of things we care about and ought to honour in action. They lead us, then, to expect that in the course of living well we will face some difficult dilemmas. The Kantian insistence on ethical consistency avoids, and even denies, this. I shall later return to this question.

But so far I have said little about how I think an approach in terms of human functioning would handle the question of women. For many believers in some such approach have been far from feminist. Indeed, they frequently just left women out, claiming that they were not full‐fledged human beings and did not have the capacity for fully human functioning. How, then, does my version of the approach propose to deal with that problem?

I believe that by directing us, first, to look at what is deepest and also most broadly shared in human life in many times and places, and, second, by urging us to do so by using our imaginations, the human functioning approach provides valuable resources for the defender of women's equality. In order to make this clearer I want to offer two examples of such arguments, taken from ancient Greek thought. The two are really, I think, complementary parts of what would be a single process of argument, the one part being more schematic, the other involving a fuller and more concrete exercise of imagination. The examples are an argument from the Stoic treatise, ‘Should Women Too Do Philosophy?’, written by Musonius Rufus at Rome in the first century AD; and Aristophanes' great comic play Lysistrata, written at Athens in the fifth century BC. It is important to mention at the start that both are radical arguments, in that their conclusions go enormously beyond and dramatically against the norms that were actually recognized by their societies.

The Musonius argument is marvellously simple. It goes like this. Women (he asserts) have, as anyone can see, exactly the same basic faculties as men. Let's go through the list, he now says. Women, as you cannot deny, can see, hear, taste, smell, feel. Furthermore, they can also reason. And on top of this they plainly (p.329) display a sensitivity to ethical distinctions. So: if you believe that getting a ‘higher education’ that includes some training in philosophical reflection is a good thing for someone with those basic human abilities, then, if you are consistent, you must grant that it is a good thing for women. Musonius now imagines the male interlocutor raising various objections about the consequences of this educational proposal:–for example, that it will lead women to sit around talking philosophy rather than getting the housework done. He dismisses such points as special pleading. Nobody, he says, should neglect practical duties for philosophical conversation; but this applies as much to men as to women, and cannot therefore be used as the basis for an educational difference.

What this argument does is to get the unreflective interlocutor to look closely at various features of his daily dealings with women, and to admit that he implicitly recognizes, in those dealings, the presence of the list of basic abilities that he believes to be both necessary and sufficient for humanness. He talks to his wife as a reasoning being, and a being sensitive to ethical norms; so how can he consistently deny her what would be good for a reasoning being? By looking at the actual content of her life, with imagination and responsive feeling — and at a rather general level–he comes to recognize what he himself values. Notice that this approach relies on an interest in consistency too, but in a different place: for it asks the interlocutor to examine himself — his statements, his actions, his relations with others — for consistency, thus treating consistency as a regulative part of a larger inquiry into content.11

The Lysistrata performs a similar job, I think, far more concretely. In Aristophanes' famous comedy about how women end the Peloponnesian War by refusing sex to their husbands,12 the first thing that happens to the male member of the audience is that he is taken inside the women's quarters of the house, somewhere that might have seemed to him altogether alien and different. (Athenian women rarely left the house, so there were relatively few opportunities for the type of interaction that would have prompted the recognition of female rationality.) What he now finds is that here inside the house, far from the market‐place and the assembly with which he would tend to associate the (male) world of reason, practical reasoning is going on, including reasoning about central public issues. This reasoning is carried on with much spirit, and in a morally resourceful way. By the end of the play, it is difficult to see how a sincere member of the audience can have failed to accept the remarkable heroine as a reasoning political being similar to himself, and to grant that such a being has a substantial role to play in the city's political life. The charm and verbal resourcefulness of the drama play a large part in luring the audience in, so that they will recognize (p.330) what the drama wants them to recognize. As with Musonius, this argument focuses on some very general features of human life, depicting the rest in a fanciful way: it gets us to abstract from other contingencies of current arrangements. Thus it leads us to ask which features are the most essential, to focus on those features, and to realize that women share them.

Of course, like any other sort of moral argument, this sort might not work. This one plainly did not, as any rate not on a large scale, since Athenian women went on living as they had lived, and the war went on as well, with disastrous results. But the failure of a single argument to overcome entrenched resistance does not seem to me to count against it. And on the whole I am inclined to believe that arguments of this sort will get us further, where women are concerned, than formal arguments of the Kantian type. I believe that, with respect to the four differences I have mentioned, the human function arguments probably come out ahead, both in terms of efficacy and in terms of philosophical power.

First, it seems essential to focus on content as these arguments do — because the actual doings and beings of people seem to be what we have to talk about here, not just what traffic rules will police their doings and beings. Indeed, it seem hard to say anything meaningful about traffic rules until we know who the parties are and what they are doing. Second, we need to rely upon the faculties on which these arguments rely — for the imagination of ways of life seems to be a faculty absolutely indispensable for the full and fully rational investigation of these and other questions concerning deprived people. Both imagination and emotions are necessary to the full recognition of what, in the end, we need to recognize in these cases: that this is a human life before me, and not merely a thing.13 Third, it seems vital to promote self‐understanding as these arguments do. At the conclusion of this sort of argument, we understand more than we do at the conclusion of a formal argument, for we understand why certain things matter to us, how much they matter, how this grounds our relations with others, and so forth. Finally, this approach, and not the other, prepares us for a just appreciation of the problem of conflict among values.

But before I turn to that problem, I want to mention that I think O'Neill herself actually uses what I would call a human function argument at certain crucial points in her paper: for example, when she asks us to recognize our mutual interdependence, our vulnerability, and our general situation as beings ‘whose agency and capacities have been formed, perhaps deformed, by unjust institutions’. Much of the force in her application of principles to situations comes from such rich though general description of features of human life; and I doubt that the paper would have had the power it does without them. In fact, at one point (p.331) she insists that one must take account of capacities and forms of life in this very general way: ‘In applying abstract, non‐idealizing principles we have to take account not indeed of the actual beliefs, ideals, or categories of others, which may reflect unjust traditions, but of others' actual capacities and opportunities to act—and their incapacities and lack of opportunities.’ She suggests that this sort of reflection is necessary only in applying principles and not in formulating them. But in some of her concrete arguments it seems an important part of her scrutiny of principles. So I conclude that her approach is actually a mixed approach, which, as such, may be able to surmount many of the difficulties I have raised here for the Kantian approach.


In concluding, I want to discuss what I have called the problem of conflicting values. But since there are several different problems that might be called by this name, I need to be more precise about what I mean. I am not talking about conflicts among different complete conceptions of the good human life; I am also not talking about conflicts of interest that arise within a society as people differently positioned try to realize their various conceptions. These are important issues; they clearly require discussion in the overall pursuit of questions about the quality of life. The problem I want to raise here arises within a single conception of the good, and within the life of a single agent. It concerns the fact that a single conception may contain values that are difficult to combine in a single life—and that this will, inevitably, produce painful tensions and conflicts for individuals. Before I go into greater detail, let me connect this problem with the concerns of women.

When we planned for discussion, in this project, of the question, ‘Women and Men: Two Norms or One?’, one of the things we had in mind was the critical scrutiny of a venerable part of the philosophical tradition. This tradition holds that women and men must have discrete norms, since otherwise there would be too many difficult conflicts for individuals in realizing everything that, in a good and complete society, ought to be realized. We divide up the functions, so to speak. There are, in turn, two different forms of this argument; these can be called the direct conflict view and the contingent conflict view. The direct conflict view holds that any good society must contain certain valuable activities or ways of being that cannot, on account of their very nature, be coherently combined in a single person. In a very mundane version, this is an argument frequently made by opponents of military service for women. Society (the argument goes) needs both aggressiveness and gentleness. If we train women to be aggressive they will no longer be gentle. So we should leave the aggressiveness to the men, the gentleness to the women, and exempt women from military service. In a much more sophisticated form, this sort of argument seems to be made by Jean‐Jacques Rousseau, in his contrasting portraits of Emile and Sophie. His (p.332) argument seems to be that citizenly autonomy and the qualities of a good homemaker cannot go together; they are produced by incompatible modes of education, and require incompatible modes of life. They would simply undercut one another if we tried to combine them in a single person.

I am not really convinced by this type of argument. In every instance I have so far encountered, it seems to me that either one of the allegedly conflicting elements is not really valuable—as I think is the case with military aggressiveness14—or the alleged conflict is not convincingly established. The latter position has been powerfully argued against Rousseau in Jane Roland Martin's excellent book on philosophical views of women's education.15 She claims, plausibly, that even in Rousseau's text itself there are signs that citizens who lack the concerns that bind the family together will be defective citizens; homemakers who have not learned to take charge of their own reasoning will be bad homemakers. The two parts of life are actually necessary for one another, if we want to develop each in the best way possible. In the light of good arguments like these, I feel that we are entitled to go on thinking (until further notice) that the most valuable human functionings, at least in their basic and general nature, are, on the whole, mutually supportive, and do not require the postulation of two discrete norms.16

Contingent conflict in particular circumstances is, however, another story. For it seems plain that when you value a plurality of different goods, all of which are taken to make a non‐homogeneous contribution to the goodness of a life, then you will discover, either more or less often, depending on how you live, that you are faced with a situation in which you cannot satisfy the demands of all the things to which you are committed. This is not just a women's problem, of course; but it is a problem that has been recognized and felt more prominently, on the whole (in certain areas of life at least), by women than by men.

There seem to be two reasons for this. First, women frequently try to combine a plurality of commitments—especially commitments to both work and family—that men less frequently try to combine. If we put the problem that way, it is, I think, a plus for women. For if you believe, as I do, that caring for your family and/or children and doing some form of valued work are both important functions (p.333) in most human lives, male and female, then it is better to recognize that fact and to feel the associated conflicts than to deny the fact (for example, by simply neglecting your children) and to have an apparently conflict‐free existence (one that avoids recognition of the conflicts).

The second reason such conflicts are an especially acute problem for women is, however, a negative one: societies have, on the whole, given women relatively little help in managing the conflicts they face, and men far more help. A good system of public child care would simply eliminate some, though not all, of the conflicts women face in this sphere. (And of course this would also be a great advantage for men who face those conflicts.) While I do think that some level of conflict, or at any rate the permanent risk of conflict, is an inevitable concomitant of any human life that is plainly rich in value,17 there is no reason why society should not alleviate this situation by arranging things so that conflict‐producing situations arise more rarely.

A serious difficulty I have with O'Neill's Kantian approach is that it gives us no direction as to how to face such conflicts. Kant himself famously, or infamously, invoked his own idea of practical consistency in order to deny that there are any such conflicts.18 O'Neill is far too sensitive, and sensible, to do this. But to test the acceptability of an arrangement as she does, by testing for consistency, does raise a problem. What sort of consistency are we looking for, and what guidance do we get about what sort is the right sort, and how much enough? I think the human function approach does far better, by instructing us to imagine the various components of a life, both singly and in various combinations, so that we will naturally come to understand how richness of life brings dilemmas and tensions, how the distinctness of each valuable thing imports a possibility of disharmony.

One of the most important things that many of the papers in this project have stressed is the multifacetedness of the concept of quality of life. Living well as a human being has a plurality of distinct components, none of them reducible to the others—a fact that any approach in terms of a single quantitative scale simply obscures from view. This aspect of human life is well represented in the polytheism of ancient Greek religion. For this religion tells us, in effect, that there are many spheres of human living that claim our commitment, and commitment to which makes us the beings we are; we ought to honour all of those spheres—including political life, the arts, love, reasoning, the earth on which we live. And it tells us, as well, that these gods, so to speak, do not always agree; that frequently a devotion to one will risk offence against another, so we are faced with many difficult choices.19 That, none the less, the quality of any individual life, and also of any city of country's life, will be measured by and on all of these distinct dimensions, so that we can neither simply leave some out nor treat them as commensurable by some single quantitative scale.

(p.334) This is a human problem, not just a women's problem. But right now it is in most societies particularly a women's problem, both because of the institutional neglect of which I have spoken, and also because women have been insisting that there are, for human life, more ‘gods’, so to speak, than anyone might have thought—affiliation as well as autonomy, the care of the family as well as independent work. My own view is that the resulting conception, while more prone to conflict, is a richer and more adequate conception of the quality of life. Richer because the components are more numerous and more diverse; richer, too, because, while the diverse component activities sometimes get in one another's way, they equally or more often provide mutual illumination and enhancement—as the love of individuals in the family gives citizenship a new depth of understanding, as personally satisfying work gives new vitality to the care of the family. In this way, the experience of women should be viewed not simply as a source of many bad examples of social injustice and difficult problems of social arrangement—though of course we must continue to stress that aspect—but also as a source of certain sorts of insight and aspiration, as we try to arrive at an adequate conception of the quality of life.


Bibliography references:

Chen, M. (1987). A Quiet Revolution: Women in Transition in Rural Bangladesh (Dhaka: BRAC).

de Sainte Croix, G. E. M. (1981). The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World. London: Duckworth.

Foucault, M. (1984). The History of Sexuality, iii, trans. R. Hurley. New York: Pantheon.

Gilligan, C. (1982). In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Dependence. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Henderson, J. (1987). Aristophanes: Lysistrata (edition and commentary). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Kant, Immanuel. (1797). The Metaphysical Elements of Justice. Part I of The Metaphysics of Morals, trans. J. Ladd. Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill, 1965.

Lefkowitz, M., and Fant, M. (eds.) (1982). Women's Life in Greece and Rome. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Martin, Jane Roland (1985). Reclaiming a Conversation. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Nussbaum, M. (1986a). The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

—— (1986b). Review of Martin (1985). New York Review of Books, 30 Jan.

—— (1987a). ‘Undemocratic Vistas’. Review of Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind. New York Review of Books, 5 Nov.

—— (1987b). ‘The Stoics on the Extirpation of the Passions’, Apeiron, 20, 129–77. (p.335)

—— (1988a). ‘Nature, Function, and Capability: Aristotle on Political Distribution’, Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy, suppl. vol., 145–84.

—— (1988b). ‘Non‐Relative Virtues: An Aristotelian Approach’, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 13. A revised and expanded version appears in this volume.

—— (1989). ‘Tragic Dilemmas’, Radcliffe Quarterly (Mar.).

—— (1990a). Love's Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

—— (1990b). ‘Aristotelian Social Democracy’, in G. Mara and H. Richardson (eds.), Liberalism and the Good. New York: Routledge, Chapman, and Hall, 203–52.

—— (forthcoming). ‘Aristotle on Human Nature and the Foundations of Ethics’, in a volume in honour of Bernard Williams, ed. J. Altham and P. Harrison Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

O'Neill, O. (Onora Nell) (1975). Acting on Principle: An Essay on Kantian Ethics. New York: Columbia University Press.

—— (1986). Faces of Hunger: An Essay on Poverty, Justice, and Development. London: George Allen and Unwin.

—— (1990). Collected Essays on Moral Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pomeroy, S. (1975). Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiguity. New York: Schocken Books.

Putnam, H. (1987). The Many Faces of Realism. LaSalle, Ill.: Open Court.

Rawls, J. (1971). A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Richardson, H. (forthcoming). ‘The Emotions of Reflective Equilibrium’.

Sen, A. (1980). ‘Equality of What?’ in S. McMurrin (ed.), Tanner Lectures on Human Values, i. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Repr. in Sen (1982).

—— (1982). Choice, Welfare, and Measurement. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

—— (1984). Resources, Value, and Development. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

—— (1985). Commodities and Capabilities. Amsterdam: North‐Holland.

—— (1987a). The Standard of Living. Tanner Lectures on Human Values 1985, ed. G. Hawthorne. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

—— (1987b). ‘Gender and Cooperative Conflicts’. WIDER Working Paper. Helsinki: World Institute for Development Economics Research; published in I. Tinker, ed., Women and World Development (Oxford 1990).

—— (1992). Inequality Reexamined. Oxford, Cambridge, MA, and New York: Clarendon Press, Harvard University Press, and Russell Sage Foundation.

Seneca, L.A. On Anger (De Ira), in L.A. Senecae Dialogorum Libri Duodecim, ed. L.D. Reynolds. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

—— Moral Epistles (Epistulae Morales), ed. L.D. Reynolds. Oxford: Clarendon Press. (p.336)


(1) See Sen (1985: app. B).

(2) See Sen (1985, 1987a, 1987b, MS); for a related discussion, see Chen (1987).

(3) See the discussion of this point in Charles Taylor's paper in this volume.

(4) This issue, in relation to women's issues, is currently being pursued in another WIDER project, whose participants include Marty Chen, Martha Nussbaum, Hilary Putnam, Ruth Anna Putnam, and Amartya Sen.

(5) This paper is related in complex ways to O'Neill's other work in moral philosophy: see O'Neill (1975, 1986, 1990).

(6) Related discussion of similar constraints can be found in Nussbaum (1988a, 1988b, 1990b, forthcoming).

(7) See our papers in this volume — and also Putnam (1987); Sen (1984, 1985, 1987a, MS). There are differences, clearly, among the approaches; for example, it is not clear that the material Annas discusses uses the concept of the human being as an evaluative notion — not consistently, at any rate.

(8) Here the close connection between this approach and the one described in Charles Taylor's paper becomes clear. See also Sen (MS: ch. 4) on the evaluation of functionings. The case for finding such an approach in Aristotle is discussed in Nussbaum (1990a, 1990c).

(9) See Nussbaum (1990a, 1990b, forthcoming).

(10) This is especially clear in Rawls (1971), where a conception of ‘considered judgement’ is employed that rules out judgement made under emotional influence. For discussion and criticism of this, see Nussbaum (1990a); Richardson (forthcoming).

(11) For further discussion of Musonius, see Nussbaum (1987a); the treatise is not generally available in translation. For further discussion of Stoic views of women, see Foucault (1984) and de Sainte Croix (1981). On the relationship of arguments of this type of the Socratic elenchus, see my comment on Charles Taylor, with references.

(12) For an authoritative discussion of the play, see Henderson (1987); on the position of women in ancient Athens, see Pomeroy (1975), Lefkowitz and Fant (1982).

(13) In this connection, Seneca (Moral Epistle 108) makes a spirited defence of literature as an essential source of ethical reflection. He argues that literary language and the structures of dramatic plots make ethical meanings more vivid and forceful, so that they appeal to the imagination, producing moral progress through self‐recognition. (Note that like most Stoic thinkers Seneca, with great plausibility, thinks of the emotions as cognitive and selective, not merely animal urges. For discussion and defence of this view, see Nussbaum (1987b, 1990a).)

(14) Notice that this does not as yet say anything about the question of military functioning. For, as Seneca argues powerfully in On Anger, appropriate military activity does not require, and may even be impeded by, military aggressiveness and fierceness.

(15) See Martin (1985) and Nussbaum (1986b).

(16) The work of Carol Gilligan, esp. Gilligan (1982), requires comment here. For she has claimed that the perspective of justice—frequently associated, in contemporary America, with the moral reasoning of men—is incompatible with the perspective of care and affiliation—more frequently found in the moral reasoning of women. Although she believes that the two perspectives should be combined in a complete human life, she believes that the combination will always involve a good deal of tension, and the need to oscillate between two very different ways of thinking. I am not myself convinced that the tension is as severe as she makes out. For if one adopts a conception of justice based upon the Aristotelian ideas of equity and the perception of particularity, rather than on universal principles of broad generality (as in Gilligan's rather Kantian framework), the two perspectives will actually support one another, and indeed be continuous with one another. And I think it can be argued that the Aristotelian framework gives a more satisfactory account of justice—see Nussbaum (1990a).

(17) See Nussbaum (1986a: chs. 2–3; 1989).

(18) Kant's views are presented in the Introduction to the Metaphysics of Morals: see Kant (1797).

(19) See Nussbaum (1986a: chs. 2–3).