Celebrated scholar speaks on religious tolerance, political fear

Internationally acclaimed philosopher and political theorist Martha Nussbaum spoke at the University Center ballroom on Monday afternoon to deliver a lecture entitled, “The New Religious Intolerance: Overcoming the Politics of Fear.”

Her lecture was the first installation of the new Humanities Center’s four-part series, “The Sacred and the Secular: Conflict and the Creation of a Moral World.”

Screen shot 2013-09-17 at 1.58.42 PMNussbaum focused primarily on the de facto “climate of fear and suspicion” towards those who are seen as different from the majority – particularly seen in today’s intolerance of Muslim culture.

Standing before an overflowing auditorium of onlookers, Nussbaum declared, “We need curious and mobile imaginations so that we become increasingly able through our educations to look at different people as not just shapes but as fellow citizens.

Nussbaum’s lecture centered around the headdress that Muslim women wear – the burka – and its banishment in numerous European countries.

“I think talking to someone with the burka is just as difficult as talking to someone who is blind, but unfortunately we still feel the fault is with the woman wearing the burka,” Nussbaum said.

Jed Longeway, a freshman at UT, believes that the benefits of having such a prestigious speaker on campus are twofold.

“I think that hopefully the people listening learned to be more accepting and less judgmental of people that don’t look like them or believe what they do,” said Longeway. “It also really helps UT to have such a famous scholar on campus.”

Martha Nussbaum has taught at Brown, Harvard, and currently is a Law and Ethics professor at the University of Chicago. She has written over 20 books (and over four-hundred essays) and her newest, Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice, will be published sometime this fall. She has over 45 honorary degrees from universities worldwide. Most recently, she was awarded the Prince of Austurias Award in Spain for her exceptional achievements in Social Sciences.

Edited by: Jessica Carr