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Martha Nussbaum

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Dalhousie University
PHIL 2170
Samantha Copeland

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 Martha Nussbaum Objectification Objectification (the usual/Kantian argument): 1. To treat someone as an object, it to be treated as not a person 2. Being a person is what grounds our right to respect and autonomy (etc.) [our subjectivity. When we’re treated as an object/not a person we don’t have autonomy or respect] 3. So, being treated as an object is incompatible with being treated as autonomous or with respect Kant – personhood, certain capacities for moral deliberation  animals/objects do not have, separates us from those categories McKinnon/Dworkin • Women are [unavoidably] treated as objects Nussbaum: Are objects and persons mutually exclusive? (Does premise 1 hold?) If not, then: What is particularly bad about objectifying women? (Do McKinnon and Dworkin’s conclusions still stand?)  What other way can we understand MK & D if we drop premise 1? “There are at least seven distinct ways of behaving introduced by the term, none of which implies any of the others, though there are many complex connections among them” • Evaluation must consider context, circumstance (long and short term, wider and narrow) • Not all objectification is ‘equally objectionable’  some good/bad for other reasons “In all cases of objectification what is at issue is a question of treating one thing as another: One is treating as an object what is really not an object, what is, in fact, a human being.” • Nussbaum is holding to the difference between humans/things/objects • Not the same as Kant, but is a difference • No difference between humans/objects  there would be no objectification because there is no category mistake Seven ways to treat a person as a thing: 1. Instrumentally – the objectifier treats the object as a tool of his or her purposes 2. Denial of autonomy  Kantian idea. A human characteristic. Assuming you have no interest of your own. Wouldn’t make choices if I asked you. 3. Inertness (lacking in agency)  Being inactive. Being a person means you do things; commit to performing actions; willingly do things with body/mind. When we make a person a thing we deny their ability to act 4. Fungibility (with the same or with other types of objects) 5. Violability (boundary-integrity)  We think something is violable, we can break/smash, it’s not an integral whole. We always think a person is inviolable 6. Ownership (commodification)  You can be bought, sold, traded. No will of your own or an ability to determine your life’s path. 7. Denial of subjectivity (robust concern)  Assume the other person has their own feelings, attitudes, interests; denial is worrying about your own desires. “Each of these is a feature of our treatment of things, though of course we do not treat all things as objects in all of these ways.” • Come apart in diff. ways “Objectification is a relatively loose cluster term, for whose application we sometimes treat any one of these features as sufficient, though more often a plurality of features is present when the term is applied.” • Not the same thing, but form a unit; together form a concept • All 7 together create a cluster concept of objectification; but only 1 or 2 characteristics may be present in a case of objectification • Objectification, a few of those 7 are happening “We are going to be at least as interested in the treatment that is denied to persons as in the treatment that is accorded them.” 1. More about denying options than treating them as an object (ex. Parent/child relationship)  Appreciation of autonomy/subjectivity; taking those away = objectification “Objects come in many kinds.” 2. Difference in objects  some are precious, others useless. Because of the difference of objects themselves, we have a varying definition of objectivity. Why would we objectify all humans in the same way when objects themselves are different “McKinnon has written that sexuality is to feminism what work is to Marxism: In each case something that is most oneself and one’s own is what is seen by the theory to have been taken away.” 3. Pride we take in the outcome of our labour. What
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