PHIL 2170 Lecture Notes - Martha Nussbaum, Category Mistake, Fungibility

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Published on 15 Nov 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Martha Nussbaum
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
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
Not all objectification is ‘equally objectionable’ some good/bad for other
“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
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
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