Philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum provides real world examples to illustrate the role of fear in sociopolitical actions. She identifies fear as “more narcissistic than other emotions.”
People who are different from us can evoke anxiety, which can become exaggerated into a call for action to reduce or eliminate the influence of the other group. In the examples, Nussbaum shows how people fail to consistently apply principles of respect for the religious values of people who are members of a minority religion in a pluralistic society. One example is the resistance toward a Muslim plan to build a cultural center in lower Manhattan. Another example is the concern of some Europeans with the facial coverings of Muslim women.
What I find particularly refreshing is her ability to clarify the role of human emotions in moral philosophy. So many arguments are derived from emotional responses as evident in the moral foundations research led by the work of Jonathan Haidt and his colleagues (see The Righteous Mind for example).
Whether the moral decision is at an individual or group level, Nussbaum’s comment on fear and narcissism is on point. Fear causes us to focus on self-preservation, which can be extreme when the level of fear is heightened. In fact, some nations color-code fear levels in response to real or perceived threats. Such activities can lead to bans that discriminate against those who are different including religious others.
A few quotes
threats. (Nussbaum, 2012, p. 231)
About the Author
Martha C. Nussbaum is Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, appointed in the Law School and the Philosophy Department. Among her many awards are the 2018 Berggruen Prize, the 2017 Don M. Randel Award for Humanistic Studies from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the 2016 Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy.
Nussbaum, M.C. (2012). The new religious intolerance: overcoming the politics of fear in an anxious age. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press.
Cite this review
Sutton, G.W. (2021, March 11). The new religious intolerance by Nussbaum. Sutton Reviews. https://suttonreviews.suttong.com/2021/03/the-new-religious-intolerance-by.html
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