Cultivating Humanity

Cultivating Humanity

“A masterful defense of the need to be a ‘citizen of the world’.” — Timothy J. Madigan

The title comes from the Roman philosopher Seneca who said, “Soon we shall breathe our last. Meanwhile, while we live, while we are among human beings, let us cultivate our humanity”.

BYU is discussed alongside Notre Dame as an example of a prominent religious university in Martha C. Nussbaum’s new book, Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.

In the book, Nussbaum, Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, argues that today’s university curriculum should be guided by values deeply rooted in the Western classical tradition, in particular, the value of Socratic self-examination and the Stoic ideal of becoming a citizen of the world. Thus, she claims that a liberal education should require students to examine their own beliefs and attitudes so as to make them coherent and defensible, and should educate students about the diversity of humanity so as to encourage an appreciation of the ways in which women and men of all sorts experience their lives.

In the chapter on religious universities, Nussbaum discusses what she sees as the strengths and weaknesses of the BYU curriculum, especially with regard to the study of women’s lives and the study of sexual orientation. She also discusses some of BYU’s recent academic freedom controversies.

After the book was printed, some errors in the discussion of BYU were brought to Nussbaum’s attention. In response, she has asked me to forward the following statement by her to those in the LDS community who might take an interest in her discussion of BYU:

“I regret that in my new book, Cultivating Humanity, there are two errors that may cause offense to my Mormon readers. First, the absurd statement that BYU became a university in 1981: this resulted from a printer’s error for 1891, the date of the move to the campus on Provo’s University Avenue. I regret that the proofreader, who was unacquainted with the facts, therefore didn’t catch this error. I should have done the proofreading myself. The second is the description of the Church as ‘Church of Latter-Day Saints.’ This resulted from a Harvard University Press editor’s change from my original ‘LDS Church,’ which evidently was thought too cryptic for the general reader. My mistake was to accept this change on the assumption that the editor was aware of correct and incorrect usage. I have asked Harvard University Press to change both of these errors in the next printing of the book.”

Those who would like to reach Professor Nussbaum for further information are encouraged to contact me.

John Armstrong
Ph.D. candidate
Department of Philosophy
University of Arizona