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POLITICAL

EMOTIONS

Why Love Matters for Justice

Martha C. Nussbaum

The Belknap Press ofHarvard University Press

Cambrid g e, Massachusetts London, England

2013

Copyright© 2013 by Martha C. Nussbaum All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America

Library ofCongress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Nussbaum, Martha Craven, 1947-

Political emotions: why love matters for justice/ Martha C. Nussbaum. pages em Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-o -674-72465-5 (hardcover: alk. paper)

1.

Political science-Philosophy.

2.

Emotions -Political

aspects.

3· Emotions (Philosophy). ]A71.N88 2013

Political psychology.

I.

Title.

320.01'9-dc23

2013010890

\

In memory of Terence Moore,

1953-2004

I.

Contents

1. A Problem in the History of Liberalism

History

2.

Equality and Love: Rousseau, Herder, Mozart

3

·

4 ·

Religions

Religions

of Humanity

of Humanity

1: Auguste Comte,J. S. Mill

II: Rabindranath Tagore

II.

Goals, Resources, Problems

Introduction to Part II

 

5 ·

T he Aspiring Society : Equality, Inclusion, Distribution

6.

Compassion: Human and Animal

7 ·

"Radical Evil": Helplessness, Narcissism, Contamination

III.

Public Emotions

Introduction to Part III

8.

g.

Teaching Patriotism: Love and Critical Freedom

Tragic and Comic Festivals: Shaping Compassion, Transcending Disgust

1

27

54

82

112

115

137

161

200

204

257

 

vzn

� :

Contents

10. Compassion's Enemies: Fear, Envy, Shame

3 14

11. How Love Matters for Justice

 

3 78

Appendix. Emotion Theory, Emotions in Music:

Upheavals ofThought

 

399

Notes

405

References

43

7

Acknowledgments

 

449

Index

453

This day oftorment,

of crziness, offoolishness­

only love can make it end in happiness andjoy.

-W. A. Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte,

Le Nozze di Figaro (1786)

CHAPTER

ONE

A Pr o b lem in th e Histor y of Li bera lism

\

Lo, body and soul-this land, My own Manhattan with spires, and the sparkling and hurrying tides, and the ships, The varied and ample land, the South and the North in the light, Ohio's shores and flashing Missouri, And ever the far-spreading prairies cover'd with grass and corn.

Lo, the most excellent sun so calm and haughty, The violet and purple morn withjust-felt breezes, The gentle soft-born measureless light, The miracle spreading bathing all, the fulfill'd noon, The coming eve delicious, the welcome night and the stars, Over my cities shining all, enveloping man and land.

-Walt Whitman, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd"

My Bengal of Gold, I love you. Forever your skies, Your air, set my heart in tune As if it were a flute.

-Rabindranath Tagore, ''Amar Shonar Bangla,"

now the national anthem ofBangladesh

A LL

SOCIETIES ARE FULL OF EMOTIONS. Liberal democracies are

no exception. The story of any day or week in the life of even a rela­

tively stable democracy would include a host of emotions-anger, fear,

pathy and love.

sym

are relied upon as guides

in the process oflawmaking and social formation

(when, for example, the disgust that people feel for a group of other people

is used as a valid reason

for treating those people in a discriminatory

way).

But

even when

a society has avoided

fa lling into that trap, these

fo rces

lurk in society and need to be counteracted

energetically by an education

that cultivates

the ability to see full and equal humanity in

another per­

son, perhaps one

of humanity's most

difficult and fr agile achievements.

An

important part of that education

is performed by the public political

culture, which represents

the nation and its people

in a particular way. It

can include or exclude,

cement hierarchies

or dismantle them-as Lin­

coln's Gettysburg Address, with its breathtaking fiction that

the United

States has always been dedicated

to racial equality, so stirringly

does.

Great democratic leaders, in many times and places, have understood

the

importance

of

cultivating appropriate

emotions

(and

discouraging

2

�·

A Pr

blem in

the Hisl

ofLiber

sympathy, disgust, envy, guilt, grief, many forms of love. Some of these

episodes ofemotion have little to do with political principles or the pub­

lic culture, but others are different: they take as their object the nation,

the nation's goals, its institutions and leaders, its geography, and one's

fellow citizens seen as fellow inhabitants of a common public space. Of­

ten, as in my two epigraphs, emotions directed at the geographical fea­

tures of a nation are ways of channeling emotions toward its key commit­

ments-to inclusiveness, equality, the relief of misery, the end of slavery.

Whitman's lyric is part of a poem mourning the death of Abraham Lin­

coln, and it expresses the combination of passionate love, pride, and

deep grief that the speaker feels at the current state of his nation. ''Amar

Ta gore's capacious humanism, his aspiration

Shonar Ban g ia" expressed

toward an inclusive "religion of humanity" that would link all castes and

religions in his society. Sung as the national anthem of a poor nation, it

expresses both pride and love at the beauty of the land and (in subse­

quent verses) sadness at the work that remains to be done.

Such public emotions, fr equently intense, have large-scale conse­

quences for the nation's progress toward its goals. They can give the

pursuit of those goals new vigor and depth, but they can also derail that

pursuit, introducing or reinforcing divisions, hierarchies, and forms of

neglect or obtuseness.

Sometimes people suppose that only fascist or aggressive societies are

intensely emotional and that only such societies need to focus on the

cultivation ofemotions. Those beliefs are both mistaken and dangerous.

They are mistaken, because all societies need to think about the stability

of their political culture over time and the security of cherished values

in times of stress. All societies, then, need to think about compassion for

loss, anger at injusti ce, the limiting of envy and disgust in favor of inclu­

sive sympathy. Ceding the terrain of emotion-shaping to antiliberal

forces gives them a huge advantage in the people's hearts and risks mak­

ing people think ofliberal values as tepid and boring. One reason Abra­

ham Lincoln, Martin Luther Kingjr., Mahatma Gandhi, andjawaharlal

Nehru were such great political leaders for their liberal societies is that

they understood the need to touch citizens' hearts and to inspire, delib­

erately, strong emotions directed at the common work before them. All

political principles, the good as well as the bad, need emotional support

A P1·oblem in the His

ofLiberalism

:�

3

to ens

ure their stability over time, and all decent societies

need to guard

a gai

nst

division

and

hierarchy by cultivating appropriate sentiments

of

In the

type of liberal society that aspires

to justice and equal opportu­

nity

for

all,

there

are two

tasks

for

the

political cultivation

of emotion.

One

tha t

is

to

engender and sustain strong commitment to

worthy projects

req uire

effort and

sacrifice-such as

social redistribution,

the fu ll

in

clusion ofpreviously

excluded or marginalized groups, the protection

of the

tend

in

environment,

foreign

aid, and the national defense.

the needs

Most people

They can easily become immured

of those outside their

toward narrowness of sympathy.

projects and forget about

narcissistic

narrow

quently

circle.

Emotions directed

at the

of great help

in

getting people to

nation and its

goals are fr e­

think larger thoughts and re­

commit themselves

to a larger common good.

The other related task for the cultivation ofpublic emotion

is to keep at

bay forces that lurk in all societies

protect the fragile self by denigrating

and, ultimately, in all ofus: tendencies to

and subordinating others. (It is this

tendency that, following Kant,

I shall call "radical evil," though my under­

standing of it will be rather different fr

desire to inflict shame upon others-all

ies, and, very likely,

om Kant's.) Di sgust and envy, the

of these are present in all societ­

they can

in every individual human life.

Unchecked,

inflict great damage. The damage they do is particularly

great when they

coercively imposed.

4

�:

A

Problem

in the Histor y ofLiberalis

those that

Liberal political

said little about the topic.John

Locke, defending religious toleration, acknowledged a problem ofwide­

philosophy, however, has,

obstruct society's progress toward its goals).

on the whole,

spread animosity between members of different religions in

the England

of his time; he urged people to

take up attitudes of "charity,

bounty, and

liberality" and

recommended

that churches advise

their

members of

"the duties

erroneous as

into

about the

Nor

attitudes.

of peace and good-will towards all men, as well towards the

delve

the psychological origins of intolerance. He thus gave little guidance

they might be combated.

shape psychological

individuals and to

that the bad attitudes

uncertain posi­

pro­

to property and other political goods, when and

In terms of his

grounds

did he

the orthodox."1 Locke made no attempt, however, to

of the bad attitudes and how

nature

recommend any official public steps to

The

cultivation

of good attitudes

is

left

to

churches. Given that it was precisely in churches

festered,

tion.

tecting people's rights

if

Locke leaves

his own

project

In

his view,

assail

however,

them.

the liberal

others

in

a

fragile and

state should

confine itself to

own argument, which

religious

toleration in equal natural rights,

this

is intervention one step

too late.

Locke's silence about the psychology ofthe decent society is common

in the Western tradition-in

in subsequent liberal political philosophy

part,

scribing any particular type of emotional cultivation might easily involve

limits

that pre­

no doubt,

on

because

liberal

political

philosophers sensed

free speech and

other steps

incompatible with liberal ideas

of

fr eedom and autonomy.

Kant delved deeper into human psychology than did Locke.

Such was

explicitly

the view of Immanuel Kant.

In

Religion

within the Limits ofMere Reason,2

he argues that bad behavior in society

is not a mere artifact of current social conditions:

it has its

roots in uni­

versal human nature, which contains

tendencies

to abuse

other

people

He called

These bad tendencies lead people to en­

they find themselves

to

join some group that will strengthen the good tendencies they have (ten­

will have a

(to

treat

them not as ends

in

themselves,

but as instruments).

these tendencies "radical evil."

gage in envious and competitive striving as soon as

with

others

in

society.

to

treat

Kant felt

that individuals have an

so

that

those

the bad.

ethical

duty

dencies

greater chance ofwinning out over

other people well),

tendencies

He believes that a church of

:�

5

the

righ

he

ch

even

urch.

t sort would

be

such a support structure for social morality, and

argued

that all

people therefore have

an ethical duty to join

a

Kant

concluded,

nonetheless,

that

the liberal state

itself was

hig

hly

limit ed in

its war against radical evil.

Like Locke, Kant seems to

feel

that

the state's primary job

is

the legal protection of the rights

of all

citi

zens.

When it

comes to taking psychological steps to ensure its own

stab

ility

and efficacy, such a state finds its hands tied in virtue ofits very

com

mitm ent

to

fr eedoms

of speech and

association.

At the most, Kant

arg

ues,

government might give finanoial subsidies

to scholars who work

on

the form of" rational religion" that Kant favored, a religion that would

teach

human

equality and urge obedience to the moral law.

Kant

was both drawing from and

reacting against his great predeces­

sorJean- Jacques Rousseau, who is

the primary source for Kant's view of

radical

society,

evil. 3 In

On the Social Contract,4

Rousseau argued that a

good

in order to remain stable and to motivate

projects involving sac­

rifice

(such

as

national defense), needs

a "civil

religion," consisting of

"sentiments of sociability, without which

it is

impossible

to be

a good

citizen or a faithful subject." Around this public creed-a kind ofmoral­

ized Deism fortified with patriotic

beliefs and sentiments-the state will

create

ceremonies and

rituals, engendering strong

bonds

of civic love

connected

to

duties

to

other

citizens and to

the

country

as a whole.

Rousseau believes that

stability and

the

altruistic motivation in

"civil religion" will

solve problems of both

It will

the society

he envisages.

achieve that goal, however, he argues, only if it is coercively

enforced in

a

way that

removes key

The

state should

punish

freedoms

not only

of speech and

religious expression.

conduct

harmful

to others

but also

nonconforming beliefand speech, using means that include banishment

and even capital punishment. For Kant, this price was just too high:

no

decent state should use

coercion in

these ways,

removing key areas

of

autonomy. He does not think to question the belief (which he appears to

share with Rousseau) that a "civil religion"

will be efficacious only ifit is

Here lies

the

challenge this book takes up:

how can a decent

society

do more for stability and motivation

than Locke and

Kant did, without

becoming illiberal and dictatorial

in the manner of Rousseau? The chal­

lenge

becomes

even more difficult when one adds

that my conception of

the decent society is a form of "political liberalism," one in which politi­

cal principles should not be built upon any comprehensive doctrine of

the meaning and purpose of life, religious or secular, and in which the

idea of equal respect for persons gives rise to a careful abstemiousness

about government endorsement of any particular religious or compre­

hensive ethical view.5 Such a liberal view needs not only to watch out for

dictatorial imposition, but also to beware of too much energetic endorse­

ment, or endorsement of the wrong type, lest it create in-groups and

out-groups, casting some as second-class citizens. Since emotions, in my

view, are not just impulses, but contain appraisals that have an evalua­

tive content, it will be a challenge to make sure that the content of the

endorsed emotions is not that of one particular comprehensive doctrine,

as opposed to others.

My solution to this problem is to imagine ways in which emotions can

support the basic principles of the political culture of an aspiring yet

imperfect society, an area oflife in which it can be hoped that all citizens

overlap, if they endorse basic norms of equal respect: the area of what

Rawls has called the "overlapping consensus."6 Thus, it would be sec­

tarian in an objectionable way for government to engender strong emo­

tions directed toward the religious holidays of one particular sect, but it

is not objectionable to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther KingJr.

as a profoundly emotional public holiday that affirms principles ofracial

equality to which our nation has committed itself, and that rededicates

the nation to the pursuit of that goal. The idea will be to think this way

across the range of the "capabilities" that provide the core ofthe political

conception: How can a public culture ofemotion reinforce attachment to

all of those norms? On the negative side, a decent society can reasonably

inhibit the formation of emotions ofdisgust toward groups of fellow citi­

zens, since that sort of repudiating and the related formation of hierar­

chies are subversive of shared principles of equal respect for human

dignity. More generally, society may inculcate distaste and anger di­

rected at the violation ofpeople's basic political entitlements. Basically, it

should be no more objectionable to ask people to feel attached to good

political principles than it is to ask them to believe them, and every soci­

ety with a working conception of justice educates its citizens to think

that this conception is correct. Antiracism is not given equal time with

racism in the public schools. The careful neutrality that a liberal state

observes-and should observe-in matters of religion and comprehen­

siv e doctrine does not extend to the fundamentals of its own conception

of jus tice (such as the equal worth of all citizens, the importance of cer­

tain fund amental rights, and the badness ofvarious forms of discrimina­

tion and hierarchy). We might say that a liberal state asks citizens who

have different overall conceptions of the meaning and purpose of life to

overlap and agree in a shared political space, the space of fundamental

principles and constitutional icleals.1 But then, if those principles are to

be effi cacious, the state must also encourage love and devotion to those

ideals. If this devotion is to remain compatible with liberal freedom, it will be

crucial to encourage a robustly critical political culture to defend the

freedoms ofspeech and association. Both the principles themselves and

the emotions they prompt must be continually scrutinized and criti­

cized, and dissenting voices play a valuable role in keeping the concep­

tion truly liberal, and accountable to citizens. Room must also be made

for subversion and humor: making fun of the grandiose pretensions of

patriotic emotion is one of the best ways of keeping it clown to earth, in

tune with the needs of heterogeneous women and men. There will

clearly be tensions along the way: not every way of poking fun at cher­

ished ideals is respectful of the equal worth of all citizens. (Imagine rac­

ist jokes about Martin Luther KingJr.) But the space for subversion and

dissent should remain as large as is consistent with civic order and sta­

bility, and that space will be a major topic throughout.

One way of addressing several of these worries at once is for the state

to give ample space for artists to offer their own different visions of key

political values. Whitman and Ta gore are much more valuable as fr ee

poets than they would be as hired acolytes of a political elite, Soviet­

style. Of course, government often must and does decide to pick one ar­

tistic creation over another-preferring, for example, Maya Lin's design

for the Vietnam War Memorial, with its winding black wall full ofnames,

evoking the equal worth of countless unknown individual lives lost, to

other more jingoistic conceptions; preferring the contributions of Frank

Gehry, Anish Kapoor, anclJaume Plensa for Chicago's Millennium Park

to other submitted designs. During the Depression, as we'll also discuss

8

�:

A Problem in theHisf

ofLiberalism

A

P.r

blrm in theHisf

r

ofLiber alism

:�

9

later, Franklin

able fr eedom-but

graphic images

sion between selection

ways ofaddressing it.

Delano Roosevelt

also exercised

of poverty to

hired artists

and gave

them consider­

choosing photo­

ten­

are good

careful selectivity in

put before the

American public. The

is real,

but there

and artistic fr eedom

The

issue

of emotional support for

a decent public political

culture

has

not

been

entirely neglected by

liberal

thinkers.

John Stuart Mill

(1806-1873),

for whom the cultivation of emotion was such an important

theme, imagined a "religion ofhumanity" that could be taught in society

basis

as

for policies involving personal sacrifice and comprehensive altruism.7 In

a

dranath

the improvement ofliving conditions for all the

world's inhabitants.

trines and practices that could be embodied in a system ofshared educa­

tion and

a

Both thought of their respective "religions" as doc­

"religion of man" that would in­

and philosopher Rabin­

a

substitute

very

for existing

religious doctrines, and

poet,

educator,

providing

the

similar way,

Ta gore

the Indian

(1861-1941)

imagined a

spire people to promote

in

works

of art. Ta gore devoted much of his life to

creating

school and university

that

embodied

his principles and

to composing

roughly two thousand songs

that influence

public emotion

even

in the

present day.

(He

is

the only

poet/composer to

write songs that

became

the

national anthems of two nations, India

and

Bangladesh.)

The

simi­

larity between Mill's

and Tagore's

ideas

is

not surprising,

since

both

earlier histories of exclusion, he is still placing large demands on human

needs

about

will support its institu­

Stability, moreover, has to be secured

"for the right reasons"9-in other words, not by mere habit or grudging

and in­

beings,

how such

tions over time, ensuring stability.

and he

therefore

astutely

realizes that he

to think

a society

will bring up citizens who

acceptance, but because

stitutions of the society. Indeed,

since showing that the just society can

be stable is a necessary part of itsjustification, the question of emotion is

of a real

endorsement

of the principles

integral to the argumentsjustifying the principles ofjustice.

can

the principles of the just

society.

to the

one I shall be using here, according to which emotions involve cognitive

for rethink­

ing, along with

closely linked to

doctrine.

details ofthat particular account. But he insists that he is leaving a space

for a needed account of a "reasonable moral psychology."11 In effect, the

endorse all the

(Kantian) comprehensive ethical

he thought too

appraisals.10 Rawls

1

Rawls imagines how emotions arising initially within the

into emotions

directed at

fa mily

ultimately develop

its

time,

His compelling and insightful

account, in this respect ahead of

of emotions

similar

section of the book

employs a sophisticated conception

later bracketed this

other material in

In

his own

A Th eory ofJustice that

longer seems to

particular

Political Liberalism,

he no

present

book

aims

to fill

that space,

with reference to

an

account

of a

decent society that

differs

from Rawls's

in philosophical detail,

but not

were heavily

1857), whose

lic rituals and other emotion-laden symbols, had enormous influence in

Both Mill and Tagore find

fault with Comte's intrusive and rule-ridden implementation ofhis scheme,

and both insist on the importance ofliberty and individuality.

The topic ofpolitical emotion was given a fascinating treatment in the

influenced

by

French philosopher Auguste

Comte

(1798- in underlying spirit-although its focus is on societies aspiring tojustice,

rather than

affect the precise shape of my normative proposals, since I need to grap­

will

idea of a "religion of humanity," which would include pub­

on the

achieved well-ordered society. This

difference

the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

ple with issues of exclusion and stigma that the well-ordered society can

be

shall argue that the tendency

taken

to have resolved. Nonetheless, I

toward stigmatizing and excluding others is present in human nature it­

self,

and

is not

an

artifact of a defective

history; Rawls

did

not take a

twentieth century's

greatest work of political philosophy, John Rawls's

A

Themy ofJustice (1971).8

Rawls's

well-ordered society

asks

a lot

of its

citizens,

since

inequalities

of wealth

and

income will be permitted

only

to

when they

equal liberty, which Rawls's principles prioritize, is also one that human

beings

ety that begins de novo, without bad hierarchical attitudes left over from

soci­

improve

to

the

situation

of the

worst-off.

The

commitment

imagining

a

tend

honor unevenly. Even though Rawls is

stand

on this

issue,

but

said that his

account

was compatible with

this

sort of pessimistic

psychology,

as well as more optimistic account.

Cer­

tainly, in any case,

Rawls's project and mine, though distinct, are closely

related,

since Rawls is proposing a society ofhuman beings, not angels,

and

he knows well

that human beings do

not

automatically

pursue

the

common

good. Thus, even though in his well-ordered society problems

ofexclusion

and hierarchy have been overcome, they have been overcome

becomes even more compelling.

10

�:

A Problem iu tht HistOI)' ofLibcmlism

by human beings who still have the underlying tendencies that produce

those problems. Even here, stability requires grappling with the com­

plexities ofreal human psychology.

Rawls's account impressively understands the emotions and their

power. Its requirement that such emotions support the society's princi­

ples and institutions not merely as a useful modus vivendi, but in a way

that involves an enthusiastic endorsement of its basic ideas of justice, is,

moreover, a reasonable requirement to impose. A society that is held to­

gether only by adherence to a temporary compromise, viewed as instru­

mentally useful, is not likely to remain stable for long. Thus it is not

surprising that the emotions Rawls imagines are directed at principles

rather than at particulars: if society is to be stable for the right reasons,

its basic principles must somehow be embraced with enthusiasm.

It is plausible to think, however, that the moral sentiments on which

Rawls relies cannot be transparently rationalistic-simply an embrace of

abstract principles presented as such-if they are really to do the job he

assigns to them. In his brief schematic account Rawls does not say (al­

though he definitely does not deny) that an essential motivational role, in

connection with the love ofjust institutions, may need to be played by

more indirect appeals to the emotions, using symbols, memories, po­

etry, narrative, or music, which lead the mind toward the principles and

in which the principles themselves are at times embedded. I believe that

he should grant this, and I will attempt to show that such a role for the

particular is fully compatible, ultimately, with the embrace of principle

he has in mind. Real people are sometimes moved by the love ofjust

principles presented just as such, abstractly; but the human mind is

quirky and particularistic, more easily able to conceive a strong attach­

ment if these high principles are connected to a particular set of percep­

tions, memories, and symbols that have deep roots in the personality

and in people's sense of their own history. Such an account could easily

go astray, achieving stability for the wrong reasons (for example, in order

to assert the superiority of a particular historical or linguistic tradition).

If the sources of memory are securely tethered to political ideals, how­

ever, such problems can be transcended, and the symbols may acquire a

motivational power that bare abstractions could not possess. Even in the

well-ordered society this would appear to be true, since its citizens are

A Problem in tlte Hist01:y ofLibcmlism

:�

IJ

still

human

beings,

with

limited

human

imaginations,

but

in

imperfect

so

cieties

aspiri

ng to justice the need for particular

narrative and symbol

Ano ther way ofputting this point, to which I shall often return, is that

all the major emotions are "eudaimonistic," meaning that they appraise

the world fr om the person's own viewp oint and the viewpoint, therefore,

of that person's evolving conception of a worthwhile life.12 We grieve for

people we care about, not for total strangers. We fear damages that threaten

our selv es and those we care about, h ot earthquakes on Mars. Eudai­

monism is not egoism: we may hold that other people have intrinsic value.

But the ones who will stir deep emotions in us are the ones to whom we

are somehow connected through our imagining of a valuable life, what I

shall henceforth call our "circle ofconcern." Ifdistant people and abstract

principles are to get a grip on our emotions, therefore, these emotions

must somehow position them within our circle ofconcern, creating a sense

of"our" life in which these people and events matter as parts ofour "us,"

our own flourishing. For this movement to take place, symbols and

poetry are crucial.

Consider the two epigraphs to this chapter. Whitman has been imag­

ining Lincoln's coffin traversing the nation that he loved. He now asks

what he should give his dead president, what pictures he can "hang on

the

walls,fTo

adorn

the burial-house

of him

I love?"

The answer is

is one of those pic­

tures. It depicts the beauty of Manhattan and then, radiating out from

word pictures of the beauty of America. This stanza

Manhattan, other regions ofAmerica-the physical beauty, and the beauty

ofhuman activity. Images of natural beauty are always heart-rending for

their link to mortality and the

passage

foundly heart-rending for

their

link

of time. Here, they

are more pro­

to Whitman's imagined

ritual

of

mourning for Lincoln-and, ofcourse, their implied link to all that Lin­

coln stood fo r,

a nation of free activity and the equality of all Americans

beneath the sun. These thoughts merge in an almost unbearable crystal­

lization of love and grief.

(For some reason, I find the line "Lo,

the most

excellent sun so calm and haughty" the most excruciating line in English

poetry, and I weep whenever I read it-the idea of the sun's majesty,

eter­

nity, and radiance juxtaposed to the image ofLincoln, immobile, in a little

dark box.)

12

�·

A P1

in the HistOt)' ofLib

What Whitman is striving to create is a public ritual of mourning ex­

pressing renewed dedication to the unfinished task ofrealizing America's

best ideals, a "public poetry" that will put flesh on the bones of liberty

and equality. Here the reader is asked to imagine a particular person

who symbolizes the difficult struggle for equality and justice-the "large

sweet soul who has gone"-and the poem cannily connects that morally

symbolic person to already loved features of the land and the varied

people who inhabit it. The poem prompts emotions that sustain and in­

spire the difficult pursuit ofjustice. (Indeed, they also contain the idea of

justice inside themselves, as the flesh/bones metaphor suggests.) It

would not do this effectively if it did not deploy imagery that is some­

what mysterious, that strikes deep into the personality, summoning

thoughts about mortality and longing, loss and intense beauty. Partici­

pating emotionally in Whitman's poem, readers are summoned to throw

their full hearts into the search for an America that does not yet exist, but

which might become reality.

Tagore's poem (which, unfortu nately,

we must study in translation)13

was initially written without reference to the nation of Bangladesh, but a

great deal ofhis thought has an unstated political relevance. As we know

fr om his own discussion, his poem '1ana Can a Ma na," which later be­

came the national anthem of India, was inspired by a desire not to honor

the British monarch on his visit to India. Invited to contribute to a cele­

brating of empire, Tagore wrote that song in order to insist, instead, that

all Indians owe obedience to a higher power, the moral law. It is in that

sense a highly Kantian document, closely connected to his "religion of

man." ''Amar Shonar Bangia" (1go6) is more indirect, but equally politi­

cal . Close in its poetic strategies to Whitman's lyric, it is a poem of ec­

static and highly erotic delight in the natural beauty of Bengal. The

speaker imagines his nation as a delicious inviting lover, seductive and

thrilling. The song was inspired by the music of a Baul singer-a mem­

ber of a community of itinerant singers (combining Va ishnava Hindus

with Sufi Muslims)14 known for their ecstatic and emotional view of reli­

gion, their poetic celebration of physical love, and their unconventional

sexual practices. As we shall see in Chapter 4, Tagore made the Bauls

central to his conception of the "religion of man." The music of ''Amar

A P1

in

the Hist

ofLib

:�

1 3

S/tofl(/'1' Bangla. " th · associatiou of both words aud music with Bauls

and tile word themselves, all reinfOrce au image ofthe speaker-a n:pre­

reinfOrce au i m a g e of the speaker-a n: p r e ­ seutative

seutative

inhabitant

of' Bengal-as

a person

whose

sexual

ity

is

pl ayful

ndjoyful

n

whose s e x u a l i t y is p l a y f

t aggres ive, the sort of sexualit

f u l ndjoyful n t aggres ive, the sort of sexualit e ·emplified by the

e ·emplified by the figure

of Krishna iu many classic works findian vi.ual art as well as i11 Jay­

adeva s gr at erotic lyric Gitagoviuda (twelfth century). (By casting the

rcpre ntative Bengali a andr()gyn us. Tagore also ge ture toward the

s ocial aud political empowenncui or women a lifcloug passion of his, as

C h a pter 4 wi ll describe in greater d�tail.) Tagore imagines a type of

exuality that h e elscwh repositions against British i mperialism and the

sort ofaggressive nationalism in India that apes it.

What is the point of all this? The poem was written in 1906, shortly

after the British decision to partition Bengal into two for administrative

reasons. This division, corresponding roughly to the later division be­

tween the state ofWest Bengal in India and the nation ofBangladesh (the

former East Pakistan), aimed at separating Hindus from Muslims, as

well as expressing the usual British policy of "divide and rule," weaken­

ing a subject people by division. Tagore appeals to his readers to imag­

ine the beauty of the undivided Bengal-undivided geographically and

undivided by religious animosity-to love her, to feel deep grief when

sorrow befalls her. He certainly kindles a spirit of resistance to empire

in his reader, but it is a compassionate and nonwarlike nationalism,

neither the violent nationalism that he imputes to European traditions

in his writings on the topic, nor the H indu-first sort of nationalism that

he criticized throughout his life.11 His use of the syncretistic Baul tra­

dition strongly emphasizes religious amity and inclusiveness. The

song's aim is to cultivate the spirit that could sustain this new Indian

to cultivate the spirit that could sustain this new Indian nationalism-a spirit of love, inclusiveness, fairness,
to cultivate the spirit that could sustain this new Indian nationalism-a spirit of love, inclusiveness, fairness,
to cultivate the spirit that could sustain this new Indian nationalism-a spirit of love, inclusiveness, fairness,
to cultivate the spirit that could sustain this new Indian nationalism-a spirit of love, inclusiveness, fairness,
to cultivate the spirit that could sustain this new Indian nationalism-a spirit of love, inclusiveness, fairness,
to cultivate the spirit that could sustain this new Indian nationalism-a spirit of love, inclusiveness, fairness,
to cultivate the spirit that could sustain this new Indian nationalism-a spirit of love, inclusiveness, fairness,
to cultivate the spirit that could sustain this new Indian nationalism-a spirit of love, inclusiveness, fairness,

nationalism-a spirit

of love,

inclusiveness,

fairness,

and

human

self-cultivation.

The music Tagore wrote to go with ''ArnaT Shonar Bangla" is simi­

larly

good versions

exist on YouTube, and invariably these combine beautiful images of the

sensuous, a

slow,

measured

erotic

dance.

Several

land with images ofwomen and men dancing seductively-showing how

citizens

of

the nation

understand

Whitman

are first cousins,

clearly,

the spirit

of

the piece.

Tagore and

though Tagore makes a contribution

A Pr

in

the Hist

ofLib

that is multidimensional, in that he was not only a Nobel Prize-winning

poet, but also a composer and choreographer ofworld class distinction.

What does it mean to make a song such as ''Arnar ShonarBangla" the

national anthem of a nation? Bangladesh, today, laments a history of

imperiali sm that divided India from Pakistan and "East Pakistan" fr om

the Bengal to which it is culturally united. But it also celebrates the inde­

pendence of a young Bengali nation, a pluralistic democracy. The song

asks all citizens to assume in body and voice a compassionate spirit of

love and concern for the fate of this land and its people, and to do so in a

spirit that retains gentleness, play, and wonder.

Like Whitman's poem, Tagore's is culturally specific, drawing on

imagery that has deep Bengali roots. Part ofwhat makes each successful

is this par ticularity. It makes no sense to suppose that strong mo tivation

can be generated by art, music, and rhetoric that are a common coin of

all nations, a sort ofEsperanto of the heart. Wisely, neither poet attempts

this. Tagore's songs will not move an American, at least not until after

years of immersion in Indian, and especially Bengali, cultures. Even

then, the Baul tradition and its music may continue to seem weird and

inaccessible. Whitman's poetry travels a little better, but still its memo­

ries and images are haunting primarily to Americans, steeped in the

sights and sounds of that nation and remembering the Civil War as a

major national event. Both poets' choices suggest that any successful

construction of political emotion must draw on the materials of the his­

tory and geography of the nation in question. Martin Luther King Jr.

drew a great deal from Gandhi, but he was perceptive enough to under­

stand that Gandhi's ideas had to undergo a total cultural makeover if

they were ever to move Americans.

Both poets, however, are also culturally radical, asking people to dis­

card some cherished ways of thinking about social relations (involving

hierarchies of religion, caste, and gender). They cleverly hold their in­

tended audience through sufficient rootedness in culture and history:

indeed, it is rather remarkable that figures as radical as Whitman and

Tagore should be so widely and intensely loved and accepted. But then

they challenge their cultures to be the best they can be, and fa r better

than they have been before. Thus a kind of political love that has its

roots in specific traditions can also be aspirational and even radical. "I

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the control

shall

be arguing: that

by Rawls, if not

comple­

he

has

do the job

in some sense erotic relat ionship

to

the meaning

humanity its

15

am

he,"

writes

Whitman,

"who tauntingly compels

men, women,

na­

tions,

Both

j Cryi ng,

poets

Leap fr om your seats and contend fo r your lives !'*;

suggest by

their choices that

the problems of

their trou­

works

bled so cieties need to be confronted in a spirit of love, through

th at tap

deeply into

ortality

m

bo ok.

and

the roots ofpeople's anxious confrontation with their

in

essence,

will

be the

contention

of this

finitude. That,

What type or types of love, conveyed through what media and in­

inquiry. The

stit utions, will be a long, and ultimately an open-ended,

in quiry

com

passion,

sha

me-

and,

a

mused

delight

related, types of love are

ent

occasions

and

problems.

priate

to its

solemn

occasion,

able to

the

Gettysburg

will expand to take on a fam'ily of interrelated emotions, such as

grief,

with

in

fear, anger, hope,

and

the inhibiting of disgust

and

these,

the spirit of a certain sort

of comedy,

human idiosyncrasy. Several

different,

though

taking

inter­

rightly involved in

the process, suited to differ­

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

was appro­

and

a Tagore song

would

not

have been

convey what Lincoln's rhetoric conveys. Ye t love is at the heart of

Address as

well, and I

shall argue

that all

of the core

emotions that sustain a decent society have their roots in, or are forms of,

love-by

which I mean intense attachments to

things outside

of our will.

My examples already suggest what I

the principle-dependent

emotions envisaged

mented and infused by love of this sort, will remain too calm and will lie

too

in mind-which

near

the surface

of the

mind to

requires

access

to

the quirky, fr aught,

we all have, in a variety of forms

(both comic and tragic),

of our lives. Love,

I

shall argue,

life, making it more than

a shell.

is what

gives

respect

for

lf love

is

needed even in Rawls's well­

ordered society-and I believe it is-it is needed all the more urgently in

real, imperfect societies

that aspire to justice.

It

is

a propitious

time

to write

on this

topic,

be cause cognitive psy­

chologists during

the past several decades

have produced

a wide range

of excellent research

the

choana

normative

on

particular

emotions,

which, supplemented by

neuroscientists,

and psy­

extremely useful to a

Such empirical findings

work

of primatologists,

anthropologists,

lysts, gives us a lot of empirical data that are

philosophical project such as

this

one.

do not answer our norma tive questions,

but they do help us to understand

edges its importance.

16

�:

A

Pr

in

theHisf

ofLib

what may

dencies may be

work with and how susceptible to "work" it may be.

be impossible and

harmful

what possible,

what pervasive human ten­

have to

or helpful-in short,

what material

we

Part ofjustifying a normative political project is showing that it can be

reasonably stable. Emotions are of interest in part because of our ques­

tions

about stability.

But then we

need

to ask what forms of public emo­

tion

can themselves be

stable

over time,

not placing

too great

a strain

upon our human resources. We need, I shall argue, to investigate, and to

the uneven and often unlovely destiny

delight,

of

cherish, whatever helps us

to

see

human

beings

in

the world with

humor,

tenderness,

and

rather

than with absolutist rage

for

an impossible

sort

of perfection.

A

primary source

of political difficulty is

the ubiquitous human wish

to

surmount the

we might say, above the messiness of the

of public

are pernicious.

to make the human lovable, inhibiting disgust and shame.

of public

envisage throughout a

type ofliberalism that is not morally "neutral," that has a certain definite

moral

emotions

set of normative goals. I

helplessness

that is

so large a part of human life-to

"merely human."

rise,

Many forms

emotions

only if it finds ways

emotion

feed fantasies of invulnerability,

and those

The project I envisage will succeed

No

such project could succeed if it did

to

a definite

not tie the question

content, prominently including equal respect for persons, a com­

mitment

set offundamental social and economic entitlements. These commitments

will limit the ways in which public emotions can be cultivated.

ety I

The soci­

commit­

of speech, association, and conscience, and a

to equal liberties

imagine must grapple with Rousseau's problem within the

ments of a Lockean/Kantian

state. One

might think

that

the idea

of a

sustaining

"civil religion" cannot

be achieved within

these

constraints,

or can't be achieved in an interesting and engaging way.

The focus of the project is on society's political culture, not the infor­

mal

that civil society does

not pervasively shape citizens' emotions; but this is not what I am inves­

But let's see.

institutions

of civil society.

This

is not

to

say

tigating here.

The idea of the political, however, is understood

in an in­

clusive way, as comprising all

those

institutions

that

influence

people's

life

Rawls's notion

chances

pervasively

and

of the "basic

over

the entire

structure").

The

course

of their

lives

(John

the

political thus

includes

Sill

:�

17

family,

the already mentioned commitments to adult freedom of speech and as­

the project will

sociation.

by

although

Within

the dealings

of government with family are limited

of political culture,

the general area

investigate political rhetoric, public ceremonies and rituals, songs, sym­

the design of public parks and monu­

bols, poetry, art and architecture,

men

ts, and

public sports. It will also consider the shaping of emotions in

that em­

public education.

body the insights conveyed in a particular type of emotional experience,

and

project, acknowl­

Finally,

not

it

is

possible to

on' this

create institutions

part of the

the

book, while

focusing

on account of its pivotal

a basis of equal respect,

decently accountable to

people's voices and capable of expressing their desire to give themselves

laws of their own

we

shall, however, be agree­

ing with

that the nation is a necessary "fulcrum" for the leveraging of global con­

cern,

others is

egoistic immersion in personal and local projects. Another rea­

nation is the need for historical particularity in

all good proposals for the formation ofpolitical emotions.

to concern for

nationalists

and as the largest unit we know until now that is

importance

The primary unit of analysis is

in setting

the

nation,17

all

on

life conditions for

choosing. Global

public culture in

concern will

part

by

be an

important issue:

rightly assess a

seeing

what sentiments to­

ward other nations and peoples it encourages. I

Giuseppe Mazzini

and other

in a world in which the

son for the focus on

the

nineteenth-century

most intransigent obstacle

As my pairing of Whitman with Tagore indicates, my project will fo ­

cus on the United States and India,

two extremely different nations that

are both, in

their

own

ways, successful

liberal democracies,

held

to­

gether by political ideals rather than a sense ofethnic homogeneity. Both

contain

projects,

large

as

inequalities

as

and

must therefore

motivate redistributive

also

well

projects involving larger

global concern.

Both

contain deep divisions involving religion,

need, therefore, to inhibit the inner forces

race, caste, and gender. They

these divisions into

that turn

baneful hierarchies or even occasions for violence.18

In writing on the emotions

in Upheavals of Thou g ht,19

I defended the

view

that

emotions necessarily involve

cognitive appraisals,

forms

of

value-laden

perception

and/or

thought directed at an

object or objects.

,rp;-:(1/i[on m t!t� lli.(f,n)' 11/Ltbaaliln

As we'll see, the cognitive psychologists whose work on emotions such

as compassion and disgust will be central to my analysis hold a similar

thesis, to which the work of anthropologists on the role of social norms

in emotions gives additional strong support.

Part I of the book iutroduces the problem

three historical chapters.

of political emotions through

The time of the French Revolution saw fervent questioning about so­

cial unity and the value of "fraternity." If absolute monarchy and sub­

mission to royal authority were not going to be sources of cohesion for

the more egalitarian societies of the fu ture, what next? Philosophers

such as Rousseau and the German thinker Johann Gottfried Herder

vigorously debated the shape that a new patriotism might take. In Chap­

ter 2, I end with consideration of their proposals, but I begin with a very

different contribution: that of

by W. A. Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte. Based on a play of the same

name by Beaumarchais that is generally seen as one of the major precur­

sors of the Revolution, the opera addresses the transition from feudalism

to democracy in a way that focuses centrally on the construction ofsenti­

ments. Beaumarchais suggested that the problem of the old order is in­

stitutional, and in a way quite simple: we dethrone feudal authority and

usher in, through a change in political institutions, a new society of

equality. I argue that the opera (notjust its insightful libretto, but a musi­

cal expression of ideas that in key ways goes beyond the libretto) should

be regarded as a formative philosophical text in the unfolding debate

about new fo rms of public culture. Its vision is very different from that of

Beaumarchais. Focusing as it does on sentiments and on the role of

women, the opera has usually been understood to be merely domestic

rather than political. I argue that it is not only political, but also correct:

the new order cannot be stable without revolutionary changes in the

heart, which include the adoption of new norms of male and female

gender roles, and a new conception of the citizen that breaks decisively

with the male norms of the ancien regime. Although the ideas I find in

the opera seem in some ways light-years ahead of their time, they were

the opera The Marria g e of Fi g aro (1786),

A Problnn in the HistOI)'

Liberalism

:

1 9

in fa ct in the air during this time of ferment: the political vision of the

era bears a close resemblance to H erder s ideas about a 'purified

patd tism ' in the 1790s, as I'll show and both are anteced e n ts of a

typ f li b e ralism l.ater d�vlope

n·mctples prore t spa ·es for mdivJdnal

b. John Stuart Mill and aidra­

n a l b. John Stuart M ill and � a � i � dra ­

p

in wlncl1 politLCal

J

play, and craziness.

uat

It should be emphasized that I am

tre atin g the opera as a philosophical text, part of a conversation that

I am not,

in clu des Rousseau, Herder, and, later, Mill and Tagore.

ex pres sion,

J1 Tago re

x p r e s s i o n , J 1 T a g o

then,

pro

posing

that modern democr�cies use the opera as a device to

kin

dle

public

emotion of the right sort. Although it may surely do so in

pe

ople

who love

it, it

is

insufficiently inclusive today to implement its

own

values

on

a wide

scale.

(So much

is

also

true

of the writings of

phil osop hers.)

The

nineteenth

century

continued the

debate

about

political

emo­

tions,

and

this time

the debate

was global

in

nature. Central

was Au­

guste

Comte, with his

idea

of a "religion of humanity"

that

could moti­

vate

altruism

Comte's

ideas

and

provide stability

for demanding

political principles.

were

enormously influential

in

virtually

every corner of

the world.

and

In Europe he had a large influence on the thought ofhis fr iend

who

collaborator

Mill,

who devoted

an entire book

to Comte

and

contributed to the articulation of the "religion of humanity."

Comte was

also a

major

figure

for

Indian

intellectuals and

a primary

source for

Rabindrana th Tagore's idea of a "religion of man." Chapters 3 and

4 ex­

amine

the history

of these

rich ideas.

I support

the contention

of both

Tagore and Mill that

the public cultivation of emotion needs

to be scru­

tinized by a vigorously critical public culture, strongly committed to the

protection

of

dissenting

speech.

Their

proposals

remain

valuable

sources-although both, and

especially

Mill, have

a nai:ve faith

in

hu­

man progress, rooted

dorse today.

in an

incomplete psychology, that we cannot en­

Before

turning

to the

present

day,

we need

a sketch

of where

we are

heading,

a normative

account of a decent

society

worth aspiring

to and

sustai

ning. Part II begins by proposing such

a

sketch in Chapter 5 · The

20

�:

A Proble

m in flu Hi tot)'s

ofLibrmli

sm

account has a lot in common with the aspirations defended in my "ca­

pabilities" approach-but also with Mill's normative proposals, with

Rawls's theory, with the New Deal, with many aspects of European so­

cial democracies, and with the aspirations of the Indian constitution.

Many aspects of the envisaged goal, though certainly not all, are also

part of the public culture of the United States, even today. I don't argue

here that these norms are the best way to envisage a minimally just soci­

ety; instead, I stipulate a set of very general norms. I then ask: If we

should want to get and keep political principles and institutions of

roughly that type, showing equal respect to all and guaranteeing key ar­

eas of both liberty and material support, what should we do to cultivate

emotions that support and sustain such principles and institutions?