Human life characteristics by Martha Nussbaum

Table of Contents

Women and Cultural Universals, Martha Nussbaum.. 3

Introduction. 3

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Central Human Functional Capabilities. 3

Does She Succeed In Doing So? Why?. 5

Conclusion. 6

References. 8

Women and Cultural Universals, Martha Nussbaum


In “Women and Cultural Universals,” the author claims that any life that falls short of one of the ten characteristics that she brands as central human functional capabilities, regardless of anything else it holds, will lack a reasonable human life. Gender parity and women’s rights, are concerns that have persisted in shaping moral, as well as, ethical questions concerning the way women ought to be treated. Women have unfortunately, been demoralized, treated in a prejudiced fashion as a result of their gender, and are vulnerable to sexist ideologies in every part of the globe. Certain traditions perpetuate inequality for the female gender and have stalled the advancement of women, as a result of gender bigotry (Read, 2006). Degrees of disparity have, and go on differing, on the basis of where a lady lives. However, the issue that continues to endure is how this ethical predicament be solved, and affect a universal conception that will facilitate women to acquire a significant, and respectful equal position in humanity (Nussbaum, 1999).

Central Human Functional Capabilities

The capabilities approach created by Nussbaum is a method in which humanity can assign universal capacities in order to promote women to an equivalent position in humanity. This approach initiates a corridor for women to exist a contented life that is devoid of influence by traditions that permit injustice to persist against women.             Fundamentally, what Nussbaum provides are ten central human functional capabilities, which humanity ought to have the chance to attain, in order to exist in a fulfilled human life. Additionally this theory encompasses the notion that since women also possess the potential to acquire these capabilities, that it is necessary for this approach to be executed in order that women may be perceived as equal to the male gender. In a sense, an insinuation of anticipation also presents itself on the basis that because a woman has the capacity to develop these capabilities, then women are at liberty in regard the right of holding the opportunity of accomplishing those capabilities (Momsen, 2010). So as to paint a comprehensible defense in regard to the capabilities approach, the ten fundamental elements proposed by Nussbaum in order to attain a fine human life are as follows:

  1. Life-the ability to live to the conclusion of human life.
  2. Bodily integrity-ability to move freely, protected against violence, acquire sexual satisfaction, as well as control over one’s reproductive health.
  3. Bodily integrity and health –ability to acquire good health, shelter, and nourishment.
  4. Imagination, thought and senses -ability to utilize senses, expression, and education.
  5. Practical reason-ability to form an idea of the good, as well as, engage in decisive reflection, in relation to mapping out one’s personal life.
  6. Affiliation-Having societal foundation for self-respect and capability to live with respect to others.
  7. Emotions-ability to have attachments to persons/things external from ourselves.
  8. Play-ability to play and laugh as well as enjoy leisure activities.
  9. Control over an individual’s own surroundings-Political preferences that govern an individual’s own environment as well as material choices. This also includes the ability to hold assets, having the right to search for equal employment, and exercise meaningful relationships.
  10. Other species-ability to exist with concern for/regarding the natural world.

It is constructive to add that, in the event that the societal goal is the capacity of its members to execute important functions then the female gender would be permitted to contribute at an increasingly higher amount for the advancement of the entire humanity. The capabilities approach is crucial, since it creates a passage for the female gender to be able to participate in areas where characteristically, male domination is the conventional norm (Nussbaum, 1999).

The significance of a woman’s mental capabilities or labor, whether outside or inside the home has been undervalued in numerous communities, but by identifying capabilities and recognizing that the female gender contribute and serve in a fundamental part in several diverse ways will permit for the exploration of the ten capabilities (Pearson, 2008). These ten capabilities would vary on how they might be implemented in different cultures. At the least, devoid of any one of the capabilities, the Nussbaum’s approach alleges that any life that falls short of one of the ten characteristics that she brands as central human functional capabilities, regardless of anything else it holds, will lack a reasonable human life.

Does human Succeed In Doing So? Why?

According to Nussbaum, if a human life fails to acquire one of these fundamentals it creates an obstruction for the individual to develop into what they may individually desire. The capability to exercise control over one’s personal life, and capacity to formulate their personal decisions, contributes to individuality. It also grants them the personal justification that their preferences, are those in which they have considered. An important characteristic of Nussbaum’s approach is the presentation of a passage in which the female gender may be elevated to an equivalent standing as the male gender. Instead of coercing an inspiration of how one’s being ought to be treated, Nussbaum incorporates a general set of prerequisites that permit for an individual to turn out to be equal. Her passage is clear by means of a set of grounds that bring about the overall effect that she aims for. What Nussbaum aims for is equal treatment for the two genders. By providing the approach that humanity ought to let people’s capabilities to accomplish their full potential, Nussbaum seizes and holds the attention of persons who may be simply disheartened by feminist dogma. Nussbaum’s appliance of the capabilities approach is able to introduce the likelihood of positive prospects of the female gender but also brings in the opportunity for everyone who might be oppressed or undermined (Nussbaum, 1999).

The capabilities approach might be controversial to a number of people, regarding the fundamental universal applicability for humankind. Some might perceive this approach as problematical in regard to respecting dissimilar cultures and diversity all over humanity. Respect in this case, is highly regarded and diversity requests to exist in humanity (Stango, 2007). This is in order for individuals to embrace, and enjoy the great variety of people that go on to make humankind unique. What is imperative is the inevitability for all people to be able to labor with open environments that are not prejudiced by a conjecture of male dominance (Pearson, 2008). A huge array of people and cultures can live with the capabilities approach. This would be feasible if an individual is presented with the opportunity to realize their potential, it will facilitate that society to profit from the supplementary contributions (Momsen, 2010).


It is evident that, there might be arguments that allege that by recommending a set of general capabilities that each human being is gifted with, this would be disregarding an individual’s autonomy. This would be as a result of the laid down standard that the individual would have to follow. The postulation would be that the laid down standard would remove the individual’s option to choose whether or not they desire to have these capabilities, and that we ought not to expect every one to desire to conform to these capabilities. In contrast, the positive effect is that by introducing this set of general capabilities onto humanity, especially the female gender, would in effect permit for the highest degree of autonomy. A direct impact of the capabilities approach is that, an individual is able to attain autonomy, and liberally choose diverse courses in their lives.


Momsen, J. (2010). Gender & Development, London, Routledge.

Nussbaum, M. (1999). Women & Cultural Universals. In Sex & Social Justice. Oxford: Oxford     University Press.

Pearson, S. (2008). Poverty & Famines: Essays on Entitlement & Deprivation, Oxford:      Clarendon Press.

Read, N. (2006). A Succinct History of Contemporary Feminism, London: Thames & Hudson.

Stango, D. (2007). Perceptions of Contemporary Feminism, London: Thames & Hudson.

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