Martha Nussbaum on Compassion

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 11, 2004

Reflection on Martha Nussbaum’s Work on Compassion from a Buddhist Perspective

Maria Vanden Eynde

The current philosophical debate between care and justice reflects the debate between an image of self that is either autonomous and invested with rights or a self that is contingent, feeling and thinking. Our goal is to bridge the polarization between the two ethical theories of care and justice. For this, an extended self image would be introduced, carrying traits of both views. We aim to show that Nussbaum’s concept of compassion can bridge the dichotomy. But, rather than merely building on Nussbaum’s findings, we think it is essential to investigate what Buddhism, as a philosophy where compassion is central, can bring to this project. The topic of this paper then, is to relate Nussbaum’s work on compassion with Buddhist theory, at the same time opening the subject matter to the potentialities that are at hand in Buddhist philosophy.

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