“We are in the midst of a crisis of massive proportions and grave global significance,” Martha Nussbaum begins.[1] No, the danger is not imminent economic collapse or looming environmental disaster. At least we discern such crises, but the worst of all “goes largely unnoticed, like a cancer; a crisis that is likely to be, in the long run, far more damaging to the future of democratic self-government.” Nussbaum’s crisis—I am not making this up—is declining enrollment in university humanities courses. Somewhere, I suppose, a shoemaker envisions the collapse of civilization brought about by the rising price of leather.

Unless we solve Nussbaum’s crisis, democracy, decency, and critical thinking—words she leaves undefined and repeats like a mantra—will all disappear. But to solve a crisis one must identify its cause. ...


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