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versión On-line ISSN 2304-8557
versión impresa ISSN 0023-270X

Koers (Online) vol.76 no.1 Pretoria  2011




Education for women: A consideration of the philosophical issues in dialogue with Martha Nussbaum


Opvoeding vir vroue: 'n besinning oor die filosofiese kwessies in gesprek met Martha Nussbaum



L.D. Derksen

Department Of Philosophy, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. E-mail: 1




In some countries in the world, education for women is considered to be unnecessary, undesirable or in conflict with religious principles. Contrary to these points of view, Martha Nussbaum argues that education is important and good. It is one of the capabilities which women need to live a flourishing life.
According to Nussbaum, education is a universal value. Pluralists, however, are of the opinion that considering education to be a universal value, in fact, constitutes the imposition of a western value on other cultures. They consider this to be wrong. Nussbaum agrees with this, arguing that we should respect other cultures and that it is not her aim to impose values on them.
In this article, I will investigate how Nussbaum seeks to reconcile her universalism (education as universal value) with the pluralist respect for the choices made in other cultures. I begin by describing Nussbaum's view of education as a capability. I then discuss three examples of arguments through which Nussbaum attempts to close the gap between universalism and pluralism as well as her notions of context and practical judgement.
In conclusion, I argue that although Nussbaum has made a significant contribution to the universalism-pluralism debate, these two positions have not been completely reconciled.

Key concepts: education for women, freedom of religion, Nussbaum, Martha, universalism and pluralism


Die opvoeding van vroue word in sommige lande as onnodig beskou, onwenslik of in stryd met godsdienstige beginsels. Hierteenoor argumenteer Martha Nussbaum dat opvoeding 'n belangrike en goeie waarde op sigself is. Dit is een van die bekwaamhede wat vroue benodig om 'n vervulde lewe te lei.
Volgens Nussbaum is opvoeding 'n universele waarde. Daar-teenoor betoog sommige pluraliste dat die beskouing van opvoeding as universele waarde in werklikheid neerkom op die afdwinging van 'n westerse kulturele waarde op ander kulture. Volgens hulle mag dit nie gebeur nie. Nussbaum is dit hiermee eens en betoog dat ander kulture gerespekteer behoort te word en dat dit nie haar bedoeling is om waardes op hulle af te dwing nie. In hierdie artikel toon ek aan hoe Nussbaum probeer om haar universalisme (opvoeding as universele waarde) te versoen met die pluralistiese respek vir die keuses wat in ander kulture gemaak word. Eers word Nussbaum se siening van opvoeding as bekwaamheid ("capability") beskryf. Daarna kom drie argumente aan die beurt aan die hand waarvan Nussbaum die kloof tussen universalisme en pluralisme, sowel as haar opvattings oor konteks en praktiese oordeel, probeer oorbrug.
Ten slotte word argumenteer dat Nussbaum 'n betekenisvolle bydrae tot die universalisme-pluralisme debat gelewer het, maar dat hierdie twee posisies nogtans nie heeltemal versoen is nie.

Kernbegrippe: godsdiensvryheid, Nussbaum, Martha, opvoeding vir vroue, universalisme en pluralisme



Full text available only in PDF format.



List of references

CHARLESWORTH, H. 2000. Martha Nussbaum's feminist internationalism. Ethics, 111:64-78.         [ Links ]

JAGGAR, A.M. 2006. Reasoning about well-being: Nussbaum's methods of justifying the capabilities. The journal of political philosophy, 14(3):301-322.         [ Links ]

NELSON, E. 2008. From primary goods to capabilities: distributive justice and the problem of neutrality. Political theory, 36:93-122.         [ Links ]

NUSSBAUM, M.C. 1998. Public philosophy and international feminism. Ethics, 108:762-796.         [ Links ]

NUSSBAUM, M.C. 1999. Sex and social justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.         [ Links ]

NUSSBAUM, M.C. 2000. Women and human development: the capabilities approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.         [ Links ]

NUSSBAUM, M.C. 2008. Liberty of conscience: in defense of America's tradition of religious equality. New York: Basic Books.         [ Links ]



1 In her work in South Africa and in Canada and in her functions as Professor of Philosophy and Head of the Philosophy Department at Potchefstroom University and as Vice-President of Redeemer College, Elaine Botha has contributed greatly to Christian higher education. Equally important, she is in all respect a wonderful person. I am, therefore, honoured to be able to write an article for this festive edition of Koers which seeks to celebrate Elaine Botha's work.

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