What’s the University For?   /   Fall 2000   /    Interview

The University in Question: An Interview with Martha Nussbaum

Your book, Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education, is very optimistic and hopeful about the future of higher education. What sorts of changes have you seen in the university since you began teaching?

I think there have been tremendous changes. On the whole, they’re very much for the good. First of all, there’s been a tremendous growth in curiosity about other fields and interdisciplinary cooperation. When people are skeptics about new interdisciplinary scholarship, I always point to Classics, because that’s in some ways the most traditional of disciplines, but, of course, it has always contained history, art history, numismatics, philosophy, literary study, technical philology–you could go on and on. The suspiciousness of these new forms of study is often just the irritation of people whose habits are being upset, and what we really need to worry about, if anything, is, first of all, how the cooperation really works. Do we really have enough input from both sides? Is there enough expertise coming from both ways? What we don’t want is people who are eclectic, who dabble in another field, but without really consulting with the experts in that field. You have to worry about straying too far from the thing you got started in and love the most.

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