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Document Details :
Title: Nussbaum on Religious Diversity and the Law
Author(s): DE DIJN, Herman
Volume: 69 Issue: 4 Date: 2008
In her recent book, Liberty of Conscience: In Defence of America’s Tradition of Religious Equality (2008) the influential philosopher Martha Nussbaum defends the American way of separation between politics and religion, as against the European ways. According to her interpretation this separation implies not only the prevention of unacceptable interference in religious matters, but also the affirmation of the equal dignity of religious (and non-religious) differences. Although this position seems to be very favourable to religion, it is based on presuppositions that are very questionable. Religion is defined by Nussbaum in a very narrow way as the individual’s quest for meaning and truth. Also, the understanding of what is required politically with respect to equal dignity is found to be inadequate. Equally debatable is her idea that there can be a freestanding ethical core in politics completely divorced from religious or non-religious moral values as embedded in culture. Nussbaum’s liberal conception of religion and of its place in contemporary politics is perhaps compatible with the American view of the separation between politics and religion. Whether Europeans should change their politics according to this conception is another matter.