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Sorin Sabou

Letter to the Romans, Nicomachean Ethics, and more

Nussbaum's Two Levels of Human Nature

Nussbaum’s Level 1 of the Thick Vague Conception is presented as a story of what seems to be part of any life that we count as human life. The shape of the human form of life has the following aspects: mortality, the human body (hunger, thirst, need for shelter, sexual desire, mobility), capacity for pleasure and pain, cognitive capability (perceiving, imagining, thinking), early infant development, practical reason, affiliation with other human beings, relatedness to other species and to nature, humor and play, separateness. As this list is based on observation of human life across cultures and is able to integrate both the aspects of individuality and community of human life I agree with it.
The two sorts of items that give the architecture of the list are those of limits and capabilities. We are both a lack and a longing, and this list reflects that. Yes, they are important features of a fully human life. We find our fulfillment in the areas of human body, pleasure, cognitive activity, affiliation with others, humor and play, and separateness.

Nussbaum’s Level 2 of the Thick Vague Conception is a level presented as the aim for which a society should go as their citizens are concerned. This level is about basic human functional capabilities that have to be the goal of legislation and public planning. To live to the end of a complete human life, to have good health, to avoid unnecessary and non beneficial pain, to have pleasurable experiences, to be able to use the five senses, to have attachments to things and persons outside ourselves, to form a conception of the good, to engage in critical reflection about planning your life, to live for and with others, to live with concern for and in relation to the world of nature, to laugh, to play, and to live your own life and nobody else’s.
I say that this detailed list makes sense because the main two things that we use in preparing for the future are practical reasoning and relationship to others, and these two keep the whole list together.
We as humans flourish if we have these basic functional capabilities. We will used them in a variety of ways, but they are needed for our development as human beings.

Nussbaum, Martha. 1992. Human Functioning and Social Justice: In Defense of Aristotelian Essentialism. Political Theory Vol. 20, No. 2, 202-246.
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