An exploration of Whitman’s call in Leaves of Grass to “judge not as the judge judges but as the sun falling round a helpless thing.” Whitman’s inflects Jesus’s “judge not” as a call for radical democrats to cultivate the ability to postpone judgment, to hold off the sorting discrimination that is usually assumed to be the very essence of ethical action. Whitman explores (and pushes to the limit) the idea that the porous, sympathetic, and democrat self must include within its repertoire a “judging” that is as nonjudgmental and magnanimous as the dispensation of light offered by the sun. The chapter also draws upon Martha Nussbaum and Alfred North Whitehead to introduce qualifications into Whitman’s poetic and political project.
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Dr. Jane Bennett is professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University. She is one of the founders of the journal Theory & Event, and is currently the editor of Political Theory: An International Journal of Political Philosophy.
Professor Bennett specializes in political theory: ecological philosophy, American political thought, political rhetoric and persuasion, and contemporary social theory. She has been a Fellow at Oxford University (Keble College), Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities (University of London), and the Humanities Research Centre at Australian National University.