David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (3):493-510 (2013)
This paper is written from a perspective that is sympathetic to the basic idea of the capability approach. Our aim is to compare Martha Nussbaum’s capability theory of justice with Alan Gewirth’s moral theory, on two points: the selection and the justification of a list of central capabilities. On both counts, we contend that Nussbaum’s theory suffers from flaws that Gewirth’s theory may help to remedy. First, we argue that her notion of a (dignified) human life cannot fulfill the role of a normative criterion that Nussbaum wants it to play in selecting capabilities for her list. Second, we question whether Nussbaum’s method of justification is adequate, discussing both her earlier self-validating argumentative strategy and her more recent adherence to the device of an overlapping consensus. We conclude that both strategies fail to provide the capabilities theory with the firm foundation it requires. Next, we turn to Gewirth’s normative theory and discuss how it can repair these flaws. We show how his theory starts from a fundamental moral principle according to which all agents have rights to the protection of the necessary preconditions of their agency. Gewirth’s justification of this principle is then presented, using a version of a transcendental argument. Finally, we explicitly compare Nussbaum and Gewirth and briefly demonstrate what it would mean for Nussbaum to incorporate Gewirthian elements into her capabilities theory of justice.
|Keywords||Capability approach Selection of capabilities Justification of capabilities Martha Nussbaum Alan Gewirth|
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References found in this work BETA
Martha Nussbaum (2001). Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach. Cambridge University Press.
James Griffin (2008). On Human Rights. Oxford University Press.
Martha Craven Nussbaum & Amartya Kumar Sen (1999). The Quality of Life. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).
Alan Gewirth (1978). Reason and Morality. University of Chicago Press.
Martha C. Nussbaum (2011). Perfectionist Liberalism and Political Liberalism. Philosophy and Public Affairs 39 (1):3-45.
Citations of this work BETA
Paul Formosa & Catriona Mackenzie (2014). Nussbaum, Kant, and the Capabilities Approach to Dignity. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (5):875-892.
Rutger Claassen (2014). Capability Paternalism. Economics and Philosophy 30 (1):57-73.
Caroline Harnacke (2013). Disability and Capability: Exploring the Usefulness of Martha Nussbaum's Capabilities Approach for the UN Disability Rights Convention. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 41 (4):768-780.
Caroline Harnacke (2013). Disability and Capability: Exploring the Usefulness of Martha Nussbaum's Capabilities Approach for the UN Disability Rights Convention. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 41 (4):768-780.
Lasse Nielsen (2015). Why Health Matters to Justice: A Capability Theory Perspective. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (2):403-415.
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