Is Pogge a Capability Theorist in Disguise?

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (1):205-215 (2013)
Thomas Pogge answers the question if the capability approach can be justified with a firm ‘no’. Amongst others, he ridicules capability theorists for demanding compensation for each and every possible natural difference between people, including hair types. Not only does Pogge, so this paper argues, misconstrue the difference between the capability approach and Rawlsian resourcism. Even worse: he is actually implicitly relying on the idea of capabilities in his defence of the latter. According to him the resourcist holds that the institutional order should not be biased towards the average person or the needs of some. Yet, as his own case of blind people and traffic lights can illustrate, whether or not this is the case is impossible to assess without resorting to some concept like people’s capabilities. Secondly, it is argued that the real issue at stake is not at all the best metric of justice—primary goods or capabilities—but rather the scope of theories of justice. On the surface the difference of opinion seems to be how to deal with so-called “personal heterogeneities”, yet the discussed case of interpersonal differences in metabolism and communal land-use choices hints at something else; Whereas Pogge insists that questions of justice only concern the institutional structure of society, many capability theorists support the inclusion of culture and social practices as possible sources of injustice. Unfortunately Pogge does not properly acknowledge this, as right from the start of his paper he frames the debate between both approaches in terms of institutions only.
Keywords Thomas Pogge  Primary goods  Human capabilities  Capability approach  Rawlsian resourcism
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DOI 10.1007/s10677-012-9344-9
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References found in this work BETA
Amartya Sen (2009). The Idea of Justice. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
John Rawls (1993). Political Liberalism. Columbia University Press.
J. Rawls (1995). Political Liberalism. Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 57 (3):596-598.

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