I am embarrassed at being placed in the dizzying company of one of the truly great thinkers in the world. The similarities between Mill's ideas and mine partly reflect, of course, his influence on my thinking. But I also discuss some difficulties in taking Mill's whole theory without modification, since there are internal tensions within it. In a paper I published in 1967, I tried to discuss how Mill's willingness to hold on to some contrary positions depended on the nature (...) of his empirical reading of the world. I draw on that diagnosis in commenting on some of the articles here. There are some serious issues of misinterpretation in one of the articles, which I try to clarify. I also comment on Arrow's interpretation of what is involved in the idea of autonomy and on his own way of assessing freedom, and acknowledge the seriousness of the questions he raises about the value of freedom in normative political philosophy. (Published Online February 16 2006). (shrink)
Gary Becker and others have done important work to broaden the content of self interest, but have not departed from seeing rationality in terms of the exclusive pursuit of self-interest. One reason why committed behavior is important is that a person can have good reason to pursue objectives other than self interest maximization (no matter how broadly it is construed). Indeed, one can also follow rules of behavior that go beyond the pursuit of one's own goals, even if the goals (...) include non-self-interested concerns. By living in a society, one develops possible reasons for considering other people's goals as well, which takes one beyond an exclusive concentration on one's own goals, not to mention the single-minded pursuit of one's own self interest. The recognition of other people's goals may be a part of rational thought. If rational behavior may depart from the relentless pursuit of one's own goals, commitment has to be important in a theory of rationality. Furthermore, seeing the role of commitment in human behavior can have explanatory importance in allowing us to understand behavior patterns that are hard to fit into the narrow format of contemporary rational choice theory. Commitment is, thus, important both for practical reason and for causal explanation. Footnotes1 Paper presented at a Workshop on Rationality and Commitment at the University of St. Gallen, May 13–15, 2004. (shrink)
This paper examines evolving technological capabilities in developing countries. Counts of web sites indicate that some progress is being made in some of the world’s poorest countries, but the numbers show even with this progress, the gap between developed and developing countries is actually growing. So has there been progress in closing the global digital divide? The significance of web sites to provide access to necessary medical information, local cultural information, and the general visibility of the developing world is described (...) and the current environment evaluated. The moral situation created by the current status is reviewed using ethical theories proposed by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. By reviewing one vehicle for information transfer—the web site—the author hopes to highlight the importance of this vehicle and to present a general overview of the progress that is being made around the world. (shrink)
This article presents an analysis of the concept of disability in Amartya Sen’s capabilities and functionings approach in the context of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Following a critical review of the concept of disability—from its traditional interpretation as an essentially medical concept to its later interpretation as a socially constructed category—we will introduce the concept of functional diversity. The importance of human diversity in the capabilities and functionings approach calls for incorporating this concept into the analysis of well-being (...) and quality of life in persons with disability—aspects in which ICT currently plays a major role. When one contemplates these technologies, it becomes clear that factors such as accessibility, design for all, and user participation in development and implementation processes are key strategies in promoting equal rights and equal opportunity for persons with disability in the different environments of the information society. (shrink)
It is a particular pleasure to be able to participate in this symposium in honor of Amartya Sen. We agree on a wide range of topics, but I will focus here on an area of relative disagreement. Sen is much more attracted to consequentialism than I am, and the main topic of my paper will be the particular version of consequentialism that he has articulated and the reasons why he is drawn to this view.
In a recent discussion of Amartya Sen's concept of the capabilities of people for functioning in their society – and the idea of targeting people's functioning capabilities in evaluating the society – G. A. Cohen accuses Sen of espousing an inappropriate, ‘athletic’ image of the person (Cohen, 1993, pp. 24–5). The idea is that if Sen's formulations are to be taken at face value, then life is valuable only so far as people actively choose most facets of their existence: (...) if they fare well in the material stakes, for example, they must fare well as a result of active choice and effort, not because anyone else looks after them. ‘That’, says Cohen, ‘overestimates the place of freedom and activity in well-being’ (p. 25). (shrink)
A fruitful way to approach The Idea of Phenomenology is through Husserl’s claim that consciousness is not a bag, box, or any other kind of container. The bag conception, which dominated much of modern philosophy, is rooted in the idea that philosophy is restricted to investigating only what is really immanent to consciousness, such as acts and sensory contents. On this view, what Husserl called the riddle of transcendence can never be solved. The phenomenological reduction, as Husserl develops it in (...) The Idea of Phenomenology, opened up a new and broader sense of immanence that embraces the transcendent, making it possible both to solve the riddle and to escape the bag conception once and for all. The essay will discuss ways in which this new conception of immanence is tied to the key Husserlian themes of appearance, phenomenon, essence, seeing or intuiting, and constitution. (shrink)
A central question for assessing the merits of Amartya Sen's capability approach as a potential answer to the “distribution of what”? question concerns the exact role and nature of freedom in that approach. Sen holds that a person's capability identifies that person's effective freedom to achieve valuable states of beings and doings, or functionings, and that freedom so understood, rather than achieved functionings themselves, is the primary evaluative space. Sen's emphasis on freedom has been criticised by G. A. Cohen, (...) according to whom the capability approach either uses too expansive a definition of freedom or rests on an implausibly active, indeed “athletic,” view of well-being. This paper defends the capability approach from this criticism. It argues that we can view the capability approach to be underpinned by an account of well-being which takes the endorsement of valuable functionings as constitutive of well-being, and by a particular view of the way in which endorsement relates to force and choice. Footnotes1 I would like to thank Paul Bou-Habib, Ian Carter, Matthew Kramer, Ingrid Robeyns, Peter Vallentyne, and two Economics and Philosophy referees for very helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. I am also grateful to the participants of the Edinburgh ECPR Workshop, the Hoover Chair Seminar in Louvain-La-Neuve, the King's College Moral Philosophy Group in Cambridge, the Nuffield Political Theory Workshop in Oxford, and the session on the Capability Approach at the Philadelphia APSA Annual Conference. (shrink)
Amartya Sen's recent works on identity have emerged at the same time as a much wider and growing literature on the topic across the disciplines of politics, philosophy, and economics. This article outlines some of Sen's claims and attempts a partial elucidation of their relationship to some strands in the relevant literatures on identity, community, and justice. It thereby frames Sen's works in such a way as to facilitate comparisons with other views on identity and multiculturalism, community, justice, and (...) recognition which feature in this volume and the relevant literatures. Framing Sen's work in this way also helps to clarify Sen's position in relation to those of Bhikhu Parekh and certain communitarian thinkers. (shrink)
Although the concept of equal opportunity has received scant attention from theological ethics, it attracts widespread approval in the U.S. popular culture and has been examined extensively by contemporary moral philosophy. Amartya Sen's conception of capabilities as "freedom" or "real opportunity" corrects deficiencies in both popular and philosophical conceptions of equal opportunity that ignore interpersonal variations in mental, physical, and psychological abilities beyond agents' control. Recent theologically informed conceptions of love and common grace affirm and revise Sen's conception of (...) equal capability as equal opportunity. The resulting understanding of equal opportunity is quite different from some uses of this concept and could be an important criterion for a just society. (shrink)
Amartya Sen has made deep and lasting contributions to the academic disciplines of economics, philosophy, and the social sciences more broadly. He has engaged in policy dialogue and public debate, advancing the cause of a human development focused policy agenda, and a tolerant and democratic polity. This argumentative Indian has made the case for the poorest of the poor, and for plurality in cultural perspective. It is not surprising that he has won the highest awards, ranging from the Nobel (...) Prize in Economics to the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honor. This public recognition has gone hand in hand with the affection and admiration that Amartya's friends and students hold for him. -/- This volume of essays, written in honor of his 75th birthday by his students and peers, covers the range of contributions that Sen has made to knowledge. They are written by some of the world's leading economists, philosophers and social scientists, and address topics such as ethics, welfare economics, poverty, gender, human development, society and politics. This first volume covers the topics of Ethics, Normative Economics and Welfare; Agency, Aggregation and Social Choice; Poverty, Capabilities and Measurement; and Identity, Collective Action and Public Economics. It is a fitting tribute to Sen's own contributions to the discourse on Ethics, Welfare and Measurement. -/- Contributors include: Sabina Alkire, Paul Anand, Sudhir Anand, Kwame Anthony Appiah, A. B. Atkinson, Walter Bossert, Francois Bourguignon, John Broome, Satya R. Chakravarty, Rajat Deb, Bhaskar Dutta, James E. Foster, Wulf Gaertner, Indranil K. Ghosh, Peter Hammond, Christopher Handy, Christopher Harris, Satish K. Jain, Isaac Levi, Oliver Linton, S. R. Osmani, Prasanta K. Pattanaik, Edmund S. Phelps, Mozaffar Qizilbash, Martin Ravallion, Kevin Roberts, Ingrid Robeyns, Maurice Salles, Cristina Santos, T. M. Scanlon, Arjun Sengupta, Tae Kun Seo, Anthony Shorrocks , Ron Smith, Joseph E. Stiglitz, S. Subramanian, Kotaro Suzumura, Alain Trannoy, Guanghua Wan, John A. Weymark, and Yongsheng Xu. (shrink)
This essay critically examines economist and philosopher Amartya Sen's writings as a potential resource in religious ethicists' efforts to analyze discrimination against girls and women and to address their well-being and agency. Delineating how Sen's discussions of "missing women" and "gender and cooperative conflict" fit within his "capability approach" to economic and human development, the article explores how Sen's methodology employs empirical analysis toward normative ends. Those ends expand the capability of girls and women to function in all aspects (...) of their society. It concludes with a discussion of ways to engage Sen's work within religious ethics. (shrink)
Amartya Sen has made deep and lasting contributions to the academic disciplines of economics, philosophy, and the social sciences more broadly. He has engaged in policy dialogue and public debate, advancing the cause of a human development focused policy agenda, and a tolerant and democratic polity. This argumentative Indian has made the case for the poorest of the poor, and for plurality in cultural perspective. It is not surprising that he has won the highest awards, ranging from the Nobel (...) Prize in Economics to the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honor. This public recognition has gone hand in hand with the affection and admiration that Amartya's friends and students hold for him. -/- This volume of essays, written in honor of his 75th birthday by his students and peers, covers the range of contributions that Sen has made to knowledge. They are written by some of the world's leading economists, philosophers and social scientists, and address topics such as ethics, welfare economics, poverty, gender, human development, society and politics. The second volume covers the topics of Human Development and Capabilities; Gender and Household; Growth, Poverty and Policy; and Society, Politics and History. It is a fitting tribute to Sen's own contributions to the discourse on Society, Institutions and Development. -/- Contributors include: Bina Agarwal, Isher Ahluwalia, Montek S Ahluwalia, Ingela Alger, Muhammad Asali, Amiya Kumar Bagchi, Pranab Bardhan, Lourdes Benería, Sugata Bose, Lincoln C. Chen, Martha Alter Chen, Kanchan Chopra, Simon Dietz, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, Jonathan Glover, Cameron Hepburn, Jane Humphries, Rizwanul Islam, Ayesha Jalal, Mary Kaldor, Sunil Khilnani, Stephan Klasen, Jocelyn Kynch, Enrica Chiappero Martinetti, Kirsty McNay, Martha C. Nussbaum, Elinor Ostrom, Gustav Ranis, Sanjay G. Reddy, Emma Samman, Rehman Sobhan, Robert M. Solow, Nicholas Stern, Frances Stewart, Ashutosh Varshney, Sujata Visaria, and Jörgen W. Weibull. (shrink)
El artículo presenta la crítica de Amartya Sen al modelo antropológico que subyace a la concepción de la economía neoclásica (sobre todo en sus versiones utilitarista y de la elección racional), para exponer luego la concepción de sujeto que ofrece el enfoque de las capacidades y la noción del desarrollo como libertad.
Amartya Sen has made deep and lasting contributions to the academic disciplines of economics, philosophy, and the social sciences more broadly. He has engaged in policy dialogue and public debate, advancing the cause of a human development focused policy agenda, and a tolerant and democratic polity. This argumentative Indian has made the case for the poorest of the poor, and for plurality in cultural perspective. It is not surprising that he has won the highest awards, ranging from the Nobel (...) Prize in Economics to the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honor. This public recognition has gone hand in hand with the affection and admiration that Amartya's friends and students hold for him. -/- This volume of essays, written in honor of his 75th birthday by his students and peers, covers the range of contributions that Sen has made to knowledge. They are written by some of the world's leading economists, philosophers and social scientists, and address topics such as ethics, welfare economics, poverty, gender, human development, society and politics. -/- Contributors include: Bina Agarwal, Isher Ahluwalia, Montek S Ahluwalia, Ingela Alger, Sabina Alkire, Paul Anand, Sudhir Anand, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Muhammad Asali, Department of Economics, A. B. Atkinson, Amiya Kumar Bagchi, Pranab Bardhan, Lourdes Benería, Francois Bourguignon, Sugata Bose, Walter Bossert, John Broome, Satya R. Chakravarty, Lincoln C. Chen, Martha Alter Chen, Kanchan Chopra, Rajat Deb, Simon Dietz, Bhaskar Dutta, James E. Foster, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, Wulf Gaertner, Indranil K. Ghosh, Jonathan Glover, Peter Hammond, Christopher Handy, Christopher Harris, Cameron Hepburn, Jane Humphries, Rizwanul Islam, Satish K. Jain, Ayesha Jalal, Mary Kaldor, Sunil Khilnani, Stephan Klasen, Jocelyn Kynch, Isaac Levi, Oliver Linton, Enrica Chiappero Martinetti, Kirsty McNay, Martha C. Nussbaum, Siddiqur R. Osmani, Elinor Ostrom, Prasanta K. Pattanaik, Edmund S. Phelps, Mozaffar Qizilbash, Gustav Ranis, Martin Ravallion, Sanjay G. Reddy, Kevin Roberts, Ingrid Robeyns, Maurice Salles, Emma Samman, Cristina Santos, Thomas. M. Scanlon, Arjun Sengupta, Tae Kun Seo, Anthony Shorrocks, Ronald Smith, Rehman Sobhan, Robert M. Solow, Nicholas Stern, Frances Stewart, Joseph E. Stiglitz, S. Subramanian, Kotaro Suzumura, Alain Trannoy, Ashutosh Varshney, Sujata Visaria, Guanghua Wan, Jörgen W. Weibull, John A. Weymark, and Yongsheng Xu. (shrink)
Se presenta un breve y sintético recorrido de la producción teórica publicada de Amartya Sen y algunos textos clásicos que acompañan la fundación del campo del desarrollo Humano. La intención es mostrar el proceso de su pensamiento y la diversidad de temas que plantea. El supuesto es que Sen expresa sintéticamente la complejidad del campo.
La démocratie est certainement le fil conducteur de l’ensemble de l’œuvre – a priori épars – de l’économiste et philosophe Amartya Sen. D’une part, sa foi en la démocratie apparaît comme la raison première de sa volonté de défier le « théorème d’impossibilité » établi par Kenneth Arrow au début des années cinquante, et comme une ligne directrice dans sa recherche en théorie du choix social. D’autre part, dans ses analyses de problèmes sociaux plus empiriques, comme la famine ou (...) les inégalités.. (shrink)
While there is only little transformation to the absolute power of the party-state to be detected, some grassroots democratic experiments, however, are receiving enormous attention of the world, especially village elections. Nevertheless, this preliminary exercise of democracy is widely characterized as a mixed bag of results. Since its first conduction, it has experienced immense development and bought great impact not only on different rural political institutions, but also on common mass villagers, as well as changes to the local governance. But (...) at the same time, the limitations of the factual effectiveness of these elections can hardly be underestimated and such aspects as the standardization of electoral procedures are still to be further improved. Moreover, given the wide variations across Chinese countryside and the strong oppositions from all levels, the future of China’s village elections remain hard to gauge. (shrink)
El libro está constituido por un conjunto de ensayos de carácter multidisciplinario sobre diferentes visiones del concepto de calidad de vida, presentados en una conferencia realizada en Helsinski durante el mes de julio de 1988 organizada por Martha Nussbaum y Amartya Sen. La obra probablemente constituye el resultado de un primer gran esfuerzo de carácter internacional por confrontar ideas entre filósofos, sociólogos, médicos y economistas con el objeto de replantear el concepto de desarrol..
El Enfoque de las Capacidades de Sen se distingue en el terreno de la justicia distributiva porque ha intentado establecer criterios evaluativos que superen el atomismo de las teorías utilitaristas. Pero algunos pensadores críticos han señalado que el Enfoque aún mantiene una impronta individualista que limita su alcance a la hora de implementar políticas públicas tendientes a transformar estructuras injustas. Para estos críticos, los conceptos básicos de Sen deben complementarse con una noción de capacidad colectiva o común, irreductible a términos (...) individuales, que permita dar cuenta de los procesos intersubjetivos del desarrollo de la agencia y de la constitución de la identidad personal. En este artículo se analizarán algunas críticas comunitaristas al Enfoque y se intentará postular un candidato plausible a capacidad colectiva, que respete el núcleo vivo de los comentarios y que mantenga los conceptos de capacidad y de agencia centrales en la teoría de Sen. --- “Communities of Meaning as Collective Capabilities. A Communitarian Revision of Amartya Sen’s Theory”. Sen’s Capability Approach it is distinguished in the field of the distributive justice, because It has tried to set evaluatives terms that exceed the atomism of the Utilitarian theories. But some critical thinkers have pointed out that the Approach still keep an individualistic style that restrict its impact at the moment of implementing public policies. For these critics, Sen’s basic concepts must be complemented with the idea of collective capability, irreducible to indivudual terms, that allows to account to the intersubjective process of agency and the personal identity constitution. This paper will attempt to present a plausible candidate to the collective capability, that respects the live core of the communitarian comments and that keeps the capability and agency concepts, which are fundamental in Sen’s theory. (shrink)
In The Idea of Justice (2009), Amartya Sen advocates democracy defined as ?public reasoning? and ?government by discussion?. Sen?s discursive approach facilitates the exercise of political freedom and development of one?s public capacities, and enables victims of injustice to give public voice and discussion to specific injustice. It also responds to the contested nature of ?universal human rights? and the need to clarify and defend them via public reasoning. However, Sen?s approach leaves intact the hegemony of a liberal form (...) of democracy that prioritizes political and civil rights over social and economic rights and thus precludes alternative democratic forms, most notably a form of cooperative democracy that politicizes social and economic activities in the pursuit of local and global justice. Sen?s ?government by discussion? must combine with cooperative democracy and a global ethos emphasizing cooperation (and action) over privatization in order to address our most serious global injustices, including exploitation, inequality and poverty in the Global South, accelerating destruction of the environment and biodiversity, and global warming and climate change. (shrink)
The paper examines Amartya Sen’s seminal work Development and Freedom (1999) in relation to his underlying conception of justice and particularly in relation to the tension that arises in the correlation between basic freedom and basic goods. The idea is to address the question as to which of the two elements (basic goods or basic freedoms) takes precedence to the enactment of global justice. The paper advances a particular distinction between a foundational approach and a functional approach when addressing (...) the question of the priority and primacy of any of the two elements and sheds light on a contentious answer, namely, that basic goods are foundationally primary in relation to basic freedoms and that such a primacy does not rule out the functional priority of basic freedoms. (shrink)
Modern engineering is complicated by an enormous number of uncertainties. Engineers know a great deal about the material world and how it works. But due to the inherent limits of testing and the complexities of the world outside the lab, engineers will never be able to fully predict how their creations will behave. One way the uncertainties of engineering can be dealt with is by actively monitoring technologies once they have left the development and production stage. This article uses an (...) episode in the history of automobile air bags as an example of engineers who had the foresight and initiative to carefully track the technology on the road to discover problems as early as possible. Not only can monitoring help engineers identify problems that surface in the field, it can also assist them in their efforts to mobilize resources to resolve problem. (shrink)
What should our theorizing about social justice aim at? Many political philosophers think that a crucial goal is to identify a perfectly just society. Amartya Sen disagrees. In The Idea of Justice, he argues that the proper goal of an inquiry about justice is to undertake comparative assessments of feasible social scenarios in order to identify reforms that involve justice-enhancement, or injustice-reduction, even if the results fall short of perfect justice. Sen calls this the “comparative approach” to the theory (...) of justice. He urges its adoption on the basis of a sustained critique of the former approach, which he calls “transcendental.” In this paper I pursue two tasks, one critical and the other constructive. First, I argue that Sen’s account of the contrast between the transcendental and the comparative approaches is not convincing, and second, I suggest what I take to be a broader and more plausible account of comparative assessments of justice. The core claim is that political philosophers should not shy away from the pursuit of ambitious theories of justice (including, for example, ideal theories of perfect justice), although they should engage in careful consideration of issues of political feasibility bearing on their practical implementation. (shrink)
Biomedical enhancements, the applications of medical technology to make better those who are neither ill nor deficient, have made great strides in the past few decades. Using Amartya Sen's capability approach as my framework, I argue in this article that far from being simply permissible, we have a prima facie moral obligation to use these new developments for the end goal of promoting social justice. In terms of both range and magnitude, the use of biomedical enhancements will mark a (...) radical advance in how we compensate the most disadvantaged members of society. (shrink)
The concept of preference dominates economic theory today. It performs a triple duty for economists, grounding their theories of individual behavior, welfare, and rationality. Microeconomic theory assumes that individuals act so as to maximize their utility – that is, to maximize the degree to which their preferences are satisfied. Welfare economics defines individual welfare in terms of preference satisfaction or utility, and social welfare as a function of individual preferences. Finally, economists assume that the rational act is the act that (...) maximally satisfies an individual's preferences. The habit of framing problems in terms of the concept of preference is now so entrenched that economists rarely entertain alternatives. (shrink)
I take up the "What is equality?" controversy begun by Amartya Sen in 1979 by critically considering utility (J. S. Mill), primary goods (John Rawls), property rights (John Roemer) and basic capabilities in terms of what is to be distributed according to principles and theories of social justice. I then consider the four most general principles designed to answer issues raised by the Equality of Welfare principle, Equality of Opportunity for Welfare principle, Equality of Resources principle and Equality of (...) Opportunity for Resources principle. I consider each with respect to the more general normative principle that whatever theory of social or distributive justice we accept should be as ambition sensitive and endowment insensitive as feasible in real world circumstances. In this context I take up the problems of expensive tastes, expensive disabilities, lowered or manipulated preferences or ‘needs,’ and differential needs versus differential talents and abilities. I argue that the best solution is to adopt a modified version of Rawls’ theory which takes primary social goods as that which is to be distributed but which demands a Basic Rights principle that insures basic subsistent rights (as well as basic security rights) as the most fundamental principle of morality (and social justice), and then demands that Rawls’ Difference Principle be applied lexically to the ‘material’ goods of income, wealth, and leisure time, but done so that the social basis of self-respect is never undermined. (shrink)
Amartya Sen argues that for the advancement of justice identification of ‘perfect’ justice is neither necessary nor sufficient. He replaces ‘perfect’ justice with comparative justice. Comparative justice limits itself to comparing social states with respect to degrees of justice. Sen’s central thesis is that identifying ‘perfect’ justice and comparing imperfect social states are ‘analytically disjoined’. This essay refutes Sen’s thesis by demonstrating that to be able to make adequate comparisons we need to identify and integrate criteria of comparison. This (...) is precisely the aim of a theory of justice (such as John Rawls’s theory): identifying, integrating and ordering relevant principles of justice. The same integrated criteria that determine ‘perfect’ justice are needed to be able to adequately compare imperfect social states. Sen’s alternative approach, which is based on social choice theory, is incapable of avoiding contrary, indeterminate or incoherent directives where plural principles of justice conflict. (shrink)
In The Idea of Justice , Amartya Sen argues for an approach to justice that is comparative and realization-based rather than transcendental and institutional. While Sen’s arguments for such an approach may not be as convincing as he thought, there are additional arguments for it, and one is that it provides a unique and valuable platform on which an account of justice as a virtue of social and political actors (including institutions and social movements) can be built. Hence new (...) dimensions of comparison are opened up: some actors are better disposed and more successful than others at leading social change in the direction of greater justice. The main objective of this article is to use the capability approach to construct such an account. Six dimensions of acting justly are identified: (1) reducing capability shortfalls; (2) expanding capabilities for all; (3) saving the worst-off as a first step towards their full participation in economy and society, (4) which is also to be promoted by a system of entitlements protecting all from social exclusion; while (5) supporting the empowerment of those whose capabilities are to expand; and (6) respecting ethical values and legitimate procedures. I conclude by sketching some underlying moral psychology. (shrink)
Any defense of universal norms involves drawing distinctions among the many things people actually desire. If it is to have any content at all, it will say that some objects of desire are more central than others for political purposes, more indispensable to a human being's quality of life. Any wise such approach will go even further, holding that some existing preferences are actually bad bases for social policy. The list of Central Human Capabilities that forms the core of my (...) political project contains many functions that many people over the ages have preferred not to grant to women, either not at all, or not on a basis of equality. To insist on their centrality is thus to go against preferences that have considerable depth and breadth in traditions of male power. Moreover, the list contains many items that women over the ages have not wanted for themselves, and some that even today many women do not pursue – so in putting the list at the center of a normative political project aimed at providing the philosophical underpinning for basic political principles, we are going against not just other people's preferences about women, but, more controversially, against many preferences (or so it seems) of women about themselves and their lives. To some extent, my approach, like Sen's, avoids these problems of paternalism by insisting that the political goal is capability, not actual functioning, and by dwelling on the central importance of choice as a good. But the notion of choice and practical reason used in the list is a normative notion, emphasizing the critical activity of reason in a way that does not reflect the actual use of reason in many lives. (shrink)
Political egalitarianism is at the core of most normative conceptions of democratic legitimacy. It finds its minimal expression in the “one person one vote” formula. In the literature on deliberative democracy, political equality is typically interpreted in a more demanding sense, but different interpretations of what political equality requires can be identified. In this paper I shall argue that the attempt to specify political equality in deliberative democracy is affected by a dilemma. I shall illustrate the political egalitarian’s dilemma by (...) a hypothetical choice between two informational bases for political equality: Rawlsian primary goods and Amartya Sen’s capability approach. The political egalitarian’s dilemma reveals a clash between the requirement of ensuring equal possibilities to participate in the democratic process and the requirement of subjecting substantive judgments to deliberative evaluation. As such, the dilemma is a variant of the procedure vs. substance dilemma that is well-known in democratic theory. While it has sometimes been argued that deliberative democracy solves the tension between procedure and substance, the political egalitarian’s dilemma shows that this tension continues within deliberative democracy. (shrink)
In The Idea of Justice, Amartya Sen, among other things, discusses certain qualities any adequate theory of justice ought to incorporate. Two important qualities a theory of justice should account for are impartiality/objectivity and sensitivity to consequences. In order to motivate his discussion of sensitivity to consequences, Sen discusses the debate between Krishna and Arjuna from the religio-philosophical Hindu text the Bhagavad Gita. According to Sen, Arjuna represents a sensitivity to consequences while Krishna is an archetypal deontologist. In this (...) paper it will be argued that Sen's interpretation of the Gita is inaccurate. Further, a more adequate interpretation will be presented. What will be of significance is that the more adequate interpretation actually demonstrates the importance of an impartial spectator in moral reasoning. Finally, there will be a discussion of some lessons that can be taken from the Gita regarding justice generally. (shrink)
The most important voices concerning the changes now occurring in Central and Eastem Europe are those that come from within, for those voices are informed not only by indifferent data and objective reports, but by personal hopes, fears, desires and needs. Without careful consideration of what such voices say, judgment can only be sterile. Furthermore, policy decisions made without the benefit of the intemal perspective are likely to be flawed, and ineffectual. Policies won’t work if they do not take into (...) account the point of view of those who are supposed to be affected by them. There nevertheless remains an important role for outsiders to play in the discussion of the impact of political change on the future of philosophical thought, especially if the outside perspective can serve as a test of the internal view. (shrink)