Rights, goals, and capabilities

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 12 (3):247-259 (2013)
  Copy   BIBTEX


This article analyses the relationship between rights and capabilities in order to get a better grasp of the kind of consequentialism that the capability theory represents. Capability rights have been defined as rights that have a capability as their object (rights to capabilities). Such a definition leaves the relationship between capabilities and rights to a great extent underspecified since nothing is said about the nature of those rights. Hence, it is not precluded that they are mere negative liberties, something that capability theorists deny. On the other hand, to say that all capability rights are substantive in the sense that they themselves are capabilities (rights as capabilities) will in a significant number of cases fail to match well with our intuitions. This article presents an account of the relationship between rights and capabilities that avoids these problems of underspecification and of plausibility, respectively. First, it is argued that to take the idea of capability rights seriously, three new ‘list issues’ need to be addressed. Second, developing a point made by Nussbaum, it is argued that capability rights are to be defined as being purely instrumental. Whereas the resulting analysis of capability rights solves the problems of underspecification and plausibility, it raises doubts about the claim that the capability approach gives more importance to rights than do traditional forms of consequentialism



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 84,292

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Human rights and human well-being.William Talbott - 2010 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Collective Rights and Minority Rights.Seumas Miller - 2000 - International Journal of Applied Philosophy 14 (2):241-257.
Critical Capability Pedagogies and University Education.Melanie Walker - 2010 - Educational Philosophy and Theory 42 (8):898-917.


Added to PP

72 (#187,372)

6 months
2 (#332,731)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Martin Van Hees
VU University Amsterdam