Reasoning about Development: Essays on Amartya Sen's Capability Approach

Dissertation, Erasmus University Rotterdam (2013)
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Abstract

Over the last 30 years the Indian philosopher-economist Amartya Sen has developed an original normative approach to the evaluation of individual and social well-being. The foundational concern of this ‘capability approach’ is the real freedom of individuals to achieve the kind of lives they have reason to value. This freedom is analysed in terms of an individual’s ‘capability’ to achieve combinations of such intrinsically valuable ‘beings and doings’ (‘functionings’) as being sufficiently nourished and freely expressing one’s political views. In this account, ‘development’ is conceived as the expansion of individuals’ capability, and thus as a concept that goes beyond the economic growth of third world countries. My thesis is a philosophical examination of Sen’s capability approach. In the first part (chapters 1-3) I present and defend my interpretation of Sen’s work.

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Thomas R. Wells
Leiden University

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