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Martha Nussbaum, the Capabilities Approach to quality of life

Martha Nussbaum, the Capabilities Approach to quality of life

Slides for an Introduction to Philosophy course at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada. These slides focus on parts of Nussbaum's 1997 article entitled "Capabilities and Human Rights."


Christina Hendricks

March 14, 2018

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  1. Martha Nussbaum The “capabilities approach” PHIL 102, UBC Christina Hendricks

    Spring 2018 Except images licensed otherwise, this presentation is licensed CC BY 4.0
  2. Questions she is addressing • How should we evaluate quality

    of life? • What does this say about how we should help those in need? Image licensed CC0 from pixabay.com Image licensed CC0 from pixabay.com
  3. Vasanti’s story Nussbaum starts Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach

    (2011) with the story of Vasanti India 2011-07-18 at 07-24- 24, Flickr photo by José Antonio Morcillo, licensed CC-BY
  4. Common approaches to considering quality of life “Capabilities Human and

    Rights” (1997) What do you think might be good ways to measure people’s quality of life around the world?
  5. GNP or GDP Problems: • Doesn’t consider distribution • Too

    narrow a measure Image licensed CC0 from pixabay.com
  6. Utilitarian approaches (based on preference satisfaction) Problems: • Also doesn’t

    consider distribution • “adaptive preferences” (283)—can reinforce inequalities Friends image , chocolate image , rock climber image licensed CC0 from pixabay.com
  7. Distribution of basic rights & resources John Rawls: rights &

    resources that all rational individuals would desire, so that even the least well off have a minimum level Problem: Having the rights & resources is not enough; social circumstances differences in ability & opportunity to use them (284)
  8. Basics of this approach Asks: what are people “actually able

    to do and to be?” (285) There are certain capabilities required to live well/flourish as a human, to live with human dignity (286)
  9. Nussbuam’s list of ten central capabilities (287-288) Life Bodily health

    Emotions Affiliation Leisure/play Other species Bodily integrity Practical reason Senses, imagination, thought Control over environment: political & material Your views…?
  10. Capabilities vs. Functioning Combined capabilities include both: • Internal capabilities:

    the internal ability to act (289) • External conditions: social opportunities & freedoms to express internal ability (290) Functioning: fulfilling one or more capabilities (289)
  11. How differs from utilitarianism? Distribution: Not just what people prefer

    or what will give them pleasure, but focus on flourishing as a human, living a fully human life
  12. Capabilities & Human Rights (optional parts of article) • Capabilities

    can clarify what “human rights” are (292-294) • Emphasize both internal and external requirements for human rights Eleanor Roosevelt & the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948); public domain on Wikimedia Commons