Workshop: Foundational Issues of the Capability Approach

March 6-7, 2019

The Centre for Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy at KU Leuven, in collaboration with the Foundational Issues in the Capability Approach thematic group of the Human Development and Capability Association (HDCA), cordially invite you to attend a two-day workshop on Foundational Issues of the Capability Approach. The workshop will be held at the Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven on March 6-7, 2019, and include a keynote address by Prof. Ingrid Robeyns (Utrecht University) on ‘The capability approach and non-Western world views’.

The last decades have seen a proliferation in the use of the capability approach as a method for evaluating and conceptualising human development, inequality and social justice. The capability approach, as developed initially by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, is meant as an alternative to utility, income and resource metrics to evaluate what individuals are able to do, and the kind of persons they are able to be. By reframing the analysis of an individual’s social position from the instruments (income, resources) which allow her to flourish, to a focus on the actual opportunities available to her, and her actual use of these opportunities, the capability approach expands the evaluative space for theories of inequality and justice, poverty indexes and social and development policies on health, education, or women empowerment, among many other fields.

Despite being a leading method for the normative evaluation of inequality and justice, many issues and questions regarding the definition of the capability approach and of its fundamental concepts are still open. In her most recent book, Well-being, Freedom, and Social Justice (Open Access Publishers, 2018), Ingrid Robeyns addresses these gaps through a dissection of the basic commitments of a capability theorist, a novel proposal for conceptualising the capability approach methodologically (the Modular Structure), and clarifying the use of fundamental concepts such as ‘freedom’, ‘well-being’, or ‘capabilities’ and ‘functionings’.

This workshop aims to further the discussion on the fundamental normative and conceptual issues that derive from the use of the capability approach, including the value of freedom in the capability approach, how to conceptualise the concepts of capabilities and functionings, the role of Sen’s notion of positional objectivity in justifying capabilities, and the particular applicability of the approach in various questions of social justice. The workshop will feature ten presentations by prominent capability scholars from Belgium and the Netherlands:

Keynote: Ingrid Robeyns (Utrecht)

Charlotte Vyt (UNamur)

Constanze Binder (EU Rotterdam)

Katarina Pitasse Fragoso (UCLouvain)

Danielle Zwarthoed (UCLouvain)

Matthias Kramm (Utrecht)

Morten Fibieger Byskov (Warwick)

Nicolás Brando (KU Leuven)

Pamela Joy Capistrano (Visiting at UNamur)

Stéphane Leyens (UNamur)

Attendance, including coffee/tea and lunch, is free of charge but registration is necessary. To register for the workshop, send an email to Nicolás Brando ( before Sunday 24 February 2019. A detailed programme will be distributed to attendees closer to the workshop date.


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