Capability and personal choice: considering Nussbaum’s definition of adaptive preference

Nakayama, Naoko (2016). 'Capability and personal choice: considering Nussbaum’s definition of adaptive preference' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

Martha Nussbaum discusses the problem of adaptive preferences in her book "Women and Human Development." She explains that the capabilities account deals with the problem better than the utility-based theories, and presents her substantive approach with a list of fundamental capabilities. However, I have some questions about her theory and its justifications. She refers arguments on adaptive preferences made by Elster, Harsanyi, Scanlon, and other theorists in order to justify her own account. On one hand, she emphasizes the importance of respecting everyone's desire and dignity, because that enables him/her to flourish. On the other hand, she claims a normative distinction between (a) a person's adapted preferences and values due to bad circumstances, and (b) his/her view of substantive goods. This distinction, however,does not seem convincing, especially in terms of theoretical consistency. Substantive theories about the good cannot stand without certain criteria on what a good life is. This means we have to consider what good (or bad) preferences are and bring in the other intrinsic problems and dilemma.
I examine Nussbaum's account of capability to see if her approach is effective in dealing with the problem of adaptive preferences without depriving his/her own dignity and autonomy in fact. For the purpose, this research refers a capability theorist Serene Khader’s work on adaptive preferences. Her idea, ‘Deliberative perfectionist approach’ might bring another view of dealing with the problems. I compare how different approaches take into account each person's dignity and autonomy, to help identify what we need in dealing with personal choice adequately.

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