Capability approach to human development & beyond
Dutta, Dilip (2016). 'Capability approach to human development & beyond' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.
Moving from an individual’s utilitarian perspective to the capability perspective has certainly been a major step for development of a psycho-physical human being. But to move the capability-based human development further on the trajectory of a sustained level, Sen’s suggestion in The Idea of Justice (p. 19, 2009) for the inclusion of ‘demands of duty’ or ‘deontological demands’ can be another step forward particularly for a psycho-social human being. In contemporary moral philosophy, deontology is a kind of normative theory according to which choices of individual action morally required, forbidden, or permitted. In other words, to deontologists, question of morality precedes the choice of action. This is unlike the consequentialist tradition in which choice of action precedes the question of morality. Another point to note is that consequentialists generally agree that the amount of ‘public good’ is ‘agent-neutral’ i.e., valuable states of affairs are those states of affairs that all agents have reason to achieve without regard to whether such states of affairs are achieved through the exercise of one’s own agency or not.
The deontological theories are, on the other hand, generally ‘agent-centerd.’ According to agent-centered theories, individuals have both permissions and obligations that give them agent-relative reasons for action. At the heart of ‘agent-centered deontological theories’ (with their agent-relative reasons) is the idea of agency. Morality is intensely personal in the idea of agency; individuals are each, therefore, enjoined to keep their own moral house in order. Their categorical obligations are not to focus on how their actions cause or enable other agents to do their actions; the focus of their categorical obligations is to keep their own agency free of moral impurity. Each agent’s distinctive moral concern with its own agency has some direct implication for the role of intention or motive, and mental states for execution of its own actions. Thus, an individual’s moral concern leads to its ‘moral obligation.’ But one’s ‘moral obligation’ refers to a belief that its act is prescribed by its set of values. An individual’s values and therefore duty could change in response to its needs and purposes in relation to new opportunities and constraints that may emerge in its surrounding world. Here arises the need for distinguishing objective duty from subjective one.
Because a psycho-social human being leads manifold existence– as a social entity, a political entity, an economic entity, a psychosomatic entity and above all as a spiritual being– a total/balanced human development will therefore involve manifold expressions of all these entities in a single being. This is why for its balanced human development an individual requires a conscious integrated approach to amalgamate these expressions in a harmonious fashion. Such an integrated approach is also referred as the holistic approach to underline a sustained total/balanced human development. Such development will be elaborated step by step in two sections titled (i) role of an individual soul on the development of a human personality, and (ii) sustained and balanced development of a human personality.
Our life has both inner and outer purposes. Human beings are essentially spirit and are connected with the cosmos. Our inner purpose is to awaken the consciousness that we are part of the whole universe i.e., to realise the infinite and immortal dimension of human beings. Most of us, the ordinary people, use all our energies, time, body, brain, mind and everything, to become involved in today’s busy life predominantly with the outer or external world only. In this pursuit, one really ends up with identifying one’s ‘true self’ with one’s mind and, therefore, with the false self i.e., the ego; and then perceives, consciously or unconsciously, as an isolated fragment of the interconnected whole, and separate from not only one’s own inner self, but also the world around. Consequently, one becomes vulnerable and threatened by the mind’s desires, urges, emotions, and delusions; and ends up living in a state of constant want and fear, which makes one victim of endless reactions– anger, frustration, jealousy and hatred. The objective of the holistic approach to daily life is to integrate the inner and outer purposes of our life, or alternatively speaking, to spiritualise our daily duties and activities by living in alignment with the inner purpose.
Equipped with a stable mind, a human personality has the inherent capacity to become conscious of its embodied soul in the initial stage of its conscious journey towards the higher stage of sustained and balanced human development. Because the embodied soul is the reflection of the real Soul, a continuous attempt by the conscious personality with strong will power is expected to help build a perfect character, which is the precondition for its attainment into a stage of sustained and balanced human development-- a harmonious relatioship of the stable and conscious mind with its real Soul, and then going beyond by eventually merging into the realm of peace and stillness.
The ‘capability-based sustained human development’ is here defined as:
the enhancement of a psycho-social human being’s internal capability (for progressing towards its spiritual realization on top of its social realization) by creating a stable state of mind (for the achievement of its calmness and peace) and by simultaneously transcending with moral conviction all the desultory facts about him/her in order to concentrate on the chosen work at hand by drawing as much energy as possible from the ‘perpetual surplus’ that lies within all individual human beings.