On ‘consequentialism’ and the capability approach

Qizilbash, Mozaffar (2019). 'On 'consequentialism' and the capability approach' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA 2019, London, UK.


Discussions of ‘consequentialism’ and the ‘capability approach’ are potentially confusing and misleading because of the distinct ways in which these terms are used. On the one hand, Amartya Sen defends consequentialism and advances his capability approach in such a way that it is compatible with consequentialism as he understands it. On the other hand, Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities approach does not endorse consequentialism, because to endorse it would be inconsistent with political liberalism. Finally, Kotaro Suzumura believes that the capability approach is ‘non-consequentialist’ because it is not merely concerned with the outcome of choice, but with the freedom to choose specific outcomes. This paper attempts to clarify some of the issues involved, and the question of how consequentialists might respond to some of the central claims advanced in the capability literature.

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