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John RawlsDebating the Major Questions$
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Jon Mandle and Sarah Roberts-Cady

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190859213

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190859213.001.0001

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Sen’s Capability Critique

Sen’s Capability Critique

(p.170) 9 Sen’s Capability Critique
John Rawls

Christopher Lowry

Oxford University Press

Amartya Sen’s capability critique identified a problem with Rawls’s use of primary goods as his metric of advantage (that is, his way to measure inequality). Sen offered the notion of capability as a solution that would improve the ability of justice as fairness to acknowledge unfair inequalities related to disability, among other things. This chapter aims, first, to provide a more precise and conciliatory understanding of the disagreement between Rawls and Sen (by attending to Rawls’s remarks about the value of liberties); second, to spell out the deeper theoretical implications of Sen’s critique by tracing the connections between the elements Sen modifies and other more fundamental elements in justice as fairness (such as liberal neutrality); third, to identify problems raised by those implications; and fourth, to provide a solution by developing a further modification to Rawlsian theory (namely, public value perfectionism).

Keywords:   John Rawls, primary goods, Amartya Sen, capability, disability, political liberties, fair value, equality of opportunity, neutrality, perfectionism

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