Creating Capabilities – Which
 Capabilities and for Whom
           Harry Brighouse
   University of Wisconsin, Madison
How to decide which capabilities?

Recognize human diversity



Recognize cultural and social diversity
How do people flourish?

Needs vary with external environment



Needs vary with non-plastic traits
Personal autonomy/self-governance

Cannot pick out a child’s tendencies at birth

Imperfect match of children’s needs to p...
But…
We need to be attached to a culture and community, for
 self-knowledge, for personal connection, and for
 meaning (Co...
Tendency for policy to focus on…


A subset of capabilities everybody needs:



those about the content of which there is
...
Education in the contemporary US...

Cognitive (math and reading)
Physical
------------------
Emotional
Moral/Social
Spiri...
A (rough) guide to capabilities in education
The self
   We value ourselves as unique human beings capable of spiritual, m...
Distributive Rules
EQUAL CAPABILITIES:
Each person’s capabilities should be equally well
  developed

EQUAL GOVERNMENT ATT...
More distributive rules

MAXIMIN:
Social inequalities are justified when they work to the
    benefit of the capability de...
Whose capabilities here and now?

Focus on less and least advantaged


Realistic assessment of the conditions facing them ...
Two purposes of moral theory


Guide evaluation of status quo



Guiding action (and policy)
Policy and practice come in sectors…
Education
Health care and public health
The economy (?)
Family policy
Housing
The env...
Sector-specific principles of distribution?



Rough heuristics



Depends on interaction with other sectors
Creating sector-specific complex resources:
           the case of education
Preparing teachers and principals
Common stan...
Not creating complex educational resources:
            the case of Title One
 “in a nation whose schools were radically
 ...
Summary
Which capabilities?: sensitive to variation in
what it takes to flourish across and within
societies

How distribu...
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Brighouse

  1. 1. Creating Capabilities – Which Capabilities and for Whom Harry Brighouse University of Wisconsin, Madison
  2. 2. How to decide which capabilities? Recognize human diversity Recognize cultural and social diversity
  3. 3. How do people flourish? Needs vary with external environment Needs vary with non-plastic traits
  4. 4. Personal autonomy/self-governance Cannot pick out a child’s tendencies at birth Imperfect match of children’s needs to parents’ values/practices We need the internal resources and external conditions needed for making and acting on good judgments about what will tend to our own flourishing (matching our values and practices to our personality)
  5. 5. But… We need to be attached to a culture and community, for self-knowledge, for personal connection, and for meaning (Community) Different societies balance community and autonomy differently There may be a precise correct equilibrium, but we don’t know it What individuals need is sensitive to the balance between autonomy and community in their society
  6. 6. Tendency for policy to focus on… A subset of capabilities everybody needs: those about the content of which there is little live public disagreement
  7. 7. Education in the contemporary US... Cognitive (math and reading) Physical ------------------ Emotional Moral/Social Spiritual
  8. 8. A (rough) guide to capabilities in education The self We value ourselves as unique human beings capable of spiritual, moral, intellectual and physical growth and development. Relationships We value others for themselves, not only for what they have or what they can do for us. We value relationships as fundamental to the development and fulfillment of ourselves and others, and to the good of the community. Society We value truth, freedom, justice, human rights, the rule of law and collective effort for the common good. In particular, we value families as sources of love and support for all their members, and as the basis of a society in which people care for others. The environment We value the environment, both natural and shaped by humanity, as the basis of life and a source of wonder and inspiration. From UK National Curriculum Statement of Values
  9. 9. Distributive Rules EQUAL CAPABILITIES: Each person’s capabilities should be equally well developed EQUAL GOVERNMENT ATTENTION The development of each person’s capabilities should receive equal attention from public institutions ADEQUACY Everyone should reach some threshold level of capability development. Inequalities above this level are fine, or governed by some other rule
  10. 10. More distributive rules MAXIMIN: Social inequalities are justified when they work to the benefit of the capability development of those whose capabilities are least developed PRIORITY Developing the capabilities of those who capabilities are less developed is always (somewhat) more urgent than developing those whose capabilities are more developed
  11. 11. Whose capabilities here and now? Focus on less and least advantaged Realistic assessment of the conditions facing them as adults Develop capabilities needed to flourish in those conditions
  12. 12. Two purposes of moral theory Guide evaluation of status quo Guiding action (and policy)
  13. 13. Policy and practice come in sectors… Education Health care and public health The economy (?) Family policy Housing The environment etc…..
  14. 14. Sector-specific principles of distribution? Rough heuristics Depends on interaction with other sectors
  15. 15. Creating sector-specific complex resources: the case of education Preparing teachers and principals Common standards Common assessments Detailed data on achievement Common language for discussing standards, assessments and achievement Professional development oriented to learning which instructional strategies are successful with which children and learning those strategies
  16. 16. Not creating complex educational resources: the case of Title One “in a nation whose schools were radically decentralized, and which lacked a common infrastructure, any effort to improve instruction would have to take on the fundamental weaknesses of the US System…. The political governance arrangements and traditions of U.S. public education inhibited even discussion of such an infrastructure…. The absence of such instruments [common standards, curricula, assessments, and data systems and professional development keyed to them] was, of course, not an oversight, but a central feature of the design of public education.” – Cohen and Moffitt, The Ordeal of Equality (Harvard, 2009)
  17. 17. Summary Which capabilities?: sensitive to variation in what it takes to flourish across and within societies How distributed?: to benefit the least advantaged (lowest capability development) Operationalizing for policy purposes requires attention to how sectors interact

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