The point of this post is to connect the Open Lifespan project to an already existing approach within the Capability Approach. Here it goes.
Concerning health-centric approaches, there’s a separate strand of literature around health justice within the Capability Approach, where the current discussion is driven by the reception of Sridhar Venkatapuram’s book, Health Justice:An Argument from the Capabilities Approach published in 2011. We abbreviate this approach as CH, adopting Venkatapuram’s own usage, standing for the ‘capability to be healthy’.
Pleased to announce here that my proposal for the HDCA 2019 Conference has been accepted as a full academic paper. You can read proposal here, and it’s called Capabilities and Open Lifespan; Martha Nussbaum’s problematic first capability concerning the end of a human life of normal length.
One necessary condition for this to happen was Martha Nussbaum’s personal email suggestion to submit a paper. I’m grateful for that.
The Human Development & Capability Association is the umbrella academic association of the human development and capability approach. This approach has been established by an economist (Amartya Sen) and a philosopher (Martha Nussbaum) and hence it represents a growing body of multi-disciplinary research covering not just the 2 foundational disciplines but other humanities as well. What I especially like about it, is its policy forming focus and political, pro-active attitude, probably coming more from its economic than its philosophical roots. Usually academic philosophical schools of thoughts don’t have such active membership.
I have already used the Capability Approach in my Open Lifespan studies publishing 3 posts here. Generally I’m contacting all the living philosophers whose work I’ve been using in my Open Lifespan studies and so far I detect a state of blissful ignorance with some notable exceptions. The biggest such exception was Martha Nussbaum who got back to me suggesting to submit a paper for the upcoming HDCA conference. Besides this we have also engaged into a quick back and forth correspondence, helping me a great deal. This is exemplary and surprising as Professor Nussbaum is the most famous and probably the busiest out of the philosophers I have contacted so far. So my submission below is honouring her suggestion. Thank you. I’m not holding my breath in terms of acceptance of this submission on part of the conference organisers though, since my topic is stretching the limits of this approach.
Capabilities and Open Lifespan; Martha Nussbaum’s problematic first capability concerning the end of a human life of normal length
Earlier, in Martha Nussbaum’s problematic first capability: what is ‘the end of a human life of normal length’? Part 1 I believe I have provided enough reason to doubt the thinking behind the current phrasing of the first capability related to a human life of normal length. I showed that understanding the ‘normal’ in ‘the end of a human life of normal length’ in a descriptive, statistical and quantitative manner either as ‘average life expectancy’ or ‘typical modal age of death’ makes it impossible to enforce such a policy to all humans in a society.
Today we will think through another interpretation of ‘normal’.
Normal as ‘minimally acceptable’ or ‘ok acceptable’
The Capability Approach is one of the strongest theoretical contender out there within the broadly defined liberal political and moral philosophy tradition trying to re-state the problems of social justice but also joining it with considerations of individual human well-beings or qualities of life. The main philosopher protagonist of the approach is Martha Nussbaum, and the main economist is Amaryta Sen, who used capabilities to work out an interdisciplinary ‘human developmental approach’ which is in a position to advice institutions on global policy.
I find the central idea behind the capability theory flexible and plausible. It is using a modal concept (capabilities) – borrowing Nussbaum’s wording – to ‘construct a normative conception of social justice’ and it shows that this concept as a primitive can potentially serve to provide an account on human rights as well.
and Human Capabilities, Female Human Beings, First published in Women, Culture and Development: A Study of Human Capabilities, ed. Martha C. Nussbaum and Jonathan (3/over (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 61—104.
Martha Nussbaum formulated a top 10 specific list for the central capabilities. I found most of them well formulated, except the first one which is
Life. Being able to live to the end of a human life of normal length; not dying prematurely, or before one’s life is so reduced as to be not worth living.