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Amartya Sen on Consequentialism - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 418
Consequentialism/Sen/Weinstein: Sen concedes that his modified consequentialism turns even Williams into a consequentialist (though Williams would likely respond that, with Sen, we have an unholy hodgepodge that is no longer remotely consequentialist). Perhaps Sen's theory of equality can assist us here. >Equality/Sen, >Egalitarianism/Sen.
SenVsDwoorkin/SenVsRawls: Sen rejects Rawlsian primary goods equality and Dworkin's resource equality as well as welfare equality in favour of capability equality. Capability equality is a modified needs account of equality similar to Miller's. (>Egalitarianism/Miller).
For Sen, functionings and capability functionings determine well-being. That is, a person's life goes well when she not only manages to do various things (functions) but also possesses the where-withal (capabilities) to choose to do these things from many alternatives. >Capabilities/Sen.
Equality/Sen: Everyone deserves equal basic nourishment but not equal happiness. Freedom itself is elementary, too, and therefore everyone also deserves equal basic freedom or capability equality.
Consequentialism: In sum, morality is complex though fundamentally 'consequence-based'. Moral evaluation measures how effectively freedom and rights are promoted, duties are honoured and well-being is maximized. And these metrics are prermsed, in turn, on all enjoying the basic capability equality of 'being adequately nourished, having mobility' and 'taking part in the life of the community' (Sen, 1993(1): 36—7).
Weinstein: Notwithstanding the intricacies of measuring behaviour according to such diverse consequences, we still might insist that Sen's consequentialism is consequentialist in name only.


1. Sen, Amartya (1993) 'Capability and well-being'. In Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen, eds, The Quality of Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 30-53.

Weinstein, David 2004. „English Political Theory in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

EconSen I
Amartya Sen
Collective Choice and Social Welfare: Expanded Edition London 2017

Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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