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Sen and Nussbaum argue that a given capability, say bodily health, can be realized in different ways. The specific way a capability is realized is called its functioning. Resources (personal, social, and natural) that help turn capabilities into functionings are called conversion factors. A bicycle is a physical conversion factor that, under favorable conditions such as roads with decent surfaces, can turn the capability of bodily integrity into movement from home to work.

The Capabilities Approach changes the way we view developing communities and their members, replacing the view of developing communities as beset with needs and deficiencies with the view that they are repositories of valuable capabilities. Humans should strive to shape and reshape the surrounding socio-technical system to bring about the exercise and expression of fundamental human capacities. According to Nussbaum, capabilities answer the question, “What is this person able to do or be?”

The Capabilities Approach, thus, adds depth to appropriate technology by providing criteria for choice; a technology derives its “appropriateness” from how it resonates with basic human capabilities and more specifically by whether it provides “conversion factors” that transforms basic capabilities into active functionings.

Amartya Sen declines to provide a definitive list of capabilities, arguing that this list varies according to context. Nussbaum, by interviewing different women’s groups and especially by studying the plight of women in India, developed a list of capabilities and has made different modifications from time to time. She provides this list in several works. “Capabilities and Human Rights” provides an early version. Subsequent versions found in Women and Development, Upheavals of Thought, Frontiers in Justice, and Creating Capabilities provide the same list but with more detail and differences in emphasis. (For example, Nussbaum, based on her study of the situation of abused women in India, argues that property rights are essential and includes these in her discussion of the capability “Control Over One’s Environment.” Nobel Prize winning economist, Amartya Sen, originated the Capability Approach and has developed it through many publications; he gives a particularly illuminating account in Development as Freedom referenced below. Finally, Ingrid Robeyns summarizes much of the literature in two articles, a Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on the Capability Approach, which has been updated frequently, and a widely-sourced paper in the Journal of Human Development, “The Capability Approach: a theoretical survey.” A particularly important addition made by Robeyns is her discussion of “conversion factors” that help turn capabilities into functionings.

Iii. precursors to the capability or human development approach


  • Nussbaum mentions three precursors of the Capability Approach, Aristotle, Marx, and Smith.
  • In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that practical reason (phronesis) makes humans unique among living things and among animals. Practical reason is not just added to other attributes that humans share with living things such as life, growth, reproduction, self-propelled movement, and perception/sensation; rather practical permeates each of these attributes that humans share with other beings to make these attributes peculiarly human.
  • Aristotle, at the beginning of the Politics, also poses the classical conception of the human being as a social animal, a being that forms communities. Aristotle social conception of the human differs fundamentally with the prevalent economic view, Homo Economicus. According to Ghoshal, Homo Economicus characterizes humans as “rational self-interest maximizers. Human studies under Homo Economicus argues that social collectives must be reduced to the isolated, independent human beings that form their parts. This methodological individuals entails ontological atomism; as opposed to Aristotle’s conception of the human as the “social animal,” Homo Economicus sees humans as determinate and complete prior to and independently of any social relationships.
  • The distinction between capability and function closely parallels the Aristotlian distinction between potentiality (dynamis) and actuality (energia); capabilities capture what humans are potentially and functionings capture the specific and unique way capabilities are realized by specific individuals in unique situations. Using a list of capabilities to outline human nature in its potentiality helps to set the minimal thresholds that must be met in order for humans to live lives of dignity without overly specifying or determining how individual turn these capabilities into functionings. In this way, capabilities represent different realms of freedom or choice.
  • Finally, Aristotle outlines basic features that set boundaries to human being; humans are vulnerable (in that conditions can arise which prevent humans from realizing their potentialities) and mortal.

Questions & Answers

Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
preparation of nanomaterial
Victor Reply
Yes, Nanotechnology has a very fast field of applications and their is always something new to do with it...
Himanshu Reply
good afternoon madam
what is system testing
what is the application of nanotechnology?
In this morden time nanotechnology used in many field . 1-Electronics-manufacturad IC ,RAM,MRAM,solar panel etc 2-Helth and Medical-Nanomedicine,Drug Dilivery for cancer treatment etc 3- Atomobile -MEMS, Coating on car etc. and may other field for details you can check at Google
anybody can imagine what will be happen after 100 years from now in nano tech world
after 100 year this will be not nanotechnology maybe this technology name will be change . maybe aftet 100 year . we work on electron lable practically about its properties and behaviour by the different instruments
name doesn't matter , whatever it will be change... I'm taking about effect on circumstances of the microscopic world
how hard could it be to apply nanotechnology against viral infections such HIV or Ebola?
silver nanoparticles could handle the job?
not now but maybe in future only AgNP maybe any other nanomaterials
I'm interested in Nanotube
this technology will not going on for the long time , so I'm thinking about femtotechnology 10^-15
can nanotechnology change the direction of the face of the world
Prasenjit Reply
At high concentrations (>0.01 M), the relation between absorptivity coefficient and absorbance is no longer linear. This is due to the electrostatic interactions between the quantum dots in close proximity. If the concentration of the solution is high, another effect that is seen is the scattering of light from the large number of quantum dots. This assumption only works at low concentrations of the analyte. Presence of stray light.
Ali Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Business, government, and society. OpenStax CNX. Mar 04, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col10560/1.6
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