Saving the Polar Bear, Saving the World: Can the Capabilities Approach do Justice to Humans, Animals and Ecosystems?
- 1k Downloads
Martha Nussbaum has expanded the capabilities approach to defend positive duties of justice to individuals who fall below Rawls’ standard for fully cooperating members of society, including sentient nonhuman animals. Building on this, David Schlosberg has defended the extension of capabilities justice not only to individual animals but also to entire species and ecosystems. This is an attractive vision: a happy marriage of social, environmental and ecological justice, which also respects the claims of individual animals. This paper asks whether it is one that the capabilities approach can really deliver. Serious obstacles are highlighted. The potential for conflict between the capability-based entitlements of humans and those of nonhuman animals or ‘nature’ is noted, but it is argued that this does not constitute a decisive objection to the expanded capabilities approach. However, intra-nature conflicts are so widespread as to do so: the situation is outside the circumstances of justice as they are standardly understood. Schlosberg attempts to reconcile such conflicts by re-examining what it means to flourish as a sentient nonhuman animal. This fails, because of the distinction between flourishing as a species, which often requires predation, and flourishing as an individual, which is as frequently incompatible with it. Finally, the paper considers how a capabilities theorist might move beyond such conflicts, identifying two possible strategies (which are not themselves unproblematic) for reconciling the demands of humans, animals and ecosystems.
KeywordsCapabilities Nussbaum Schlosberg Justice Nonhuman animals Ecosystems
Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the New Voices in Politics Seminar, Newcastle University, 22 January 2009, the Research Seminar in Political Theory, University of Edinburgh, 30 January 2009, and the 8th Global Conference in Environmental Justice and Global Citizenship, Mansfield College, Oxford, 10 July 2009. It has greatly benefited from the discussion on all three occasions. I am also indebted for highly constructive written comments to Jan Deckers, Hannah Droop, Cecile Fabre, Clare Heyward, and two anonymous reviewers for Res Publica.
- Anderson, Elizabeth. 2004. Animal rights and the values of nonhuman life. In Animal rights: Current debates and new directions, ed. Cass Sunstein, and Martha Nussbaum, 277–279. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Barry, Brian. 2001. Culture and equality. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Baxter, Brian. 2005. A theory of ecological justice. Oxford: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Beitz, Charles. 1975. Justice and international relations. Philosophy & Public Affairs 4: 360–389.Google Scholar
- Bell, Derek. 2006. Political liberalism and ecological justice. Analyse & Kritik 28: 206–222.Google Scholar
- Caney, Simon. 2007. Justice beyond borders. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Cowan, Tyler. 2003. Policing nature. Environmental Ethics 25: 169–182.Google Scholar
- Deckers, Jan. 2009. Vegetarianism, sentimental or ethical? Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics (online first).Google Scholar
- Dworkin, Ronald. 2000. Sovereign virtue: The theory and practice of equality. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Hails, Chris, et al. (eds.). 2008. Living planet report 2008. Gland: WWF International.Google Scholar
- Hatley, James. 2004. The uncanny goodness of being edible to bears. In Rethinking nature: Essays in environmental philosophy, ed. V. Foltz, and R. Frodeman. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
- Hume, David. 1740. A treatise of human nature, vol. III: Of morals. In A Treatise of Human Nature, ed. L A Selby-Bigge. New York: Oxford University Press. (Revised edition, 1978).Google Scholar
- Nuffield Council of Bioethics. 2005. The ethics of research involving animals. London: Nuffield Council of Bioethics.Google Scholar
- Nussbaum, Martha. 1990. Aristotelian social democracy. In Liberalism and the good, ed. B. Douglass, G.M. Mara, and H.S. Richardson. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Nussbaum, Martha. 2000. Women and human development. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Nussbaum, Martha. 2006. Frontiers of justice: Disability, nationality, species membership. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Paterson, Tony. 2008. Knut is a psychopath and will never mate, say experts. The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/knut-is-a-psychopath-and-will-never-mate-say-experts-772865.html. Accessed 10 September 2009.
- Pogge, Thomas. 2002. World poverty and human rights. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Rawls, John. 1971. A theory of justice. New York: Oxford University Press. (Revised edition 1999).Google Scholar
- Rawls, John. 1993. Political Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press. (Paperback edition 1996).Google Scholar
- Regan, Tom. 1983. The case for animal rights. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press. (Revised edition 2004).Google Scholar
- Sen, Amartya. 1992. Inequality reexamined. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Sen, Amartya. 1999. Development as freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Singer, Peter. 2003. Not for humans only: The place of nonhumans in environmental issues. In Environmental ethics: An anthology, ed. A. Light, and H. Rolston. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Singer, Peter. 1974. All animals are equal. In Applied ethics, ed. Peter Singer. Oxford: Oxford University Press, (1986).Google Scholar
- Thadeusz, Frank. 2007. Is Berlin’s polar bear baby too human? Knut should be Killed, say some animal activists. Der Spiegel. http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,472480,00.html. Accessed 10 September 2009.
- The Economist. 2009. Obituary: John Bachar. http://www.economist.com/obituary/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14029915. Accessed 10 September 2009.