The Contributions of Aristotle’s Thought to the Capability Approach

  • Ricardo F. CrespoEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Philosophy book series (BRIEFSPHILOSOPH)


The objectives of this chapter are to show how Aristotle’s ideas might help to overcome some open issues in the CA: how to define specific capabilities given their plurality, and second, how to choose among capabilities and to assign weights to them given their incommensurability. Answers to these issues would provide more specific criteria for the work of the policy maker. Finally, the chapter aims to show the close link between Cartwright’s concept of capacities and Sen’s of capabilities. Nussbaum argues for a determinate list of capabilities while Sen complains that this proposal risks over-specification. The chapter suggests that Nussbaum’s list is over-specified from an Aristotelian perspective. Based on Aristotle’s ideas, then, a short list of capabilities is presented. This short list facilitates the operationalization of practical reason and the capability approach. It overcomes the inexactness where it should be overcome and it respects it where it should be respected. It also respects the spirit of the Aristotelian conception of human fulfillment and Sen’s conception of human development. Concerning the second open issue of the CA, the incommensurability of capabilities, Sect. 4.1.2 suggests that “practical comparability,” a procedure based on Aristotle’s ideas, appears as a way of overcoming it.


Aristotle’s practical thought Lists of capabilities Incommensurability of capabilities Practical comparability 


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© The Author(s) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsIAE, Universidad AustralPilarArgentina

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