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Ecology and the Limits of Justice: Establishing Capability Ceilings in Nussbaum's Capabilities Approach

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  • Breena Holland
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    Human impacts on large-scale ecological interactions effectively confer fundamental advantages of wealth and power to some members of society and not to others. As illustrated here by reference to a 1993 cholera outbreak resulting from degradation of aquatic ecosystems, these impacts can pose barriers to the normal channels through which one might pursue individual advantage, thereby raising tensions for liberal theories of justice that are committed both to basic liberties and to distributive fairness. I first illustrate these tensions by reference to John Rawls's theory. I then argue that although Nussbaum's theory, which emerged in dialogue with Rawls's, improves upon it in this regard, it remains subject to the same basic tensions. Instituting 'capability ceilings' that impose a limit on the set of basic opportunities available to people would help resolve this tension. Thus, in addition to Nussbaum's proposal for establishing capability thresholds, I defend capability ceilings as a friendly amendment to her theory.

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    Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Journal of Human Development and Capabilities.

    Volume (Year): 9 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 3 ()
    Pages: 401-425

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    Handle: RePEc:taf:jhudca:v:9:y:2008:i:3:p:401-425
    DOI: 10.1080/14649880802236631
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