Martha C. Nussbaum is Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago.
Department of Philosophy
This collection of essays is most welcome addition to the burgeoning treatments of poverty and inequality. What is most novel about this volume is its sustained and informed attention to the explicitly ethical aspects of poverty and poverty alleviation. What are the ethical merits and demerits of income poverty, multidimensional-capability poverty, and poverty as nonrecognition? How important is poverty alleviation in comparison to environmental protection and cultural preservation? Who or what should be agents responsible for reducing poverty? The editors concede that their volume is not the last word on these matters. But, these essays, eschewing value neutrality and a retreat into technical mastery, challenge us to find fresh and reasonable answers to these urgent questions.
David A. Crocker
School of Public Policy
University of Maryland
In response to these questions, the author argues that development should aim at expanding people’s capabilities and functionings. Capabilities and functionings—capabilities that have been realized—tell us what people are actually able to do and be with their resources, goods, and formal freedoms. He advances the view that local stakeholders should have more authority in deciding what a development agenda looks like. This claim to local authority in development can be interpreted both as a claim to political authority and expert authority. Finally, the author argues that ad hoc, foundational, procedural, and mixed (multi-stage) methods need to be synthesized in order to select the best capabilities and functionings for development.
The Capability Approach in Practice provides a philosophical and systematic approach to setting development agendas. It is an important contribution to the literature on the capability approach and development ethics, which will appeal to a broad range of scholars within philosophy and development studies.
Although a liberal political framework protects individual judgments, May asserts that this right is based on the assumption of an individual's competency to make sound decisions. May uses case studies to examine society's approach to medical decision making when, for reasons ranging from age to severe mental disorder, a person lacks sufficient competency to make independent and fully informed choices. To protect the autonomy of these vulnerable patients, May emphasizes the need for health care ethics committees and ethics consultants to help guide the decision-making process in clinical settings. Bioethics in a Liberal Society is essential reading for all those interested in understanding how bioethics is practiced within our society.-- Mark P. Aulisio, Case Western Reserve University, Center for Biomedical Ethics