Sunday, January 08, 2012

Development Opportunity & Capability, Heirarchical & Horizontal Loops, Justice as the Symmetry of Content & Law

"Issues of globalization have sparked great controversy since the 1980s. Globalization, broadly construed, is manifested in various forms of social activity including economic, political and cultural life. Practicing global ethics entails moral reasoning across borders. Borders can entail culture, religion, ethnicity, gender, race, class, sexuality, global location, historical experience, environment, species and nations. Ethicists ask how we best address issues of globalization–that is, how we begin to address conflicts that arise when vastly different cultural norms, values, and practices collide.

There have been two broad philosophical approaches to address cross-border moral disagreement and conflict. The dominant approach aims to develop moral theories that are not committed to a single metaphysical world-view or religious foundation, but are compatible with various perspectives. In other words, it is a goal to develop a theory that is both ‘thick’ (that is, it has a robust conception of the good embedded within a particular context, and respects local traditions) and ‘thin’ (that is, it embraces a set of universal norms). These universalists include human rights theorists, Onora O’Neill’s deontology, Seyla Benhabib’s discourse ethics and Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities approach. They tend to be associated with constructing ‘thin’ theories of morality. The other approach, most notably advocated by Michael Walzer, is communitarianism. Communitarians deny the possibility of developing a single universal standard of flourishing that is both thick enough to be useful and thin enough to support reasonable pluralism.

The debate between these two approaches to global ethics has reached an impasse. Since communitarians hold that moral norms are always local and valid internal to a particular community, universalists charge the communitarians with relativism. Moreover, universalists argue that communitarians fail to provide useful methods for addressing cross-border moral conflict. However, the communitarians charge the universalists with either positing theories that are too thin to be useful or advancing theories that are substantive but covertly build in premises that are not universally shared, and so risk cultural imperialism.

Martha Nussbaum believes her capabilities theory resolves the impasse and offers a viable approach to global ethics that provides a universal measure of human flourishing while also respecting religious and cultural differences. The capabilities approach, she argues, is universal, but ‘of a particular type.’ That is, it is a thick (or substantive) theory of morality that accommodates pluralism. Thus, she argues that her theory avoids criticisms applied to other universalists and communitarians. Before examining her theory, we must address her predecessor, Amartya Sen."

‎"A capability, on the other hand, is a possibility, not just any
possibility, but a real one. For example, we can talk about the
possibility of a person in a deeply poverty-stricken area to find
employment and support a family. However, such a possibility may not
be real considering external circumstances–for example, no clothing,
food or shelter. Put differently, a ‘capability set’ (as Sen calls...
it) is the total functions available for a person to perform. By
describing it in such a way, Sen places a deep correlation between
freedom and function. That is to say, the more limited one’s freedom,
the less opportunities one has to fulfill one’s functions. In sum,
Crocker (2008) says succinctly that, according to Sen, a capability X
entails (1) having the real possibility for X which (2) depends on my
powers and (3) and no external circumstances preventing me from X."

"Furthermore in an Aristotelian approach we need a teleological
structure, that would not be possible in Sen’s theory. Sen uses the
concept of functioning, Aristotle and Nussbaum use the concept of
function. Functioning is what a person can do and be, without previous
specifications; function, in an Aristotelian approach, is the proper
activity and the place adequate for a human being or for a natural
thing. «Again, the state, as composed of unlikes, may be compared to
the living beings: as the first elements into which a living being is
resolved are soul and body, as soul is made up of rational principle
and appetite, the family of husband and wife, property of master and
slave, so of all these, as well as other dissimilar elements, the
state is composed; and therefore the excellence of all the citizens
possible be the same».Functioning is an inclusive concept, function an
exclusive one. The dynamism of Aristotle’s ethics is hindered by a
concept of function that predetermines the forms and directions of

"In French philosophy, Paul Ricoeur has accorded an important place to
Aristotelian teleological ethics in his hermeneutical phenomenology of
the subject, most notably in his book Oneself as Another. Following
MacIntyre, American Methodist theologian Stanley Hauerwas has also
found the language of virtue quite helpful in his own project. More
recently, Rosalind Hursthouse has published On Virtue Ethics and Roger
Crisp and Michael Slote have edited a collection of important essays
titled Virtue Ethics, while Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen have
employed virtue theory in theorizing the capability approach to
international development. In 2010 a new development of virtue ethics
was put forward by Marc Jackson in his book Emotion and Psyche, which
uses emotions such as love, kindness and awe for the virtues and
emotions such as hate, greed and malice for the vices. This virtue
ethics is based on cultivating the feeling of emotions rather than
cultivating behaviour."

"Much of conventional welfare economics today is grounded in a
utilitarian approach according to the classical Benthamite form of
utilitarianism, in which the most desirable action is the one that
best increases peoples’ psychological happiness or satisfaction. The
“utility” of a person stands for some measure of his or her pleasure
or happiness. Some merits associated with this approach to measuring
well being are that it recognizes the importance of taking account of
the results of social arrangements in judging them and the need to pay
attention to the well being of the people involved when judging social
arrangements and their results. However, though all people want to be
happy, the concerns this approach raises are that it may overlook the
things we really value as well as fundamental inequalities. Amartya
Sen outlines three main deficiencies: distributional indifference,
neglect of rights, freedoms and other non-utility concerns, and
adaptation and mental conditioning. First off, for some more than
others, it may take much less to bring about happiness, but subjecting
them to lesser opportunities for resources and benefits is by no means
fair or just. Thus, distributional indifference refers to ignoring
extents of inequalities in what’s needed to obtain happiness on an
individual level. Secondly, the utilitarian approach attaches no
intrinsic value (ethics) to claims of rights and freedoms, which
people have reason to value and the importance of which is fundamental
to the capabilities approach. Lastly, Amartya Sen makes the argument
that the utilitarian view of individual well being can be easily
swayed by mental conditioning and peoples’ happiness adapting to
oppressive situations. The utility calculus can essentially be unfair
to those who have come to terms with their deprivation as a means for
survival, adjusting their desires and expectations. The capability
approach, on the other hand, doesn’t fall victim to these same
criticisms because it acknowledges inequalities by focusing on
equalizing people’s capabilities, not happiness, it stresses the
intrinsic importance of rights and freedoms when evaluating well
being, and it avoids overlooking deprivation by focusing on
capabilities and opportunities, not state of mind."

"The capability approach is a theoretical framework that entails two core normative claims: first, the claim that the freedom to achieve well-being is of primary moral importance, and second, that freedom to achieve well-being is to be understood in terms of people's capabilities, that is, their real opportunities to do and be what they have reason to value. The approach has been developed in a variety of more specific normative theories, such as (partial) theories of social justice or accounts of development ethics. It has also led to a new and highly interdisciplinary literature in the social sciences resulting in new statistics and social indicators, and to a new policy paradigm which is mainly used in development studies, the so-called ‘human development approach’."

"During the past fifty years, the idea has been frequently advanced of connections linking wholes and their parts, generating loops that tie together parts and wholes in such a way that the fragmentation of the whole always implies loss of information. To mention only some authors, Bateson, Capra, Hofstadter, Luhmann, Maturana, Rosen and Varela are advocates of this idea. These parts-whole connections form what we shall call ‘hierarchical loops’. When parts pertaining to a hierarchical loop are separated from their whole, they behave differently (and may have a different nature) from the way in which those same parts behave within their whole.

Hierarchical loops must be carefully distinguished from horizontal loops. The latter are well-represented by feedback and autocatalytic cycles, where elements of the same kind interact with each other. Non-linear phenomena mostly rely on horizontal

Unfortunately, the above-mentioned scholars – with the remarkable exception of Rosen – do not usually distinguish as sharply as necessary between horizontal and hierarchical loops. This unfortunate state of affairs – quite typical, however, of
newborn, still unfolding ideas – has contributed to obscuring the scientific importance of hierarchical loops. The present Quaderno focuses on Luhmann’s contribution to the theory of hierarchical loops, and the wholes to be analyzed are
social systems."

Paul Ricoeur - The Course of Recognition:

"Variations of justice

Utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism, where punishment is forward-looking. Justified by the ability to achieve future social benefits resulting in crime reduction, the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome.

Retributive justice regulates proportionate response to crime proven by lawful evidence, so that punishment is justly imposed and considered as morally correct and fully deserved. The law of retaliation (lex talionis) is a military theory of retributive justice, which says that reciprocity should be equal to the wrong suffered; "life for life, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."[7]

Restorative justice is concerned not so much with retribution and punishment as with (a) making the victim whole and (b) reintegrating the offender into society. This approach frequently brings an offender and a victim together, so that the offender can better understand the effect his/her offense had on the victim.

Distributive justice is directed at the proper allocation of things — wealth, power, reward, respect — among different people."