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3 - Utility and Capability

J. S. Mill and Amartya Sen

from Part I - Historical Antecedents and Philosophical Debates

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 November 2020

Enrica Chiappero-Martinetti
Affiliation:
University of Pavia
Siddiqur Osmani
Affiliation:
Ulster University
Mozaffar Qizilbash
Affiliation:
University of York
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Summary

When Amartya Sen defends his capability approach to well-being, he contrasts it with the utility theory advocated by the classical utilitarians, including John Stuart Mill. Yet a closer examination of the two views reveals that they are much more similar than they appear. Each can be interpreted in either a subjective or an objective way. When both are interpreted subjectively the differences between them are slight, and likewise for the objective interpretations. Finally, whatever differences may remain are less important than they might seem, since the two theories are developed by Sen and Mill for different purposes and, in that sense, are not genuine alternatives.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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