The John M. Olin Center

Paper Abstract

602. Louis Kaplow, Primary Goods, Capabilities,...or Well-Being?, 11/2007; subsequently published in Philosophical Review, Vol. 116, No. 4, 2007, 603.

Abstract: Theories of distributive justice and of the aggregate social good typically require a method of assessing each individual’s situation. Among the common measures are primary goods, capabilities, and well-being. This article advances the argument that approaches that focus on the means of fulfillment, where the means are multi-dimensional, are subject to an objection if advanced as ideal normative theories. In general, it is possible to raise every individual’s well-being by deviating from the dictates of means-based theories. This result is problematic not only on welfarist grounds but also if freedom, autonomy, or consent is regarded to be important. It is suggested that means-based theories nevertheless have appeal, but for instrumental, not intrinsic reasons.

602: PDF