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Dialogues on the Capability Approach

08 Jan 2024
Seminar and ColloquiumCentre for Applied Ethics
08 Jan 2024
D801, Lee Ping Yuen Chamber, at Lee Quo Wei Academic Building, Yuen Campus, The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong + Zoom ID: 954 2157 8988; PW: 752612

   Time   Rundown
14:30-14:45Opening Ceremony (by Dr. WONG Muk Yan and Dr. Benedict CHAN)

First Session

  • 20 minutes presentation by Prof. Eric PALMER
  • 10 minutes response by Dr. Levi CHECKETTS, HKBU 
  • 15 minutes for Q&A

Second Session

  • 20 minutes presentation by Prof. Lori KELEHER 
  • 10 minutes response by Dr. Chris LI, HSU
  • 15 minutes for Q&A

Third Session

  • 20 minutes presentation by Prof. Jay DRYDYK
  • 10 minutes response by Dr. Baldwin WONG, HKBU
  • 15 minutes for Q&A


1. Capabilities and their Reach to a Global Political Context

Martha Nussbaum, one of the two primary exponents of the Human Development Approach, has introduced a list of central human capabilities that serves three purposes: as a focus of philosophical discussion concerning the good life and a good society, as a basis for establishing the constitutions of states that promote such lives, and as a reframing of the ongoing discussion of rights that is familiar in national and international contexts. This presentation provides an introduction and reflection upon Nussbaum’s approach that is intended to foster discussion of the extent to which the perspective may be set apart from its origins in liberal political theory and applied to other views of political ideals.



Speaker: Eric Palmer, Allegheny College

Eric Palmer is Professor of Philosophy at Allegheny College. He was co-editor of Journal of Global Ethics from 2013-2023, and is past-President of the International Development Ethics Association. He has been co-director of a series of U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities Institutes focused upon development ethics.

2. The Capability Approach, Integral Human Development Ethics, and Concepts East and West

This presentation begins with an overview of the core concepts of Capability Approach (CA) and Ingrid Robeyn’s A, B and C Module analysis of the approach. I then introduce my own view Integral Human Development Ethics (IHDE) – which strives to promote the flourishing of each person and of the whole person. I explore whether IHDE might qualify as either what Robeyns calls a capability theory, or as a hybrid theory. I end the presentation by asking how some core concepts of the CA and IHDE might cohere with Eastern thought including the Buddhist karuna, and the Sikh, ekta.



Speaker: Lori Keleher, New Mexico State University, USA

Lori Keleher is Professor of Philosophy at New Mexico State University, in the United States. She is the President of the International Development Ethics Association, and has served in various leadership roles in the Human Development and Capability Association. She co-edited the Routledge Handbook of Development Ethics (with Jay Drydyk); Agency and Democracy in Development Ethics (with Stacy Kosko); and Lebret and the Projects of Économie Humaine, Integral Human Development, and Development Ethics (with Des Gasper). She is a co-editor of Journal of Global Ethics

3. Why Capabilities Matter

Being free to live well: this is the core idea of the capability approach. Common sense and philosophy join to suggest there are many valuable capabilities, including being free to keep healthy, to become educated, and to have good relationships at work, at home, in political life, in nature, and at play. By measuring these capabilities, we can check on social progress and on the worst inequalities – both within countries and among them. Unequal capability – being unequally free to live well – calls for change. In this presentation I show how such appeals for change are based on some of the strongest pillars of human moral psychology.



Speaker: Jay Drydyk, Carleton University, Canada

Jay Drydyk is Professor of Philosophy at Carleton University in Canada, where he founded a PhD program in ethics and public affairs. He is Past President of the International Development Ethics Association and Past President of the Human Development and Capability Association. Previous book projects include Displacement by Development: Ethics, Rights and Responsibilities; Theorizing Justice; Human Rights: India and the West; and (with Lori Keleher) the Routledge Handbook of Development Ethics. His current book project is Capability and Oppression.