If you want to know how someone is living, the capability approach suggests that it should be more appropriate to look at his capabilities, i.e., what he is able to do and to become, rather than income or the degree to which he is subjectively satisfied with life. Nussbaum intends to develop the capability approach into a theory of basic social justice, according to which the state’s role is to fully set the stage of a list of central human functional capabilities of a threshold level for its people. After being equipped with these capabilities, whether and how someone will exercise each of them is a personal matter; the state has to respect their choices. The capability approach accuses the utilitarian approach of failing to perceive the phenomenon of ‘adaptive preference’ and its associated problem of ‘preference deformation’ precisely because the utilitarian approach fully takes the self-reported satisfaction of life and the degree of desire-fulfillment. Amartya Sen and Martha C. Nussbaum indicate that adaptive preference has to do with the deformation of preferences and the genesis of adaptive preference may involve certain adverse structural factors such as the deliberate manipulation of other people. Without being aware of the problem of adaptive preference, the utilitarian approach runs the risk of fostering the status quo unjustly. By comparison, Elster is concerned with the problematic mechanism through which adaptive preference is formed. It is an unconscious process which violates one’s autonomy and rationality. Given that an individual’s conception of happiness is partly constituted by one’s wants, desires, and preferences, it is educationally important about how to avoid the problem of adaptive preference by making sure they are reflective of one’s genuine and not distorted preferences. At this point, the two educational goals of nurturing one’s autonomy and fostering one’s happiness are joined together.
|Effective start/end date
|2017/08/01 → 2019/01/31
- adaptive preference
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