Capabilities Approach

Martha Nussbaum: claims that when we speak of our interactions with nonhuman nussbaumanimals, we are dealing with issues of justice (as opposed to compassion, empathy, and so forth). Her central claim is that we can secure justice for nonhuman animals by respecting and promoting their species-specific, basic capacities: life, bodily health, bodily integrity, play, sense/imagination/thought, emotion, practical reason, affiliation, and control over one’s environment. Fulfillment of these capacities, above some “minimum threshold,” is necessary if a being is to flourish and live a dignified life. If a being, like a nonhuman animal, has one of these capacities, it is an issue of justice when we restrict this capability. Nussbaum’s approach is referred to as the “capabilities approach,” which entails direct obligations of justice to nonhuman animals in terms of entitlement. This discussion can be found in her book Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership.

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