Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Philosophy and Public Affairs

Reader 1

Paul Hurley

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© 2012 Ellen Lebow


Sen and Nussbaum generate very different degrees of obligation for the affluent under their theories of justice, despite each of them deriving their theory of justice from capability as a metric for quality of life. On one hand, Sen’s account of obligation seems very weak, while Nussbaum’s seems overwhelmingly robust. I argue that the sufficient/decisivereasons framework as put forth by philosopher Derek Parfit captures the nuances of their extremely different accounts of obligation. Further, I argue that this framework convincingly demonstrates that the accounts of obligation that Sen and Nussbaum offer in each of their versions of the capability approach are unsatisfying, as each approach occupies such extremes that they are unreasonable. In spite of this, supplementing the capability approach with a different and perhaps more centrist account of obligation can make the capability approach a more consistent and appealing theory of justice. To this end, I appropriate Thomas Pogge’s account of obligation.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.