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october, 2018

24oct12:10 pm1:10 pmCapability without Dignity? A Lunchtime presentation by Dr. Joseph Fischel


Event Details

This paper contemplates whether the costs of “dignity” as the foundational core of the Capabilities Approach to social justice and institutional obligation are worth the benefits.

Martha Nussbaum’s renovated Capabilities Approach provides a robust alternative to competing liberal theories of social justice. It asks a whole lot more from the state. It does so, in part, by keying justice to the realization of and respect for “dignity” rather than practical reason.
But dignity, as philosophers point out, is perhaps the most promiscuous normative abstraction around. “Dignity” advances a variety of policy directives and state obligations. Some of those directives and obligations are unclear; some are contradictory; and some are misguided as measured against the other moral imperatives of the Capabilities Approach.

Using sex and abortion as our case studies, we trouble dignity as the ground of Nussbaum’s CA. For even Nussbaum’s own rather radical reconstruction of dignity may not be able to perform the moral and political labor for which it is tasked.

About the Speaker

Dr. Joseph Fischel is a visiting scholar in residence with the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law this Fall. The Center is pleased to host Dr. Fischel in this lunchtime program on his paper with Claire McKinney, “Capability without Dignity”. Professor Katherine Franke will moderate questions and discussion.


This program is hosted by the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School.


(Wednesday) 12:10 pm - 1:10 pm


Jerome Greene Hall, Room 646

435 West 116th Street


The Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality is the locus of interdisciplinary feminist and queer scholarship and teaching at Columbia University.

Columbia University
Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality

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