Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - 12:30pm to 2:00pm
Solarium (room FA2), Falconer Hall, 84 Queen's Park



Joseph Fischel
Yale University
Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

Capability without Dignity?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018
12:30 - 2:00
Solarium (Room FA2), Falconer Hall
84 Queen's Park

Dignity may just be the most promiscuous normative abstraction. This paper, informed by dignity’s historical variability, political theoretic multipurpose, and conflicting jurisprudence, focuses on a particular but influential invocation of the term: dignity as the normative ground for the Capabilities Approach (CA) model of social justice and state entitlements. We ask whether or not the CA requires dignity as its foundational premise, and whether or not dignity may be more costly than beneficial for its vision of a minimally just society. The first section of this paper rehearses the warrants of and criticisms against the dignity-basis of the CA. We canvass the relatively sparse scholarship on dignity within the CA to situate our contribution. The next two sections are case studies, demonstrating dignity’s shortcomings for assessing and regulating sex and abortion, respectively. The fourth and final section gestures toward another normative abstraction, ‘minimum conditions of individuation,’ less promiscuous and polysemic than dignity, that might alternatively ground the CA.

Message from Presenter: Please note, that I will spend less time on part 3 of the article, about abortion, as my co-author was primarily responsible for that.

Joe Fischel is an associate professor of Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies at Yale University. His work traverses normative political theory, feminist and queer studies, and public law. His second book, titled Screw Consent: A Better Politics of Sexual Justice is coming out with UC Press in a few weeks. He is currently working on his next research project, about the life and afterlife of sodomy law in New Orleans and beyond. 

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