Amartya Sen

Human beings are thoroughly diverse. We differ from each other not only in external characteristics (e.g. in inherited fortunes, in the natural and social environment in which we live), but also in our personal characteristics (e.g. age, sex, proneness to illness, physical and mental abilities). The assessment of the claims of equality has to come to terms with the existence of pervasive human diversity.

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2 Responses to Amartya Sen

  1. shinichi says:

    Inequality Reexamined

    by Amartya Sen

    Inequality Reexamined

    by Amartya Sen


    Diverse Humanity

    Human beings are thoroughly diverse. We differ from each other not only in external characteristics (e.g. in inherited fortunes, in the natural and social environment in which we live), but also in our personal characteristics (e.g. age, sex, proneness to illness, physical and mental abilities). The assessment of the claims of equality has to come to terms with the existence of pervasive human diversity.

    The powerful rhetoric of ‘equality of man’ often tends to deflect attention from these differences. Even though such rhetoric (e.g. ‘all men are born equal’) is typically taken to be part and parcel of egalitarianism, the effect of ignoring the interpersonal variations can, in fact, be deeply inegalitarian, in hiding the fact that equal consideration for all may demand very unequal treatment in favour of the disadvantaged. The demands of substantive equality can be particularly exacting and complex when there is a good deal of antecedent inequality to counter.

    Sometimes, human diversities are left out of account not on the misconceived ‘high* ground of ‘equality of human beings”, but on the pragmatic low* ground of the need for simplification. But the net result of this can also be to ignore centrally important features of demands of equality.

    Diversity of Foots

    Equality is judged by comparing some particular aspect of a person (such as income, or wealth, or happiness, or liberty, or opportunities, or rights, or need-fulfilments) with the same aspect of another person. Thus, the judgement and measurement of inequality is thoroughly dependent on the choice of the variable (income, wealth, happiness, etc.) in terms of which comparisons are made, I shall call it the ‘focal variable’—the variable on which the analysis focuses, in comparing different people,

    The chosen focal variable can, of course, have an internal plurality. For example, freedoms of different types may be put together as the preferred focus of attention, or the variable selected may involve a combination of freedoms and achievements. The multiple features within a chosen focal variable have to be distinguished from the diversity between the chosen focal variables. Some variables that are often taken to be elementary and uniform do, in fact, have much internal plurality (e.g. real income or happiness).

    To use the kind of language for which we economists are often—not unreasonably—teased, this is the question of the choice of ‘space’ in which different persons are to be compared. That spatial analogy, despite its demonstratively Cartesian pretensions, is a useful classiflcatory device, and I shall invoke it to separate out the problem of the choice of focal variables (‘the choice of space’) from other issues in the assessment of inequality,

  2. shinichi says:

    不平等の再検討――潜在能力と自由

    by アマルティア・セン

    (岩波現代文庫)

    人間の不平等の問題は、所得格差の面からだけでは解決できない。一九九八年にノーベル経済学賞を受賞した著者は、本書で、これらの問題を「人間は多様な存在である」という視点から再考察することを提案した。「潜在能力アプローチ」と呼ばれるその手法は、経済学にとどまらず、倫理学、法律学、哲学など関連の学問諸分野にも多大な影響を与えている。


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