[CA 00]: purpose, what to expect, rules of the game – and a disclaimer

by Ingrid Robeyns on March 6, 2014

So, finally the previously announced capability project will start. Recall that the plan is to have a series of post, from now for at least a few weeks but possibly a few months, discussing the capability approach at a slow pace, and starting from scratch, hence assuming no background knowledge. Before I upload the first post, it may be good to be clear about why I am doing this, and what you can expect.

Purpose: I have an ‘altruistic’ motive, which is to share what I know about the capability approach [henceforth: CA] with those looking for knowledge. I have done lots of ‘voluntary’ teaching on this topic (that is, teaching for which I wasn’t paid and which was not part of my regular job) simply because I hope to help others to better understand the CA [I spent the entire first year of my PhD studies trying to figure out what exactly the CA is, so I sympathize a lot with those struggling to understand the details of the approach]. But I also have two non-altruistic motives. First, I want to learn from you too. CT has incredibly bright commentators, and I have learnt a lot from the comments on my posts in the past. So thanks in advance for anyone taking part. Second, I have been failing miserably in writing up the [graduate] textbook on the CA that has been under contract for some years now, and I hope that promising to write a series of posts will help me in prioritizing this project over other work on my constantly overflowing workplate. Of course, the discussion here at CT, and in particular any novel ideas, will be properly acknowledged in the book — assuming that book eventually gets published.

What to expect: I have a rough idea of the first set of posts, and then we will see where the discussion takes us. For the moment I plan on posting on average one post a week, but that may vary. Also, you will have noted that I am rather unreliable when it comes to delivering posts – that’s simply because CT posts tend to be lower on my priority list then doing the work I’m paid for, taking care of my kids, engaging in some local activism that is time-sensitive, etc. Also, there will most likely be a couple of posts on the CA by one or two other Timberites – we are writing these independently, and hence they do not need to subscribe to my views and claims or vice versa.

Rules of the game: I will try to be as active as I can in taking part in the discussion. Yet it is likely that sometimes I disappear a day or two from the radar screen. While I initiate the project, I do not feel under an obligation to answer all questions – for one thing, I may simply lack the time. Yet obviously anyone interested should feel free to respond to any issue they like. Put differently: we will work on the assumption that questions are not addressed in particular to me, but to anyone reading. Perhaps it is unneeded to spell this out so explicitly, but I just don’t want people to expect that I will be able to answer each and every question that will be posed [I sometimes do get emails asking me questions on the CA, and follow-ups on those emails etc etc. suggesting that the writers of those emails do have such expectations]. But this disclaimer shouldn’t prevent you from asking your questions!

For those of you who are not regular readers of this Blog but who have a special interest in this project – I will number the posts so that you can see whether you’ve missed any. And perhaps it will make referencing in comments and discussion easier.

Off we go!



TM 03.06.14 at 3:57 pm

It would be kind of you to put a brief abstract of what the post is about (ideally explaining the acronym CA) above the fold.


js. 03.06.14 at 5:06 pm

CA = Capability Approach [to distributive justice]. See the link at the at the beginning of the post—it goes to IR’s previous post on this, and that post has links to SEP, etc., articles on the capability approach.


Ingrid Robeyns 03.06.14 at 7:20 pm

TM: as js. says, but I’ll add a sentence for those who missed the announcement and don’t click on the link.


TM 03.06.14 at 8:05 pm

I did figure that out, my suggestion was to add an introduction above the fold so the readers knows at a glance what the post is about.

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