Skip to main content

Capability Sufficiency: On the Ideal of Distributive Justice

Bevillingshaver: Lasse Nielsen
Periode: 2015-2020

Project Summary
This project is a study of the political philosophical principle of sufficiency – that the requirements
of distributive justice are fulfilled when everyone has enough (Frankfurt 1987). So far this doctrine has only been
fully developed and defended from the viewpoint of either resourcism, arguing that the
requirements of justice are fulfilled when everyone possess a sufficient amount of resources (Shue 1996; Miller 2007), or
from the viewpoint of welfarism, arguing that justice requires that everyone is sufficiently well off
in terms of welfare (Frankfurt 1987; 1997; Crisp 2003; Huseby 2010). Despite the fact that existing attempts to defend the doctrine of sufficiency
have strengthened the position as an alternative to other distributive theories such as
egalitarianism ( See Nagel 2002; Temkin 2002) or prioritarianism (See Parfit 1997; Holtug 2007), the doctrine still face serious problems: (i) thresholdfetishism (Arneson 1989); (ii) ignorance of inequalities above the threshold ( Casal 2007); (iii) theoretical groundlessness (Segall 2014). This project argues that by restating the doctrine of sufficiency within the framework of the capability approach (Originally developed by Amartya Sen 1979; 1985; 1992; 1993) as opposed to resourcism and welfarism, the doctrine of sufficiency can be provided the necessary theoretical ground and therefore be further strengthened and bolstered to cope with the objections with which it is faced. The project therefore asks the following three research questions:

(I) How should sufficiency be understood if build upon key elements of capability theory?

(II) Why is capability-sufficiency more theoretical plausible than alternative versions?

(III) Why is capability-sufficiency a better distributive ideal than equality and priority?


Project Research Publications
Nielsen, L forthcoming, “Sufficiency and Satiable Values” Accepted for Publication, Journal of Applied Philosophy (Impact factor 1,018, BFI: 2).

Nielsen, L 2019, “What is wrong with Sufficiency?”, Res Publica 25 (1): 21-38 (BFI: 2).

Nielsen, L 2018, “What is our Real Concern with Real Inequality?”, Policy Studies Journal 46 (3): 553-572 (Impact Factor: 2.83, BFI: 2).

Nielsen, L 2018, “Why Daniels Needs the Capabilities Approach”. Ethical Perspectives 25 (2): 233-256. (BFI: 1).

Nielsen, L & Axelsen, DV 2017, “Capabilitarian Sufficiency: Capabilities and Social Justice”, Journal of Human Development and Capabilities 18 (1): 46-59, (Impact Factor: 0.758; BFI: 1).

Nielsen, L 2017, “Shielding Sufficiency from Shields’ Shift”, Law, Ethics and Philosophy 5: 142-153.

Nielsen, L 2017, “Tilstrækkelighed og retfærdig fordeling”. Statsvetenskaplig Tidskrift 199 (4): 767-780. (BFI: 1).

Nielsen, L 2016, “Sufficiency Grounded as Sufficiently Free: A Reply to Shlomi Segall”. Journal of Applied Philosophy 33 (2):202-216, (Impact Factor: 1.018, BFI: 2).

Axelsen, DV & Nielsen, L 2016, “Essentially Enough: Elements of a Plausible Account of Sufficientarianism”. In Fourie, C. & Rid, A. (eds.). How much is enough? Sufficiency and thresholds in health care. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Axelsen, DV & Nielsen, L 2015, “Sufficiency as Freedom from Duress”. The Journal of Political Philosophy 23 (4): 406-426, (Impact Factor: 2.362; BFI: 2).