Standard Article


  1. Thom Brooks

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee624

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Brooks, T. 2013. Capabilities. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


Capabilities concern freedom and human dignity. A capability marks out an ability to do or be. If I possess a capability, then I have the ability to do an action (obtain food, speak freely, etc.) or to become a certain kind of person (self-directing, etc.). A capability is different from actual functioning because I may not choose to perform these actions or become these kinds of people. This approach offers a distinctive view about justice. Part of its focus is on freedom which takes the form of securing opportunities for persons to freely choose to satisfy capabilities. Another focus pertains to human dignity, in that securing opportunities for capability satisfaction is thought to also best secure human dignity.


  • ethics;
  • feminist philosophy;
  • legal and political;
  • freedom;
  • human rights