Tuesday, 9 May 2023

The Capability's Approach's Intensional Fallacy.

The 'intensional fallacy' arises when we substitute different names or descriptions of a thing (intensions) for each other, on the basis that the underlying thing or 'extension' is one and the same. The problem is that this may not be known, or it known imperfectly known- or that the intension is 'incompossible', i.e. can't exist in the real world, because it is a 'ideal type'- and thus no actual identity between intensions exist.

Take the word Democracy. What does it actually mean? Different political philosophers may have their own conception of it. Different statesmen may give different 'extensions' to the term. Thus, Biden invited Imran Khan but not Sheikh Hasina to his Democracy summit. But many people would feel Bangladesh is more, not less, democratic than Pakistan where the Army plays an outsize role. Another problem has to do with political dynasties. Surely, they shouldn't exist in a Democracy? Yet many on the Left would see Modi's India as less democratic than the country Sonia Gandhi ruled over by proxy. 

The big problem with intensional terms is that their real world analogue or 'extension' is 'dialectical'- i.e. it changes in a non-linear way. Thus a Democracy may act in a totalitarian manner if it faces 'total war'- i.e. exigent circumstances may force us to 'take one step backward' in order to take two steps forward once the crisis has passed. 

So long as an intensional term is used in a highly restricted context or for a simple, pragmatic, purpose, no great problem arises. However, under 'unrestricted comprehension', an intensional term's extension is likely to be something unimaginable to the person using the term. We may agree that x is cooler than y. However, in a maximally cool world, the reverse may hold. I think it cooler to order Coke than tea, yet this is only because I think I'm totes uncool. Were I and everybody else the coolest version of ourselves, I'd be ordering and drinking tea and everybody would think this the coolest thing I could do. 

In Economics, great mischief is worked when the intensional fallacy is committed. Consider the term 'free market'. In a restricted sense, this is a useful enough term. The problem is that information and knowledge are themselves sources of freedom. A maximally free world would be one where information asymmetries of various types might work in the opposite manner to how they do now. The freest market might not be a market at all- at least as we understand the term. In a sense, the Hegelian element in Marx grasps this 'category theoretical' insight which a topological approach completely misses. One reason for this is that the extension of a set can have an intensional element. This means there will be impredicativity of a certain sort. Using the axiom of choice or Zorn's lemma can yield absurd results. The underlying relation may violate reflexivity & symmetry, not to mention transitivity. 

Consider all the things a particular person could possibly do. This depends on the capabilities of everybody else and how those capabilities are deployed. Nobody knows the extension of 'capabilities of person x' or indeed whether such a 'factorization' is even possible. God may know those capabilities or there may be some mathematical way to work out what they are 'at the end of time', but no human will ever be able to give that extension even for himself, let alone anybody else. One may say, the capabilities of a person are the things he was fated to do and the other things he wanted to do and could have done but which he was not fated to do. But we'd feel pretty silly if we referred to the fate of a person in any social science context. The thing is theology, or perhaps magic. It is not economics. Is it philosophy? No. Philosophers are supposed to avoid the 'masked man' or 'intensional fallacy'. The alternative is that they talk meaningless or mischievous nonsense. 

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy takes a different view-

The capability approach is a theoretical framework that entails two normative claims:

 no normative, as opposed to tautological, claim can be made about an intensional term of unknown or unknowable extension. This is because there is no way to access, and thus evaluate, the thing or bunch of things which fulfils the relevant necessary and sufficient conditions.

I can say 'evil actions are bad actions'. That is tautological, not normative. 'Bad' is a synonym for 'Evil'. Once I turn to predicates which don't mean the same thing, I find I can't make any further normative- i.e. evaluative claim- about 'evil actions', save in an arbitrary, unreasoning, manner. Thus I might say 'bad actions are always cruel actions'. This is not a normative claim. It is an arbitrary assertion that happens to be demonstrably false. An evil action may not be cruel. It may be negligent or self-serving or a product of wrong beliefs. It is true that I think cruel people are evil people but I have to acknowledge that some people are only 'cruel to be kind'. Still, we may be able to agree that there is a slippery slope from some fashionable type of sexual sadism, or a hurtful way of speaking, to outright evil. 

Sadly, Sen's capability approach involves no similar fine shades of meaning. It is simply stupid and merely meant as a 'virtue signal'. 

first, the claim that the freedom to achieve well-being is of primary moral importance

achieving x may be important. Why should the 'freedom' to achieve x also be important? The fact is we don't know we are free to do x till we actually do x. I may think I am free to walk down the road. But, I may not in fact have this freedom at all. A maniac may be lurking in an alleyway who will kill me if actually saunter down that road. 

One may say 'knowing what we could do even if we don't do it is important'. But this is like saying knowing things that we can't know would be cool. 

As a matter of fact, if every time we made a choice an angel turned up and showed up what would have happened if had we chosen differently, then our information set would greatly expand. Indeed, we would become, if not omniscient gods, then at least something like demigods.

Is it really of primary moral importance to have knowledge humans are denied? No. This is a foolish claim. Morality has a lot to do with accepting the fact that we are mortals- not omniscient gods.

Achieving well-being is important. People will pay good money to find out how to do so. But the 'freedom to achieve well-being' is not more or less important. It is the same thing- i.e. has the same extension. I like eating cake. I may say 'I like the freedom to eat cake' or 'I like the opportunity to eat cake' or 'I like being offered nice and tasty cake' but the fact remains that this liking can only be realized by actually having cake to eat. 

Suppose we didn't like the word 'freedom'. We might then speak of the moral importance of the inescapable destiny of achieving well-being by eating cake or being offered an opportunity to eat cake, or, more ponderously yet, we may speak of the impossibility of defeating God's intention that we enjoy such enhancement of our well-being or standard of living as arises from access to cake. 

second, that well-being should be understood in terms of people’s capabilities and functionings.

Why? A religious man may say 'well-being should be understood in terms of God's Will'. But an economist would be compelled to admit that well-being, for most people, depends on things far outside their own control or capability. Currently, the good people of Eastern Ukraine are showing very high capability and functioning. But their well-being has declined for reasons which have nothing to do with them. We need to help those good people if only so as to safeguard our own well-being from an Evil Dictator and his greedy bunch of gangsters. 

The fact is, 'capability' means the natural or acquired talent or skill to complete a set of actions associated with specific tasks. But completing a set of actions does not achieve anything by itself. I have the capability to type this blog post. But achieving the posting of this to my blog requires some capability which I lack which has to do with internet access and the design and maintenance of computers.

Capabilities are the doings and beings that people can achieve if they so choose — their opportunity to do or be such things as being well-nourished,

I suppose, in a state of nature, we might say of brawny hunter-gatherer that he has this capability most of the time, other things being equal. 

getting married,

We may speak of the ability to attract a mate. Marriage is a more complex phenomenon. As the Ukraine conflict continues we may hear of very attractive people who couldn't marry each other because the priority had to defeat the barbaric invader. 

being educated, and travelling;

Why stop there? Why not speak of the capability to win the Nobel Prize for pole dancing? Surely that is a matter of vital moral importance?  

The plain fact is that well-being may be achieved by people who are incapable but lucky while capable but unlucky people may die horribly. 

functionings are capabilities that have been realized.

Well-being is a state of affairs. It is not a 'function' or a 'functioning'. We may say 'that person was capable of such and such achievement whereas that other person wasn't really capable of it. He just got lucky is all.' In the former case we may say a capability has been realized whereas in the latter we might say that the thing was premature or a fluke. 

Whether someone can convert a set of means - resources and public goods - into a functioning (i.e., whether she has a particular capability) crucially depends on

whether that's what she normally does. If we hire a guy because he is known to be a capable plumber and we give him the tools to do a type of plumbing job which he has done many times before then we might ask which 'functioning' of his has diminished if he can't complete the job because Putin blew up the building. 

 literature, are called ‘conversion factors.’ 

Research can show the importance of not letting Putin blow up buildings because this affects 'conversion factors' to do with Ukrainian plumbers failing to fulfil their proper functions. Students of Sen are even now counselling such plumbers who don't understand why they aren't able to fix toilets in buildings which Putin's goons have blown up. 

Capabilities have also been referred to as real or substantive freedoms as they denote the freedoms that have been cleared of any potential obstacles, in contrast to mere formal rights and freedoms.

Ukrainians are such fools they are fighting and dying to preserve 'mere formal rights and freedoms'. Sen's students will 'clear all potential obstacles' created by Putin. Such is the magic of the Capabilities approach.  

Within philosophy, the capability approach has been employed to the development of several conceptual and normative theories within, most prominently, development ethics, political philosophy, public health ethics, environmental ethics and climate justice, and philosophy of education.

In other words, stupid cretins or budding bureaucrats have indulged in this gobbledygook so as to virtue signal.  

This proliferation of capability literature has

not helped anybody. It has wasted resources.  

led to questions concerning what kind of framework it is;

it is a utter waste of time of a type which appeals to brain-dead bureaucrats and useless virtue signalers

how its core concepts should be defined;

there is no point defining what can't be known 

how it can be further specified for particular purposes

particular purposes are ideographic, not nomothetic, and thus outside the purview of philosophy 

; what is needed to develop the capability approach into an account of social justice;

stupid lies. But anyone can pretend that Society is very unjust because elderly men, like me, can't earn as much money as pole dancers compared to young women with attractive bodies.  

how it relates to non-Western philosophies

it has sexual relations, of a particularly repugnant type, with non-Western philosophies . On the other hand, it is related,, by marriage,  to some non-Southern philosophies which are even kinkier. 

; and how it can be and has been applied in practice

it has led to some cretins publishing stupid virtue signaling shite. 

The capability approach has its origins in a number of articles in which Sen (1974; 1979a; 1979b)

like some other Turd World economists at the time was trying to pretend that Bangladesh was richer than America or Indira's Emergency had made Indians freer because they were being more regularly beaten or incarcerated.  

criticizes the limited informational bases of the traditional economic models and evaluative accounts (i.e., utilitarianism and resourcism).

Information costs money. Economists should economize on what is costly.  

What is missing from these traditional models, Sen argues, is a notion of what activities we are able to undertake (‘doings’) and the kinds of persons we are able to be (‘beings’).

This is nonsense. Everybody has always understood that if you have a lot of money you can do things which cost a lot of money and be things- e.g. a Society Hostess or the funder of a Political Party- which are prestigious and make you feel swell about yourself.  

Sen calls this notion capabilities.

Which is not what they are. A poor kid may be more capable of playing cricket and studying Latin than a rich kid who goes to Eton. Spending a lot of money can either endow that capability or yield a utility equal to having it. It is one thing to be able to go into the Jungle and shoot a Tiger. It is another to pay for a hunting expedition where an expert shikari enables you to shoot a Tiger in between gourmet meals.  

Capabilities are the real freedoms that people have to achieve their potential doings and beings.

No they aren't. A capability is a potential. What changes a potentiality into an achievement is not the existence of freedom- which means the absence of a restraint- but a concatenation of events. However, the thing may be multiply realizable.  

Real freedom in this sense means that one has all the required means necessary to achieve that doing or being if one wishes to.

In which case every slave capable of paying for manumission has more 'real freedom' than a person in a country which has abolished slavery because the slave has two choices, in that respect, whereas the free person has only one. Recall, that a slave of a particular faith or ethnicity may enjoy greater security as the property of an important man than he would do if he purchased his own freedom (for e.g. by borrowing money from an usurer who knows the fellow is skillful enough to do well financially and thus pay off the debt with interest) 

That is, it is not merely the formal freedom to do or be something, but the substantial opportunity to achieve it.

Either an opportunity is substantive or it does not exist. Similarly, either a freedom is real or it does not exist.  

In this way, the capability approach changes the focus from means (the resources people have and the public goods they can access) to ends (what they are able to do and be with those resources and goods).

In which case since India has lots more people than the US, it must be much better off.  The bigger question is why economists and engineers and doctors concentrate on means rather than ends? The answer is that Time has an arrow. That's why we first assemble the ingredients of a meal before cooking and eating it. If you try to eat stuff you haven't cooked yet, you bite at air.  

This shift in focus is justified because resources and goods alone do not ensure that people are able to convert them into actual doings and beings.

It is enough that there is a relationship of 'Granger causality' between the two. It is a fact that knowing the endowment set correlates very well with making good predictions about outcomes. This is also why people tend to want to have more money rather than less.  

I suppose, if some billionaire decides to give us as much money as we need, we would invent all sorts of reasons why we need much more money than other people in the pool of beneficiaries. The trouble is, the billionaire may decide he needs a trillion dollars in order to stave off premature death in eighty or a hundred years time. 

How much money would it take to 'convert' Sen's capability to talk worthless shite into the the ability to feed himself adequately solely from dog poo? Surely, it is worth funding research into this important question? 

Two persons with similar sets of goods and resources may nevertheless be able to achieve very different ends depending on their circumstances.

Or on wholly unconnected circumstances. Still, there is 'Granger causality'. That's good enough if we are speaking of a large enough population without too much preference or endowment diversity. 

One of the most prominent illustrations within the capability literature of the need to move beyond a focus on goods and resources is found in Sen’s (1979a) “Equality of What?” Tanner lectures. Here, Sen asks us to consider two persons with the same set of resources. Yet, one person suffers from a disability. This disability makes her unequal to the able-bodied person in two regards, which cannot be captured by a sole focus on resources.

Yes it can. The endowment set includes a list of all possible bodily actions and states. Sen was lying or just being stupid.  

First of all, the disabled person is unequal in terms of what she can do or be with her resources compared with the physically able person.

In some respects but not in others.  

She may, for example, be confined to a wheelchair and thus restricted to places that are wheelchair-accessible.

She can be carried.  

Secondly, the disabled person may even be doubly worse off because she only gets the same amount of resources even though she has more expenses in order to correct for her disability.

But every person may be triply worse because she only gets the same amount of resources even though she has more expenses in order to correct for the fact that she does not have two or more physical bodies.  

That is, because the disabled person needs to spend a considerable amount of her resources on a wheelchair merely to move around, she has fewer resources available to pursue other goals than the able-bodied person who can spend all her resources on pursuing her valued ends.

but dead people need even more resources for finding a way to stop being dead.  

Thus, in order to evaluate people’s well-being,

which nobody has asked us to do. On the other hand, strangers become very happy if you start evaluating the smelliness of their farts.  

we need to not only consider the amount of resources they have, but also what they are able to do and be with those resources.

This was already being done by tort law. Damages covered both loss of earnings as well as additional expenses incurred by reason of injury or disablement.  A collective insurance scheme could (and in fact did, in England at that time) take account of both factors. Sen was reinventing the wheel in the hope of appearing virtuous. Yet, the fact was, he came from a shithole where corrupt people who looked like him had let millions starve in 1974. It was hilarious that he was lecturing Whites on humanitarianism. 

In “Equality of What?” Sen also objects to utilitarian measures of well-being.

They didn't exist. Utility can't be measured any more than Niceness or Cuddliness.  

According to a utilitarian measure, someone’s well-being should be evaluated in terms of the amount of utility, such as pleasure or happiness, that they derive from the resources and goods that they have.

Not by the Seventies. Essentially, being or becoming disabled is a risk we all run. Under Knightian Uncertainty, we should do risk-pooling. However, to prevent 'adverse selection' or 'moral hazard', no risk will be fully ensured against. Tort law may take a different course. What is important is that more resources are devoted to improving outcomes under adverse contingencies.  

Consequently, a utilitarian may argue that the above example only shows that we ought to distribute more resources, goods, and freedoms to the disabled person to the extent that she experiences the same amount of well-being as the able-bodied person.

No. The utilitarian would have to take account of dynamic effects. You can be very fucking Malthusian- or even Nazi- and still be Utilitarian. Incidentally, Sweden was forcibly sterilizing people with learning difficulties even into the Seventies.  

As Sen (1979a) has shown, however, this response is inadequate.

Whereas his is crazy.  

The disabled person may be a pleasure wizard who gains a lot of utility from very little input.

But utility like niceness is unobservable. The fact is if we can get more money by claiming to have lost all pleasure in life, we lie our heads off even at risk of being prosecuted for perjury. 

On the other hand, if juries keep awarding huge damages to such liars, the State may pass a law putting a ceiling on such awards. Alternatively, financially sound enterprises may exit the jurisdiction. 

Conversely, the able-bodied person may be very hard to please and thus requires a large input of resources and freedoms in order to detect an increase in well-being. In this case, Sen notes, the amended utilitarian position would actually direct more resources and freedoms to the able-bodied person and less to the disabled one.

No it wouldn't because of dynamic effects. If an authority does stupid or repugnant shit, it will be  ridiculed and defunded.

On the other hand, if we were omniscient, we might take money away from starving people and give it to a drunken thug because this will enable him to father a son whose distant descendant will save the Multiverse in the 35th Century. 

But surely it cannot be right to provide less help to those with greater needs, merely because they are easier to satisfy.

It may be, it may not be. We don't know. Still 'Granger Causality' helps us weigh up relevant arguments- or not bother with this virtue signaling nonsense. The fact is, as Samuel Butler pointed out long ago, if people think being needy will be rewarded, everybody will plough resources into showing themselves to be in the most abject state imaginable.  

As Sen himself has documented, people living in deprivation may actually tend to lower their expectations as a coping mechanism (e.g., Kynch and Sen 1983).

Sen made up this nonsense. No such 'documentation' exists outside the annals of Junk Social Science. 

But just because they experience a bigger increase in well-being from fewer resources, it does not mean that the situation is justified or justifiable in the first place. 

Actually, evolutionary biology militates for the spread of genes with that property. Alternatively, a good Structural Causal Model can take note of this and do a bit of tinkering thus improving outcomes for almost everybody.  

Philosophical accounts of well-being, freedom, and justice should

not be stupid, lazy, virtue signaling shit.  

thus recognize the diversity of human needs and personal and contextual circumstances.

In which case this is an ideographic, not nomothetic, field. Philosophy has no purchase.  

This is exactly what the notions of capabilities and functionings do.

No. This is bullshit. Nobody knows their own capability let alone the capability of anybody else. I suppose, if you teach a useless subject, you may be obliged to pretend that the young thugs you teach are actually 'Honors students' likely to become brain surgeons if only they can stop stabbing all and sundry. 

Still, Sen's students might have grown alarmed at the thought that Social Security was now actively looking for useless people so as to give them lots and lots of their parent's tax dollars. Thus Sen & Co. helped my generation warm to Thatcher and Reagan.

Currently, in America, a young tech-entrepreneur- Vivek Ramaswamy- is attracting attention (indeed, he says he is running for the Presidency!) by his attacks on 'wokeness'. It may be that one reason he is attracting support is because Americans are worried that doctrinaire supporters of DIE (diversity, inclusion, equity) will force American scientists to hire cretins or give equal funding to Voodoo. 

In this context, the Capability approach has the potential to destroy the West and make China the global hegemon.

A strong acknowledgment of human diversity is one of the key theoretical driving forces of the capability approach.

Human diversity means that some humans are as stupid as shit. The Capabilities approach appeals to those cretins. This is special pleading. Cretins need special education- including PhDs in 'Capabilities approach'- and then they need to be subsidized under DIE so that they can continue to think they are smart people rather than drooling imbeciles.  

Its criticism of other normative approaches is often fueled by, and based on,

the fact that it is a drooling imbecile. How come you can't yet get a PhD in this shit by submitting a nice finger painting? The answer is that White Male Heterosexuals are evil bastids.  

the claim that the full human diversity among people is insufficiently acknowledged in many normative theories, such as theories of distributive justice.

no theory acknowledges full human diversity. Indeed, there is a lot of evidence that you can't get a PhD in tensor calculus by submitting a finger painting even if you use your own shit as the main pigment. This shows a complete normative failure w.r.t DIE.  

On the other hand, most theories of distributive justice have representations only in the form of fecal matter. My point is that Physics Departments need much much more funding so as to catch up in this respect. 

This also explains why the capability approach is often favorably regarded by feminist philosophers, or philosophers concerned with care and disability issues (e.g. Khader 2008, Terzi 2008, 2010), since one of their main complaints about mainstream moral and political philosophy has precisely been the relative invisibility of the fate of those people whose lives did not correspond to that of an able-bodied, non-dependent, caregiving-free individual who belongs to the dominant ethnic, racial and religious group. People of color, marginalized people, the disabled and many women do not fit that picture.

Indeed. I would like to point out that marginalized people are often not in a position to pay for an obese one-legged Australian woman to shit on them.  The Government must promote DIE by making direct provision of this valuable capability or functioning. 

The capability approach thus takes account of human diversity in at least three ways. First, by its focus on the plurality of functionings and capabilities as important evaluative spaces.

This permits us to evaluate Sen's well-being on the basis of his consumption of dog turds while enabling us to seek to correct an alarming deficit in the number of differently abled Capabilities theorists to maintain adequate access to one-legged obese Australian women shitting copiously on their tits.  

By including a wide range of dimensions

e.g the hair color of obese, one-legged, Australian women who will shit on your tits for a modest fee 

in the conceptualization of well-being and well-being outcomes, the approach broadens the so-called ‘informational basis’ of assessments, and thereby includes some dimensions that may be particularly important for some groups but less so for others.

e.g. red-headed, obsese, one-legged Australian women shitting copiously on Martha Nussbaum's tits while differently abled Japanese pole vaulters make appropriate encouraging comments.  

For example, in standard outcome assessments, women as a group virtually always end up being worse off than men. But if the selection of outcome dimensions is shifted to also include the quality and quantity of social relations and support, and being able to engage in hands-on care,

as opposed to hands-off care of those whose tits have been shat upon by one-legged Australian women who face their own struggles to remain obese 

then the normative assessment of gender inequality becomes less univocal and requires much further argument and normative defense, including being explicit about how to aggregate different dimensions (Robeyns 2003).

This is why America will never have a female American President. On the other hand, if Biden gets a second term, more and more women of color may be able to access the services of one-legged Australian women.  

Secondly, human diversity is stressed in the capability approach by the explicit focus on personal and socio-environmental conversion factors that make possible the conversion of commodities and other resources into functionings,

e.g. special needs students may require subsidized and supervised access to services provided by one-legged Australian women so as to complete their PhD in Tensor Calculus buy drawing figures in the shit which has copiously covered their tits. 

and on the social, institutional, and environmental context that affects the conversion factors and the capability set directly. Each individual has a unique profile of conversion factors, some of which are body-related,

e.g. shit- more especially such as descends from the anal sphincters of one-legged Australian women with obesity related medical issues 

others of which are shared with all people from her community,

because they are poor but virtuous and share such shit as descends copiously on their tits 

and still others of which are shared with people with the same social characteristics (e.g., same gender or class or race characteristics).

Or adherence to the capabilities approach.  

Third, human diversity within the capability approach is captured by an acknowledgement of human agency and the diversity of goals people have in life. Sen distinguishes between two kinds of freedom, namely what he calls well-being freedom and agency freedom (Sen 1985d).

This is important because if a one-legged Australian woman is shitting copiously on your tits, the effect on well being can be differentiated from the Agency aspect more particularly if you had asked the Agency to send round a temp to do a bit of filing and to answer the telephone rather than take a great big dump on your chest.  

Both of these can also be analyzed in terms of whether they have been achieved. In that case they are called well-being achievement and agency achievement. Well-being freedoms are those freedoms that promote our well-being generally. Being well-nourished, for example, is part of our well-being. But we may also value freedoms that do not promote our well-being, such as giving up a promising career

shitting on people's chests 

in order to fight for global justice.

so everybody gets an equal chance to get shat upon by a one-legged Australian woman 

My fighting global justice may not provide me with anything in terms of well-being as it requires me to travel to some of the most insecure places on earth and does not provide a steady income.

Which is why Sen-tentious shitheads aren't in Ukraine right now.  

I am worse off in terms of well-being compared to the alternative of pursuing a promising career. Yet, I value this freedom because it is an expression of my agency.

You aint valuing shit if you won't actually go and fight brutal invaders. 

The recognition of agency freedom, in addition to well-being freedom, allows people to pursue a diversity of doings and beings.

Nonsense! Like other animals they do this 'pursuing' without recognizing some stupid shite these cunts pulled out of their arses.  

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