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The capabilities approach to welfare propounded by contemporary philosophers Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen uses the number of basic capabilities enabled by a political and social system as a measure of the quality of life. This contrasts with using preference satisfication or simple utility as the same measure. Capabilities include those of self-determination, the pursuit of friendship, education, and other human exercises of dignity. The approach underpins a universalist liberal ethic, overcoming cultural relativism and blunting charges of paternalism.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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