Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Samantha Brennan


My investigation of the capabilities approach as a burgeoning theory of global justice underlies the integrated-article format of this thesis, where each chapter treats a discrete but related problem. In Chapter One I survey the rapidly growing philosophical literature on global justice, focusing on contemporary rights-based approaches. I defend capabilities as central to global justice because justice demands that individuals be well positioned to enjoy the prospects of a decent life, measured by how well individuals are actually able to convert resources and opportunities into valuable functionings. In Chapter Two I explore what I take to be the most promising alternative philosophical approach to addressing pressing global challenges in terms of justice: the ethics of care. Just as capabilities help enrich and flesh out the depth and reach rights have, making capabilities a conceptually rich ally of rights, I argue rights signify a powerful ally to an increasingly global ethic of care. In Chapter Three I consider the as yet under examined connection between rights and well-being by exploring Sen’s pioneering work on capabilities. Capabilities provide us with an appropriate measurement for justice to the extent that the rights and well-being of individuals leave them empowered to enjoy a life of dignity that has at least a minimum set of opportunities. In Chapter Four I consider Hugo Grotius’s theory of rights as an important historical basis for developing a capability-based theory of global justice. In Chapter Five I argue that the status and treatment of nonhuman animals is not and cannot be a matter of justice within the structure of John Rawls’s theory, making it inadequate to this extent. I defend capabilities theory as better able to account for why the treatment of nonhuman animals is a matter of justice.