Martha Nussbaum, though not a lawyer, is a Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, a chair that includes appointments in the Philosophy Department. She also holds Associate appointments in Classics and Political Science, is a member of the Committee on Southern Asian Studies, and a Board Member of the Human Rights Program. She previously taught at Harvard and Brown.

Nussbaum the 1980’s along with economists Sudhir Anand and James Foster, created a new paradigm with regard to Human Development entitled The Capabilities Approach. These functional capabilities are a list of freedoms eventually became known through the United Nations as the Human Development Index. This work eventually led to her book entitled, Cultivating Humanity which espoused multiculturalism,  and a universal ethic.

Five components for assessing capabilities are:

  1. The importance of real freedoms in the assessment of a person’s advantage
  2. Individual differences in the ability to transform resources into valuable activities
  3. The multi-variate (diverse) nature of activities giving rise to happiness
  4. A balance of materialistic and nonmaterialistic factors in evaluating human welfare
  5. Concern for the distribution of opportunities within society

As I have pondered these capabilities, as is within Nussbaum’s ethical philosophy, all of humanity wishes, and longs for the same capabilities, or substantive freedoms people have reason to value. Those who wish to prevent others from achieving these capabilities work within the process of utility based upon desire based happiness. Poverty is understood as capability-deprivation. Someone could be deprived of such capabilities in many ways, e.g. by ignorance, government oppression, lack of financial resources, or false consciousness.

Over the past few weeks with revolutions burning across the Middle East, and other political utilitarian rulers facing revolts fueled in part by those with  an internet connection, it has occurred to me that the internet has unknowingly become a tool for people to begin the process of achieving basic capabilities.  Blogs, independent journalists, Facebook, and Twitter along with YouTube are places where people have a powerful voice, and time and time again raise this voice with respect to one of the 5 categories.

It seems to me that the concept of human development based on the work in the 1980’s stands as an ethical truth because using the internet, people in their thirst for justice, and ethical treatment will constantly raise their voice against what Nussbaum calls the “politics of disgust”, most visible in California with regard the misguided mortal stance used to prevent Marriage Equality.

From a theological perspective, the Five Comopnants are all hallmarks of Jesus’ teachings found within both Matthew and Luke, the Sermon on the Mount, or the Sermon on the Plain. No matter which perspective, both Gospels teach freedom from oppression, promising God’s divine clean up of the world, a world in which these five capabilities can become reality.

Those who think God is not active in the world, look to Proverbs which says:

‘And now, my children, listen to me:
happy are those who keep my ways.
Hear instruction and be wise,
and do not neglect it.
Happy is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life
and obtains favour from the Lord;
but those who miss me injure themselves;
all who hate me love death.’ (Proverbs 8:32-36)