Human Needs

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What makes a life a truly human one? Is it possible to make a sort of identification when a "life has been so impoverished that it is not worthy of the dignity of the human being?" (Women, Culture and Development, p.74). This is the very question Martha Nussbaum, leading female Aristotelian philosopher, addresses throughout various pieces of her work. What she has tried to do is establish a list of central capabilities "that can be convincingly argued to be of central importance in any human life; whatever else the person pursues or chooses" (Women, Culture and Development, p.74). Nussbaum's goal is to clarify and develop the so-called "capabilities approach", an approach to the recognition of the quality of life originally presented by the Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen. I intend to evaluate and analyze Nussbaum's work on the subject from the perspective of Cicero and the Stoics and that of non-Western thinkers. What's more, I hope to set in motion a new conceptualization concerning the assessment and attainment of the good life.

In view of the list of capabilities, Nussbaum supposes that if a life lacks any of these said capabilities, no matter what else it includes, the life being examined will not be deemed as a good human life. Upon reading, the list she has created is most obviously quite extensive and by all means can be seen as generally obtainable, but the question at hand is whether or not it is universal? Cicero and the Stoics will agree that such a list can be in fact objectively determined but would assess that Nussbaum's revision of Amartya Sen's original compilation is much too long. On the other hand, such scholars like Frederique Apffel Marglin would completely disagree with Nussbaum's efforts, saying that her account of what constitutes a good life is culturally biased, imposing Western thought upon a non-Western way of life. Specific human relationships within Nussbaum's system are neglected, resulting in an inherently narrow concept of the whole. From evaluating Marglin's perspective, one can see that she believes that any list that is put together is going to be culturally biased no matter what. It is a complicated task to try to accomplish. The quality of life in a individuals is defined in terms of social indicators (IE: nutrition, crime rates, frequency of disease, air quality, health care, divorce rates, education, etc). The difficulty in evaluating the quality of life lies within the realm of knowing how to appraise each factor concerned. For example, to utilize a simplistic illustration, is clean drinking water more or less important than good education in our schools? One way of achieving a cohesive index would be to define the quality of life as a subjective measure of a perceived satisfaction or dissatisfaction within a life. Nevertheless, is it possible to conceive of circumstances in which the perceived satisfaction could vary quite independently of what we regard as the quality of life? I definitely believe this is an avoidable factor. Well being is said to be both a condition of the good life as well as what the good life achieves. It can be defined as a "flourishing", it is bound with the very ideas that constitute human happiness. The phrase "good life" itself is ambiguous. It can be looked at in terms of a morally good life versus the life most aspire to achieve. It is important to note that this idea includes solace and satisfaction. This ambiguity can be taken as an indication of how unclear we ultimately find the connection between being morally good and possessing health, wealth, happiness and other components of well being. Before we delve into this naively let us first document in some detail Martha Nussbaum's re-evaluation of Sen's opus, so that we can better understand the material with which we have to work.

All human beings have an aversion to fatality. Nevertheless, if a human being came in contact with an immortal being, or even a...
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