New Publication: Distinguishing Disadvantage from Ill-Being in the Capability Approach

Here is another one of my recently published open access articles. In it, I analyse cases involving homelessness. I argue that well-being theories and policy-related applications should assess inherently negative states such as acute anxiety, long-term stress, ostracism, domination, fearfulness, humiliation, and addiction. These states, I argue, are not mere deprivations of positive states such as calmness, social standing, safety, respect, and sobriety. One upshot of appropriately acknowledging this is that we can alleviate the impact of negative states even when related positive states are, for one reason or another, unattainable.

I’d be very happy to answer any questions anyone might have or consider comments and criticisms for future work. Feel free to send me an e-mail if so (sebastian.ostlund [at]

Title: Distinguishing Disadvantage from Ill-Being in the Capability Approach
In the journal: Ethical Theory and Moral Practice
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Central capabilitarian theories of well-being focus exclusively on actual opportunities to attain states of being and doing that people have reason to value. Consequently, these theories characterise ill-being and disadvantage as deprivations of such opportunities and attainments. However, some well-being aspects are inherently negative. They make up the difference between not being well and being unwell in that they constitute ill-being. While disadvantage can be plausibly captured by deprivations, ill-being cannot be fully captured by them. I support this claim by analysing cases involving inherently negative aspects of homelessness that are not mere deprivations of opportunities to attain beings and doings that people have reason to value. I conclude that ill-being is not only about what one cannot be and do, but also about one’s enduring, and opportunities to avoid, negative beings and doings. Theories and policies should reflect this to get things right, and to do right by people.

Keywords: Well-being · Ill-being · Disadvantage · Homelessness · Capability approach

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