The Macksey Journal


Philosopher Martha Nussbaum, in her book "Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach" (2011), asserts that all humans should be granted ten fundamental entitlements, which are the components necessary for a person to have a flourishing and satisfying life. Although her requirements are fairly broad in scope, her entitlements- such as the ability to experience emotions and to have a normal lifespan- raise some questions regarding whether they apply to all people. More specifically, how do these capabilities relate to people with disabilities? In the chapter, “Capabilities and Contemporary Issues,” Nussbaum proclaims that the “problem of disability is vast” (151). Why is disability a “problem?” In fact, the term disability contradicts the concept of capabilities. Nussbaum never answers the questions raised by her juxtaposition of capabilities and disabilities. Philosopher and disability-rights advocate Jean Vanier, author of "Becoming Human" (1998), helps us answer this question. Vanier focuses on the plight of the disabled, people who historically have been denied the stamp of humanity. He realizes that the only way to figure out what it means to be human is to explore and understand the disabled. In establishing L’Arche, a global social justice initiative providing homes for the intellectually disabled, he attempts to answer Nussbaum’s questions, allowing the disabled to achieve their capabilities (Nussbaum 151). Through examining L’Arche and Vanier’s philosophy, Nussbaum’s contradiction between disability and capability can be resolved.