Realism, universalism and capabilities

Nuno Martins*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Amartya Sen's capability approach is a perspective that (unlike approaches that focus only on resources or goods) takes into account the heterogeneities between human individuals in the assessment of well-being and advantage. Nevertheless, the recognition of diversity between individuals also poses difficulties to the application of the capability approach in welfare analysis. Tony Lawson's structured ontology will be suggested here in order to render (empirical) diversity compatible with the need to make more general (possibly universal) welfare analysis (and policy prescriptions). This is so because Lawson's structured ontology distinguishes between an empirical level, where diversity exists, and an ontologically distinct level of the causal factors underlying the former: universalizing and generalizing can be made at this latter level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-278
Number of pages26
JournalReview of Social Economy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2007


  • Capabilities
  • Diversity
  • Realism
  • Structured ontology
  • Universalism


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