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CHAPTER 1

PAUL RICOEUR

CAPABILITIES AND RIGHTS

INTRODUCTION My purpose in this chapter is to bridge the logical gap which separates the two basic concepts that our title puts side by side. The term capability belongs to philosophical anthropology; that of rights to the philosophy of law. My suggestion is to subordinate these two heterogeneous notions to an encompassing notion of which they would be partial components. The best candidate for this integration enterprise is, to my mind, that of recognition, understood as a dynamic process connecting a plurality of points of view as the distinctive steps of the same development. In a study that I am now devoting to the process of recognition, I start with the preliminary logical use of the term at stake, namely recognition, which I take to be identification of any item as being itself and not anything else. This first step in the process of recognition will not be superseded by the following ones: questions of identification will remain implied in the assignment of capabilities and rights at another stage. From this first logical step of the process I move to its use in a more existential context, that of the recognition of persons. The notion of capabilities belongs to a distinctive province of the recognition of persons, that of self-recognition, as I shall try to show. As to the concept of rights, it refers to a further step, that of mutual recognition, according to its juridical connotation. The first part of this study will be devoted to capabilities as the basic topic of self-recognition. The second part, to rights involved in mutual recognition. CAPABILITIES AND SELF-RECOGNITION Taken in its broader sense, the word capabilities belongs to the lexicon of human action. It designates the kind of power that we claim to be able to exercise. In its turn this claim expresses the kind of recognition pertaining to the assertion of selfhood at the reflexive level. This kind of self-recognition may be already detected in the most ancient literary documents of our western culture. In his book Shame and Necessity, Bernard Williams speaks in the most natural way of the recognition of responsibility which he detects in the behaviour of Homeric and tragic heroes, to y 17
S. Deneulin et al. ( .), Transforming Unjust Structures: The Capability Approach, 17-26. (eds 2006 Springer. Printed in the Netherlands.

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the extent that they keep asking themselves what they intend to do. They practise deliberation, in a sense of the term that Aristotle will later elaborate systematically: the heroes keep comparing, weighing, preferring one party to another, then choosing a course of action and facing the consequences.1 The recognition of responsibility implies such questions as: Who did what? and answers of the form: I, so and so, did it! To follow Bernard Williams a little further, the Greek heroes may be held to be centres of decision, whatever interpretation may be given of their motivation. This basic example related to a past culture allows us to propose a minimal definition of capability as the power to cause something to happen; it is this power that is liable to self-recognition. Starting from these introductory remarks, I consider as a philosophical task the exploration of the main structures of what is held to be human capability. From an epistemological point of view, I want to underline the semantic proximity between self-recognition and attestation as concerns the kind of certitude and confidence attached to assertions introduced by the modal verb I can. I believe that I can would be the basic assertion concerning capabilities; the term belief used within this framework of attestation or self-recognition is distinct from its use in a theoretical context where it amounts to a weak form of theoretical thinking, of knowledge. This confidence (attached to assertions introduced by the modal force of the expression I can) has not doubt as its contrary but suspicion, which can be refuted only by some reassurance of the same epistemic nature as the contested certitude. A whole phenomenology of certitude in its theoretical and practical use is required here. To the same phenomenological investigation belongs the reference of each assertion of capability to roles played by other people, such as helping, preventing, forbidding, or co-operating with the agent. This link between self-assertion and otherness or alterity will come to the forefront when we consider the connecting links within the anthropology of capabilities and the juridical sphere of rights. What I intend to do after these formal remarks is to describe a series of basic capabilities in a hierarchical order culminating in a specific capability: that which provides the transition from factual to normative capabilities and, accordingly, the transition from capabilities at large to rights at large. The first basic capability is the capacity to speak: I can speak. The priority given to this capability may be vindicated from several points of view: the Homeric and tragic heroes keep speaking about their deeds; their verbal exchange is the substance of the epic or tragic poem. They designate themselves as the cause or the principle of their action. The contemporary pragmatics of discourse confirms this view: according to the famous motto of Austins philosophy of ordinary discourse, to speak is to do things with words. In this way, action and speech go hand in hand, to the extent that speaking is itself a kind of action. The analysis of the performative component of any statement, including factual assertions, provides the expected precision; the speaking subject is able to designate himself/herself by the use of specific linguistic devices, among them personal pronouns, possessive adjectives, proper names, etc. For the sake of our enquiry, I want to underline the tight connection between self-designation and interlocution; the simplest verbal

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expression requires an ear to receive it; the structure question-answer is paradigmatic as regards the correlation between elocution and interlocution. Even constative assertions are in need of confirmation and approval on the part of the other. We may already anticipate the claim to be heard as a right to speak. From the capability to speak, we move to the capacity to act, in the specific meaning of being able to make events happen. The subject may recognise himself or herself as the cause, giving the form of a claim to the assertion: I did it; I am the one who did it. For modern thought this claim has lost all innocence. We cannot help evoking the Kantian antinomy opposing, at the cosmological level, the causal connection to the assignment of free spontaneity to moral agents. We shall later return to the basic concept of imputation, or liability, as the capacity bridging the gap between descriptive and prescriptive notions. At the present stage of our presentation it is enough to lay the stress on our capacity to generate changes at the physical, interpersonal and social level. This capacity makes us into agents in the strong sense, agents capable of answering questions related to the who structure of action, as distinct from questions inquiring into the what side of events as merely occurring. To underline the distinction between what and who, some philosophers t borrow from the sphere of law and jurisprudence the concept of ascription, filling the gap between description and prescription. In the same way as we ascribe rights to individuals, we ascribe to them the capacity to designate themselves as the true authors of their deeds. Such ascription of action to an agent is part of the meaning of action as a capacity. It characterises as agency this tight link between action and agent. We may then say that the action belongs to the agent who appropriates it and calls it his own. I now want to put in the third place the capacity to tell, to tell stories about events and characters, including oneself. To a large extent, what we call personal identity is linked to this capacity and may be characterised as narrative identity. In this regard the branch of semiotics devoted to narrative structures under the label of narratology may be put in line with the categories forged by Aristotle in the Poetics, the categories of muthos, translated as plot, and of mimesis, i.e. imitation or representation of action. In this way, the characters themselves may be said to be emplotted and the notion of character becomes a narrative category. This connection between plot and character may be held to be the conceptual matrix of our modern notion of narrative identity. The adoption of this category has several implications which play a decisive role in discussions bearing on capabilities and rights. First of all, it provides a temporal dimension to the very notion of identity. Second, concerning the relation of the told action and its agent, it allows us to distinguish between the two kinds of identity. In Oneself as Another I propose the distinction r between idem and ipse, between sameness and selfhood.2 It would be wrong to assign only ipse identity to persons. Narrative identity relies rather on the ongoing dialectic between idem and ipse identity, between sameness and selfhood. As we shall show later, it is this dialectical constitution of personal identity which claims recognition at the level of juridical, social and political relationships. MacIntyre has given to the notion of narrative identity its full scope by proposing the notion of the

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narrative unity of a life.3 According to him this concept is able to support Aristotles concept of good life. In fact, how could a subject of action assign an ethical qualification to his or her personal life if he or she were not able to gather this life in the terms of a narrative identity? One more remark concerning the capability to tell: thanks to narrative identity, the capability to tell provides a structure to personal and collective memory. This implication is particularly relevant to our further discussion. If we take into account the encounter between competitive memories related to the same traumatic events, we are confronted with a situation of conflict preventing any attempt to reconcile antagonistic groups of any kind. Collective memories are threatened with being swallowed by what Freud called the impulse to repeat instead of remembering. Psychoanalysis assigns to hidden resistances this pathology of memory which has its cultural and political expression in the claim of traditional accounts of past sufferings to shape collective memory in terms of war between narrative identities. Such misuse of our capability to tell should not be ignored when we come to the topic of capabilities and rights. Narrative identities may claim recognition according to their differences but this claim calls for a kind of therapy as regards the so-called impulse to repeat and to hate foreign traditions built on narrative identities held as adversary. The frightening fragility of narrative identity brings us to our last cycle of considerations concerning personal capabilities. The successive questions - who speaks to whom? Who acts with or against other agents? Who tells stories about himself or herself and about strangers held to be friends or enemies? - find a kind of culmination in the question: who is capable of imputation? (in German we speak of Zurechnungsfhigkeit). Liability could be held to be an appropriate equivalent as could accountability, which maintains a link with the concept of account, compte, Rechnung. Such account makes the subject accountable before somebody else. What does this new idea add to that of ascription evoked earlier? It adds the ability to bear the consequences of ones own acts, particularly those which are held to be harms inflicted on somebody else as the victim. Among the implied consequences comes the compensation due for the harm done, but also the ability to suffer the pain of punishment. A threshold has been crossed: that of the subject of right. How does that transition occur? A new modality of self-designation gets attached to capabilities opened to objective description. As concerns the action as such, some ethico-moral predicates, linked either to the idea of the Good or to that of obligation, follow the formulation of verbs of action. These predicates characterise the action in question as good or wrong, as allowed or forbidden. When applied reflexively to the agents themselves, these agents are held to be capable of moral imputation. With imputability or accountability, the concept of capability reaches its peak in terms of selfdesignation.

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As I have just said, a threshold has been crossed, but a long way has still to be covered, leading from the notion of imputability as a capability, to that of rights, implying the framework of institutions ruling the sphere of legality. The accountability of moral agents provides only the anthropological ground for the characterisation of human actions in terms of validity, of Gltigkeit, as Habermas would say. How to bridge the logical gap implied by the title of this chapter: Capabilities and rights? Anticipating the present argument, I have already underlined the difference between the anthropological concept of capabilities and the juridical context of rights. But, at the same time, I did propose as a connecting link the concept of recognition, as a dynamic process making its way through several stages. In the above section, we went across the logical step of identifying something in general as being itself and not something else, and we moved to the step of self-recognition, to which we assigned the ascription of capabilities to a human being accountable for his/her actions. I propose to move one step further, to the stage of mutual recognition as it is used in ordinary language, as when we speak of recognising, acknowledging an authority as legitimate, or a debt, or a crime, a benefit, a service or a gift. The question then is to proceed from self-recognition to mutual recognition. It is not enough to take advantage of the reference to the other as implied by each modality of the I can, be it I can speak, I can do, I can tell, I can hold myself as accountable. The idea of reciprocity was included in this consideration of alterity connected to the self-assertion of the subject of capabilities. Our basic hypothesis concerning the breadth of the process of recognition needs the addition of a complementary hypothesis in order to allow the transition from self-recognition to mutual recognition. This complementary hypothesis relies on the reversal in the very use of the verb, a reversal from the active to the passive voice: to recognise. Used in the active voice, to recognise implies a claim, that of intellectual mastery over the field of meanings at stake in the conceptual situation. Regarding self-recognition, we did notice the assurance, the confidence which goes with the assertion of any capability. I strongly believe that I can. The reversal, which finds its grammatical support in the use of the verb in the passive voice, may be summarised in the following way: from the claim to recognise to the need to be recognised. This notion of need to be recognised will be henceforth our guiding thread. This need requires the mediation of institutions providing stability and durability to the process, fulfilling step by step the need to be recognised. At the same time the category of alterity or otherness assumes the form of reciprocity or mutuality which was lacking (or remained implicit) at the previous stage of self-recognition in terms of capabilities. I do not want to hide my discovery of decisive support, at this stage of my inquiry, in the concept of Anerkennung received from Hegel. It appears for the first g time in the philosophical fragments belonging to the Iena period of the years 18021806, just before the publication of the famous Phenomenology of Spirit.4 These Hegelian works generated a rich heritage in the field of political philosophy especially among some followers of Habermas, such as Axel Honneth, the author of

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a book entitled Struggle for Recognition,5 which helped me to ground the link between capabilities and rights on the concept of Anerkennung as the leading g category in the field of mutual or reciprocal recognition. By characterising Anerkennung as a struggle, Honneth prepares us to take into account the conflicting g aspect of the dynamic process at stake and the role of a negative feeling such as contempt, which may be transcribed as a denial of recognition. The main advantage of an enquiry guided by the concept of Anerkennung is to g open the path for social theories grounded on normative motivation as a reply to any naturalistic anthropology such as that of Hobbes in the Leviathan. Hobbess theory of the state of nature may be held as the paradigm of all following social or political theory excluding moral motives from the constitution of the social bond: only the passions of rivalry, defiance and glory are held as originary. They contain the war of everyone against everyone and the fear of violent death which leaves no other way out than the dispossession of each private claim to power in favour of the Leviathan, as both a machine and a mortal god. Anerkennung as grounded on normative g motivation allows us to see conflicting interactions constitutive of the process of Anerkennung as the main key to the resulting enlargement and fulfilment of the g individual capabilities described in the first part of this chapter. In this way, mutual recognition brings self-recognition to fruition. At this stage, my analysis in terms of recognition confirms the attempt of several contemporary enterprises aiming at a normative account of social relationships and using the concept of capability as the corner stone of their theory. This is possible only if the notion of capability itself is held as the expression of some normative motivation not confined to empirical description. The difficulty lies in the treatment of capability as implying some sort of need to be recognised and thus developing a right to accomplishment, fulfilment or flourishing. Then, the logical gap that I noticed at the beginning between the descriptive status of capability and the normative status of right would be bridged. But what allows us to deal with capability as the basic component of a normative social theory? To my mind, the concept of mutual recognition may assume this function to the extent that it leads from an initial stage of need to a terminal stage of fulfilment requiring the mediation of juridical institutions under the tutelage of the idea of right. Before considering some contemporary attempts to co-ordinate capabilities and rights, in a way compatible with Amartya Sens normative economy, I shall focus my attention on some traits of the post Hegelian Anerkennung-recognition which enables such new application. The first character common to a large spectrum of contemporary actualisation of the theory of recognition is to assume the quasi-axiomatic postulation of the concept of liberty received from Kant and channelled by Fichte, who was first among the German idealists to link the concept of freedom to that of inter-subjectivity, as the condition not only of its implementation but also of its constitutive structure. This basic presupposition finds in the last work of Hegel devoted to the subject namely the Principles of the Philosophy of Right its most elaborate expression: the t philosophical concept of right covers the whole range of institutions devoted to the historical actualisation of freedom. The realm of right can be equated with the institutions of freedom.

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The second common character is the role assigned to negativity in this process of actualisation; or, to put it in other words, the role of conflictuality as the spring of the dynamism of recognition. The readers of the Hegelian philosophical fragments belonging to the period of Iena keep in mind the famous fragment on crime (crimen) devoted to the rebellious behaviour of the individual denied the recognition of his singularity by the law at the stage of abstract right which proceeds from the practice of contractual relations in the exchange of goods. The same conflictual situation may be seen at work in the successive levels of institutions implying a personal participation and governed by rules embodying the historical heritage of shared values, such as those of family, of social interacting, and culminating in the State characterised by its constitutional structures. Altogether, these institutions of freedom constitute the realm of Sittlichkeit, in the sense of concrete morality (some translators have chosen the term ethicity to preserve the intent of the German Sittlichkeit, itself derived from the term Sitten, which means customs, manners, mores, in a word, collective praxis. Axel Honneth, one of the successors of Jrgen Habermas, proposes a reactualisation of the Hegelian argument in which he takes into account the empirical contribution of contemporary thinkers such as Herbert Mead. From this coupling of speculation and empirical analysis, he derives three paradigms of recognition, each of which implies specific forms of creative conflictuality. At a prejuridical stage, he considers the affective modalities of recognition and conflictuality, where it is already possible to apply the famous Hegelian formulation: to be oneself in a stranger. For the sake of our discussion I will not stay at this stage for long; nevertheless, it is worth observing in early childhood already the first conflicting structures pertaining to the emotional relations between mother and child and aiming at overcoming the stage of dependency linked to fusional attachment. Even in adulthood, love and friendship are confronted by the trial of separation, the benefit of which lies in the ability to be alone, and consequently to rely on ones own capabilities. Now, this capacity grows in proportion to the trust of partners in the permanence of the invisible bond that underlines the intermittent presence and absence. Specific negative experiences and feelings are related to this first range of mutual exchange. If we may speak of contempt as the negative feeling corresponding to the harm done to individuals at each stage of the process of recognition, humiliation would be the specific form of contempt proper to the prejuridical stage; we could define humiliation as the denial of recognition at that stage, its contrary being approbation. Humiliation, felt as the denial of approbation, harms each partner at the prejuridical level of his or her being-with others. MUTUAL RECOGNITION AND RIGHTS We come closer to a field of reciprocal relations, where capabilities and rights could be connected, when we move to the juridical level of the fight for recognition. Hegel did not pay much attention to the field of commercial exchange and to the passions linked to the competitivity between partners at the economic level, although he was well aware of the preference given to the value of utility in that

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field. He laid the main stress on the claim to universality linked to the conquest of new rights at the level of juridical relationship at large: the juridical person is defined as the bearer of rights implying normative obligations as regards the other partner in this kind of relationship. Recognition at that level amounts to the identification of each person as free and equal to any other in terms of rights; recognition in the juridical sense adds to the basic capabilities considered in our first part under the aegis of self-recognition the new capabilities proceeding from the conjunction between the universal validity of the norm and the singularity of the persons. The enlargement of the sphere of rights ascribed to persons goes hand in hand with the increase of the sphere of capabilities that the juridical subjects recognise in one another. Such conjunction between new rights and new capabilities proceeds from the struggle which gives a historical dimension to both processes. At the same time the concept of respect elaborated by Kant needs to take account of the history of rights which provides each time an appropriate new content for this unhistorical moral concept of respect. The struggle for recognition related to this purely juridical sphere requires an equal attention to the normative constraints and the concrete situations within which persons exercise their abilities. As to the enlargement of the normative sphere of rights, it may be taken from two different points of view, that of the enumeration of new subjective rights and that of the ascription of these rights to new categories of individuals or of groups. With respect to the first perspective, we should distinguish between civil rights, political rights and social rights. The first category includes the negative rights which protect the person as concerns her life, her freedom of movement, her property against the encroachments of the State. The second concerns the positive rights related to participation in activities linked to the formation of the public will. The third one concerns the rights to receive a fair share in the distribution of basic goods. This last category concerns directly one theme of discussion: citizens of all countries suffer from the striking contrast between the equal ascription of rights and the unequal distribution of primary goods. This contrast finds its subjective counterpart in the quest for new capabilities at the personal level, to which correspond new forms of denial of recognition, of contempt. The exclusion from access to elementary goods is particularly felt as a humiliation generating indignation, anger and violence. Here too, a negative motivation is a powerful factor in social change, under the condition of a parallel increase of self-respect and of the will to play a role in the enlargement of the sphere of subjective rights. In this regard, the problem is not only the emergence of new rights but the extension of their sphere of application. As Joel Feinberg says in Rights, Justice and the Bounds of Liberty: What we call human dignity is nothing else than the recognised capacity to require a right. 6 To this capability of higher order recognition corresponds the positive feeling of pride. If we now move beyond the juridical stage of mutual recognition, we encounter new normative requirements which have more to do with social esteem than with equality in terms of rights. New forms of conflictual situations are at stake and new capabilities come to light in connection with the new normative requirements. Axiological components are implied here in terms of shared values. But other important factors interfere with the diversity of the social mediations involved. To

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this variety of social mediations corresponds a variety of social roles which call for distinct kinds of social esteem. I propose here, as a model for the establishing of a typology of social esteem, the work of the French scholars Boltansky and Thvenot devoted to what they call conomies de la grandeur.7 The idea is that individuals may be held to be great or small according to the evaluations ruling specific categories of social activities. You may be great as a musician; somebody else as the head of an industrial company. These two authors have tried, in a way comparable to Michael Walzers Spheres of Justice,8 to reduce to a limited number of worlds or cities the variety of evaluations governing such an economy of greatness, domestic, artistic, industrial or other. What concerns us in this regard is the competitive behaviour thanks to which individual agents fight for recognition in one or another of these cities. Our authors call justification these strategies to get recognition for the rank that they occupy in the order of greatness at stake in their case. This competition constitutes a new component in the fight for recognition which is one of the leading concepts in my study. We have here to do more often with arguments than with physical violence. People argue for their place and their role. At the same time, new negative feelings come to the foreground concerning specific forms of injustice linked to the tests to be passed so as to satisfy the expectations of those in charge of the evaluation of performances of a certain type. Some other kinds of dispute appear in connection with the plurality of the systems of evaluations governing that of the worlds composing the conomies de la grandeur. What is at stake here are the criteria of greatness in use in a given segment of the social structure. A typology of critiques addressed from one city to another may be established. These enable individual agents to develop a new capability: that of judging the system of values prevailing in the limited world where a place is assigned to him or her. A new dimension of the person is revealed in that way, in connection with the capability to understand another world than his/her own. This capability may be compared to that of learning a foreign language and of translating a message from one language into another. Some other forms of struggles for recognition could be evoked besides these specifically social ones. They have to do with social and political forms of discrimination concerning cultural minorities of different kinds. The discussions which have to do with multiculturalism are well-known. Charles Taylor has devoted to this dispute confronting difference and democracy an interesting volume which he himself puts under the title of politics of recognition.9 What needs recognition is the collective identity of the minorities at stake. A politics of recognition is at the same time a politics of difference. Whatever name is given to the aims of these kinds of struggles for recognition, the expected benefit can be nothing other than an increase of self-esteem tightly linked to that of social esteem. Such are some of the ways of connecting capabilities and rights under the guidance of the concept of recognition followed from the stage of self-recognition to that of mutual recognition. The late Paul Ricoeur was the John Nuveen Professor Emeritus in the Divinity School, the Department of Philosophy, and the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

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NOTES
1 2

Williams, 1993. Ricoeur, 1992. 3 McIntyre, 1981: chapter 15; Ricoeur, 1992: chapters 5-7. 4 Hegel, 1986. 5 Honneth, 1996. 6 Feinberg, 1980. 7 Boltansky and Thvenot, 1991. 8 Walzer, 1983. 9 Taylor, 1992.

REFERENCES
Boltansky, L. and L.Thvenot (1991), De la Justification: Les Economies de la Grandeur, Paris: Gallimard Feinberg, J. (1980), Rights, Justice, and the Bounds of Liberty: Essays in Social Philosophy, Princeton. N.J. Princeton University Press Hegel, G.W.F. (1986), The Jena System, 1804-5: Logic and Metaphysics, Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press Honneth, Axel (1996), The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press McIntyre, A. (1981), After Virtue. A Study in Moral Theory, London: Duckworth Ricoeur, Paul (1992), Oneself as Another, Chicago: University of Chicago Press Taylor, Charles (1992), Multiculturalism and The Politics of Recognition, Princeton: Princeton University Press Walzer, Michael (1983), Spheres of Justice: A Defence of Pluralism and Equality, New York: Basic Books Williams, Bernard (1993), Shame and Necessity, Berkeley: University of California Press