The project Well-being, affiliation and social justice deals with the problem of determining the kind of ethically and philosophically justifiable account of human well-being compatible with contemporary liberal democracy. Since the problem of well-being is one of the most important debates in ancient philosophy, our aim is to investigate whether some objective aspects of well-being recognised in ancient debate could be aligned with the pluralism of the liberal community.
We approach the problem of well-being from a wider moral perspective by examining relationships between the modern society and individual well-being, and the ways in which the institutions of justice related to the distribution of goods and the regulation of relations among citizens can contribute to the good life of individuals. So, the problem here is whether it is possible to find a concept of well-being compatible with modern society?
According to the capability theory (CT) previous theoretical approaches do not consider sufficiently enough interpersonal differences between the needs of individuals to attain well-being even in the cases in which a fair distribution of the goods or resources is achieved (for example, the standard requirement of an adult for intake of food does not take into account the specific needs of breastfeeding or pregnant women (Sen, 1995). Therefore the CT primarily focuses on the capabilities of a person to use resources or primary goods in order to accomplish those states and actions (functionings) for which they have reasons to value. Functioning thus becomes the constitutive element of a person’s well-being (Sen, 1992). The CT, in contrast to previous theories, is sensitive to the current state of affairs, the vulnerability of the person, the empirical differences and the different needs among individuals (Nussbaum, 1990), starting from two basic assumptions: (1) the possibility to achieve well-being has the central moral value, and (2) well-being is determined by the functionings for which a person must have a real freedom or secured capacity to attain them. However, the CT faces several important problems we want to investigate in our research in order to establish CT as the most influential theory of well-being.
In our project there are four specific research objectives corresponding to the three main stages of the research:
(1) First, the aim is to explore the current discussion on the theories that accept value pluralism, but also believe that social justice models may and should be directed towards achieving certain functions that make good life. Accordingly, our aim is to show that there is a concept of good life, and that it is determined by the capabilities which ensure human dignity.
(2) The second aim is to examine an important aspect of human dignity. Here we want to show that human dignity and well-being as such are established upon the specific capability for affiliation. Unlike other capability theorist we want precisely to claim that it is particularly important to promote community affiliation in order to promote well-being specific for human life.
(3) In the next step of the study, the aim is to show how our understanding of the CA and promotion of affiliation can provide insights for the state and policy makers on the development of public policies that strive for social equality, by identifying those capabilities and functionings that should be focused on in order to promote well-being.
(4) The aim of empirical part of the project is to describe the experiences of the underprivileged target groups of Croatian public policies about the relevance of certain capabilities; the specific circumstances of the development of different capabilites; the influence of the economic, social and political context on the achievement of different capabilities; and the effects of different state measures on the capabilities and well-being of the specific groups.