HomePHAVISMINDA Journalvol. 11 no. 1 (2012)


Jiah L. Sayson



Under what conditions do states oblige themselves to assist other states? This is the principal question that this exposition paper seeks to address by way of the various theories of justice available to political philosophy. These conditions are understood here as informational base which frames the evaluative judgments that states make on the question of assistance. Moreover, Amartya Sen’s concept of informational base is used to explain that these conditions are consciously ‘included information’ for evaluative judgments in contrast to ‘excluded information’ which more profoundly sets different theories of justice apart. In Development as Freedom, Sen focuses our attention on the adequacy or inadequacy of informational base used for evaluative judgments by what he calls the standard theories of social ethics and justice – utilitarianism, libertarianism, and Rawlsian theory of justice. He argues that the information base used by these standard theories fail to account for substantive individual freedoms ‘seen in the form of individual capabilities to do things that a person has reason to value (Sen 1999, 56-57). The paper will therefore be, first, organized in a manner that describes the information base of the standard theories of justice and defines the action of states within the context of promoting global justice. Second, Sen’s alternative information base that supports his theory of justice is expounded together with Martha Nussbaum’s capabilities approach. Finally, the paper explores the answer to the posed question using insights derived from previous discussions.