Philosophy research by Perse student published in leading journal

Babhravi Krishnan (Upper Sixth) has had her investigation into approaches to tackling social inequality published in a leading online journal.

She looked into whether American philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s ‘capabilities’ approach would provide a better framework for dealing with social inequality than utility-based welfare economics for her Rouse Award project in Lower Sixth.

Her work has now been featured in Questioz, an international journal of high school student research.

Babhravi said: “My Rouse Award supervisor (philosophy, ethics and religion teacher Ed Dickens) read it through and encouraged me to look into getting it published. I’m excited and very happy that it’s been published.”

For her project, she wanted to examine a topic linking philosophy and economics to tie in with her plans to study PPE (philosophy, politics and economics) at university and found Nussbaum’s ideas resonated with her.

She said: “Nussbaum is interested in human rights, as I am, and I started looking into her theories, which combined economics with ethics, and I thought it would be interesting to draw upon.

“The capabilities approach was originally created by an economist called Amartya Sen as a way of bringing ethics back into economics, considering not just measures of monetary growth in development, but also welfare and economic and social wellbeing.

“Nussbaum added her own ideas to this with capabilities she thought every nation should meet which would provide a framework for tackling social inequality.”

While Nussbaum focused on India, Babhravi transposed those ideas, which include freedom of choice, dignity and opportunities for social mobility, to the social inequality of women in Brazil, a country with a similarly rapidly-growing economy with regards GDP.

She found there was a stark difference in terms of traditional economic indicators of development, such as GDP, compared with the reality for many in the country, especially for women.

As part of her research, she also considered the utility-based welfare economics approach, which measures development on the level of satisfaction people receive from the resources and goods available to them.

Babhravi concluded: “I don’t think you can have an accurate measure of development just by considering monetary growth or a utility-based approach.

“These don’t take into account peoples’ preferences and choices or really reflect what the population has access to, so I found the capabilities approach is a better framework for dealing with social inequality.”

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