Vol. LXXV (2017) - No. 268 Educación y capacidades: hacia un nuevo enfoque del desarrollo humano [Education and capabilities: Towards a new focus on human-development].


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Ibáñez-Martín, J. A. and Fuentes, J. L. (Coords.) (2017).


This book, edited by José Antonio Ibáñez-Martín and Juan Luis Fuentes features contributions from twentythree academics from twelve universities in the United Kingdom, Italy, Mexico, and Spain on the topic of educating human capabilities from the perspective of phi- losophy of education. The editors specify the perspective from which the topic is examined in the introduction where they state that the search for a dignified society can be based on the theory of capabilities, or human development focus. The contributions by authors of the standing of Martha Nussbaum and Amartya Sen all argue that improving a society cannot be based solely on increasing national income, but that other conditions are needed that allow people to develop their basic capabilities to the highest level. Based on this premise, they raise the need to con- sider in greater depth the concept of capability, and to determine what basic capabilities are needed and which educational activities should be used to allow for their «cultivation and growth», in the words of the authors. ,

To achieve this objective, the contributions from the academics named above are incorporated into a well-organised and well-framed structure, with the topics grouped into four major fields: in the first, the study of capabilities is approached from the perspectives of diversi- ty, ethics, universality, and vulnerability; the second comprises theoretical, epistemological, and philosophical analyses of the ethical component and its relationship with capabilities; the third analyses capabilities in relation with the social responsibilities of universities and the contributions from research and experience of learning-service that have been carried out over recent years; and the last area underlines one of the most noticeable dimensions of the theory of capabilities, namely the one relating to people who are in particularly vulnerable situations. ,

I will try to draw out below the essence of the contributions by the different authors who have participated in this work, which is united around one of the most important topics: the development of human capabilities, a topic which, as the editors note, has connections with such diverse fields as philosophy, ethics, sociopolitics, economics, and education. ,

In the first part, the two articles by José Antonio Ibáñez Martín and James Conroy both consider the theme of the capability to coexist and overcome hatred, albeit from different perspectives. The former analyses the differences between Sen and Nussbaum regarding the list of ca- pabilities and poses a series of questions about Nussbaum’s position that, while acknowledging the importance of her contributions, does raise serious doubts about its ability to respond to the most important challenges of our society. Conroy reflects on Brexit, which was backed by large numbers of citizens of the United Kingdom who based their arguments on the idea that we are not like them. In both the media and popular beliefs, perceptions of the variety of immigrants who enter the United Kingdom, as well as their range of social, political, economic, etc. motives, are based on a shared identity of the Others. The author notes that this populist suspicion of the Other has a historical parallel with historical disputes between Great Britain and countries from mainland Europe, with the backdrop of the religious problem that has created so much hatred and discord. To overcome this situation, he suggests that teaching of religion should not be linked with the beliefs of the Other, but it should be an in-depth examination of our own beliefs, systems, cultures, and values. ,

In the second part, which includes contributions from seven authors, Giuseppe Mari suggests that to promote the growth of capabilities it is necessary to identify the human reference in education, whether with children or adults. In his in-depth analysis of the term «capability», he identifies the need to understand it as something that goes beyond simply transferring knowledge. Antonio Bernal emphasises the central role education has acquired as fertile capability for the development of the person. He argues that capabilities are not limited to people’s abilities, but that they are linked to their political, social, and economic context in such a way that what we are capable of doing and being shapes our possibilities for being able to choose and act. Emilio López Barajas, an emeritus professor at the UNED (National Distance Learning University), performs an in-depth epistemological analysis of the meaning and sense of human development. This concept requires knowledge of intent, and this relates to will and human liberty. The use of these concepts by politicians and administrators who are unfamiliar with the epistemological assumptions surrounding the meaning of concepts such as information, cognition, or knowledge could have serious consequences in the form of exclusion for many in the race for development. Ana Pagés addresses certain nuances of the concept of capability as being, starting from Nussbaum’s focus and the role it gives Aristotle in this concept, identifying and interpreting its implicit connotations. She argues that the concept of capability should be expanded using other complementary notions such as willingness and diligence. María del Rosario González suggests that emotional education must consider the link between ethics, desire, and emotion, and their connection with knowledge of good, moral judgement, and training in virtue. Ethical knowledge must integrate fundamental experiences, those that affect the fullness of life and cannot be ignored in a comprehensive ethical education. Aurora Bernal analyses the relationship between the capability focus and character education, concluding that in both approaches education is seen as an essential element for individual and social human life and, consequently, for human development. Therefore, she postulates an integration of both perspectives to achieve a more complete outlook on reality. Juan Luis Fuentes and Jesús Albertos suggest clar- ifying the concept of character education to differentiate it from related concepts like moral education, values education, emotional education, and education for citizenship, with which it overlaps. To do so, they set an objective of establishing the particular limits that are specific to these concepts, especially between character education and education for citizenship. ,

In the third part, dedicated to educating capabilities at university, María García Amilburu, Marta Ruiz Corbella, and Juan García Gutiérrez carry out a study of education in capabilities in higher education, emphasising the social responsibility of universities. They believe that it is necessary to supply knowledge that helps to consider in depth the ethical dimension of our actions and reflect on them, but they also understand that it is important to generate experiences that enable people to experience social responsibility. Concepción Naval and Elena Arbués analyse the implementation of the service-learning method in higher education and its strengths as a host for different basic and specific capabilities, especially emphasising its contribution to the development of professional competences that improve people’s chances of finding and keeping a job. Francisco Esteban studies the topic of the development of capabilities that nurture people’s character in the context of universities’ social responsibility. He believes that universities should educate in three basic capabilities that make it possible to educate a socially responsible student body: the capability to recognise oneself as a learner of a moral question, the capability to embrace the moral merits of university education, and the capability to commit to learn something in particular. Teresa Yurén and José Antonio Arnaz analyse university training in social responsibility in the framework of the UN’s Agenda 2030. This project, which aims to create a better future for humankind, requires participation by people and the institutions of which they are part. Higher education has a special responsibility in the achievement of a sustainable human development. ,

Finally, in the fourth part, which is dedicated to developing capabilities in situations of vulnerability, Fernando Gil analyses the topic of education and developing capabilities in prison, explaining some of the difficulties this presents. These come from very diverse fields: the penal system itself, the cultural environment that surrounds people, the academic world, and the inmates themselves. Throughout the text, the pedagogical proposals aimed at improving the penal educational practices that affect the development of capabilities are analysed. For his part, Vicent Gozálvez reflects on disability, education, and the dignified life, analysing the concept of justice as a necessary element for the theoretical framework of inclusive education, performing a detailed critical analysis of the focus on capabilities and its repercussion for people with intellectual disabilities, and concluding with a plea for a revised and enabling theory of justice. J. L. Sánchez, Juan María Díez, and Sergio Pérez set themselves the challenge of thinking about disability, uncovering the possibilities and riches contained in it to under- take the task of providing accompaniment with a new more profound and humane basis. J. Alfredo Péris considers the topic of the philosophy of maternity in the filmography of Mitchell Leisin, focussing on its role in characterising women and its spiritual dimension. Sara Martínez analyses the philosophical bases for moral education through compassion. To do so, she follows Nussbaum’s approach of going to the heart of morality through compassion. Finally, García explains how the focus on capabilities that Nussbaum describes is structured around creating capabilities through education. ,

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