Cartwright on Capacities and Sen on Capabilities and the Firm

35 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2008 Last revised: 1 Dec 2008


In this paper two recent scientific proposals are introduced, the concepts of 'capabilities' drawn by Amartya Sen and of 'capacities' formulated by Nancy Cartwright. Sen's capabilities move at an anthropological and political level and suppose a revolution in the way of appraising development and poverty. Cartwright's capacities are at a metaphysical and epistemological level. Her proposal is applicable to all the sciences and entails a complete abandonment of the neo-positivist scientific method while adopting a neo-Aristotelian one. The election of these different proposals relies on the fact that they both stress the relevance of 'a power to do' as the key 1) to explanation in science, in the case of Cartwright, and 2) in Sen's case, to achieve a fair economic policy. They also suppose a rehabilitation of theoretical reason - in the case of Cartwright - and of practical reason - in the case of Sen. Both proposals might indirectly influence business management, improving its realism and effectiveness.

Keywords: Rationality, Theoretical and practical reason, Nancy Cartwright, Amartya Sen

Suggested Citation

Crespo, Ricardo F., Cartwright on Capacities and Sen on Capabilities and the Firm. 1st IESE Conference, "Humanizing the Firm & Management Profession", Barcelona, IESE Business School, June 30-July 2, 2008, Available at SSRN: or

Ricardo F. Crespo (Contact Author)

Universidad Austral and CONICET ( email )

Buenos Aires
54-2322-481049 (Phone)
54-2322-481050 (Fax)

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