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Capabilities and Freedom
Unformatted Document Text:  6 businesswomen. As we quickly learn, however, Strether believes that his stiflingly uniform past existence has merely "passed" for "a life of his own" (James 1960, 363). His understanding of how to live has been regulated by what he later calls "our funny ignorance, our funny misconceptions and confusions" (James 1960, 299). While he does not suffer from a lack of means, the quality of Strether’s life is impaired by a lack of freedom: he lacks the ability to choose what form of life to lead. 4 The habituation of his preferences tethers his imagination and limits the contents of his capability set to the single vector of functionings approved by the conservative community in which he has lived. The freeing of his imagination, and the corresponding expansion of the sets of possible functionings over which he has the option to choose, constitutes an important theme of the novel. In the process of his development, Strether "transform[s] beyond recognition" his sense of the possible (James 1960, 363). By the end of the process, he is accused, perhaps with justice, of having "rather too much imagination" (James 1960, 313). While Strether’s transformation induces choices which seriously compromise his advantage--he will lose his position as editor and break off his engagement--he views his enhanced consciousness as a "tide of light" (James 1960, 299) that allows him to appreciate "a finer harmony in things" (James 1960, 328). As a result of these choices, Strether will no longer have "what he needs." He will lose both his employment and his sources of financial security. According to Cohen’s interpretation of the egalitarian view, then, Strether has suffered a real and significant decrease in well-being and appears to require compensation. But is Strether an appropriate candidate for egalitarian concern?

Authors: Kaufman, Alexander.
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6
businesswomen. As we quickly learn, however, Strether believes that his
stiflingly uniform past existence has merely "passed" for "a life of his
own" (James 1960, 363). His understanding of how to live has been
regulated by what he later calls "our funny ignorance, our funny
misconceptions and confusions" (James 1960, 299).
While he does not suffer from a lack of means, the quality of
Strether’s life is impaired by a lack of freedom: he lacks the ability to
choose what form of life to lead.
4
The habituation of his preferences
tethers his imagination and limits the contents of his capability set to
the single vector of functionings approved by the conservative community
in which he has lived.
The freeing of his imagination, and the corresponding expansion of
the sets of possible functionings over which he has the option to choose,
constitutes an important theme of the novel. In the process of his
development, Strether "transform[s] beyond recognition" his sense of the
possible (James 1960, 363). By the end of the process, he is accused,
perhaps with justice, of having "rather too much imagination" (James
1960, 313). While Strether’s transformation induces choices which
seriously compromise his advantage--he will lose his position as editor
and break off his engagement--he views his enhanced consciousness as a
"tide of light" (James 1960, 299) that allows him to appreciate "a finer
harmony in things" (James 1960, 328).
As a result of these choices, Strether will no longer have "what he
needs." He will lose both his employment and his sources of financial
security. According to Cohen’s interpretation of the egalitarian view,
then, Strether has suffered a real and significant decrease in well-being
and appears to require compensation. But is Strether an appropriate
candidate for egalitarian concern?


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