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close this bookDimensions of Human Development - Research Report on Basic Human Needs Lists (Individual Contributor S. Alkire)
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View the documentMethods for arbitrating disputes
View the documentCriteria for dimensions of human development (85)
View the documentOther lists: the four arguments demonstrated
View the documentConclusion

Criteria for dimensions of human development (85)

1. the dimensions must be based in practical reason - in other words, they "must be readily recognizable and identifiable as one's own" (86) or as relevant to others even if one does not oneself pursue or value them.

2. the dimensions must be intrinsically rather than only instrumentally valuable - basic dimensions are reasons for action which need no further reason; which are intrinsically valuable ('only' is an important qualification because some basic items - like life or knowledge - will also have an instrumental dimension). The specification of 'satisfiers' (or of rights or of liberties) is integral to the pursuit of some dimensions, but not to their identification.

3. the dimension must be irreducible - that is, it must not be a subset of some other valuable and basic reason for acting, but must be the simplest possible reason for acting.

4. the dimension must represent complete reasons for acting - that is, it cannot be a basic motive (pleasure, pain) which is valuable or intelligible only when its pursuit coheres with the pursuit of a valuable reason.

5. the dimension are not yet moral: dimensions of human flourishing represent the basic values people are seeking when they 'be and do and have and interact' intelligibly - whether morally or immorally. They are neither virtues nor personal qualities (gentleness, self-respect, trust). (87)

If the proposed element is neither a means to nor a subset of another dimension, and if it is intelligibly a basic reason for acting, then it will be taken to represent a dimension of human flourishing.

These four kinds of evaluation will become clearer in the following section when we use them to deliberate the different well-being lists which have come up. There are three preliminary points.

I suggest it does not matter whether an element 'was' in a historical sense, 'generated' by practical reason if and only if reflection on that element can lead one to recognise (by practical reason) it as a valuable reason for action. To use again Max-Neef's words, they "must be readily recognizable and identifiable as one's own." (88) In accord with this, I have reprinted the lists in their simplest form, and not included lengthy descriptions of the elements. The array of dimensions which results from this discussion will, I hope, be the subject of a deeper scrutiny by various communities and authors at various times.

I will prefer the term 'array of dimensions' rather than 'list of needs/values...'. The reason for this is to emphasise the unspecified or generic aspect of this list. If an item on my shopping list is 'carrots' it is quite easy for me to go out and buy carrots because I know what they are. While this is desirable in terms of household efficiency, it is not desirable, as the unsuccessful Basic Material Needs approach illustrates, in terms of human development, because while we may know the dimensions in which an answer will be expressed - the axis in which a picture will be drawn -- the particular group's answer depends on their own choices and commitments. In other words, the word 'dimension' should serve as a reminder to figure out how each community conceives its needs. Therefore rather than conceiving of a 'list' of 'components' of human flourishing which can be spoken from an archemedean viewpoint, I propose a array of dimensions, in reference to which any community might describe their objective of human development.