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Profile: Thaddeus Metz (University of Johannesburg)
  1. Hester du Plessis & Thaddeus Metz (eds.) (forthcoming). The Philosophy of Chinese Civilization. MISTRA.
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  2. Thaddeus Metz (forthcoming). African Political Philosophy. In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Wiley.
    I critically discuss contemporary work in African, i.e., sub-Saharan, political philosophy that has been written in English. I begin by providing an overview of the profession and discussing the aptness of focusing on African political philosophy as a distinct topic. Next, I highlight discussions that should be of interest to a political philosopher working anywhere in the world, focusing on ideas characteristic of the sub-Saharan region that are under-appreciated not merely for the purpose of comparative ethics, but also for substantive (...)
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  3. Thaddeus Metz (forthcoming). A Theory of National Reconciliation: Some Insights From Africa. In Claudio Corradetti, Nir Eisikovits & Jack Rotondi (eds.), Theorizing Transitional Justice. Ashgate.
    In this contribution I articulate a theory of national reconciliation informed by salient sub-Saharan ideas about community, and apply it to a variety of topics salient in South African and other discourses on the topic, such as truth-telling, apology, forgiveness and amnesty, in order both to illustrate and motivate the theory and to shed light on these topics.
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  4. Thaddeus Metz (forthcoming). Climate Change in Africa and the Middle East in Light of Health and Salient Regional Values. In Cheryl Macpherson (ed.), Climate Change and Health: Bioethical Insights into Values and Policy. Springer.
    A discussion of respects in which climate change is likely to affect health in Africa and the Middle East with some reference to moral values salient in respective regions.
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  5. Thaddeus Metz (forthcoming). Fundamental Conditions of Human Existence as the Ground of Life’s Meaning: Reply to Landau. Religious Studies 51.
    Taking the good (generosity), the true (enquiry), and the beautiful (creativity) as exemplars of what can make a life noticeably meaningful, elsewhere I have advanced a principle that entails and plausibly explains all three. Specifically, I have proffered the view that great meaning in life, at least insofar as it comes from this triad, is a matter of positively orienting one’s rational nature towards fundamental conditions of human existence, conditions of human life responsible for much else about it. Iddo Landau (...)
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  6. Thaddeus Metz (forthcoming). Gross National Happiness: A Philosophical Appraisal. Ethics and Social Welfare 8.
    For more than 40 years, the Kingdom of Bhutan has eschewed evaluating its socio-economic status in terms of Gross Domestic Product and has instead done so under the heading of ‘Gross National Happiness’. As part of the upswing in international interest in well-being as the proper final end of development, it would be apt to critically explore the approach that has been in use for several decades. In this article I expound the central elements of Gross National Happiness and discuss (...)
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  7. Thaddeus Metz (forthcoming). How to Obtain Meaning in Life: The Roles of Self-Inflation, Self-Deception and World-Delusion. Philosophical Psychology.
    Part of a special Issue on Robert Trivers’ The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self‐Deception in Human Life, with some focus on the implication of self-deception and related mental states for meaning in life.
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  8. Thaddeus Metz (forthcoming). How the West Was One: The Western as Individualist, the African as Communitarian. Educational Philosophy and Theory.
    There is a kernel of truth in the claim that Western, and especially Anglo-American-Australasian, normative philosophy, including that relating to the philosophy of education, is individualistic; it tends to prize properties that are internal to a human being such as her autonomy, rationality, pleasure, desires, self-esteem, self-realization and virtues relating to, say, her intellect. One notable exception is the idea that students ought to be educated in order to be (world) citizens, participants in a democratic and cosmopolitan order, but, compared (...)
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  9. Thaddeus Metz (forthcoming). The Meaning of Life. In Duncan Pritchard (ed.), What is This Thing Called Philosophy? Routledge.
    A lengthy introduction to the issue of meaning in life, aimed at undergraduates and generally educated readers.
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  10. Thaddeus Metz (forthcoming). Ubuntu as a Constitutional Principle. In Stu Woolman (ed.), Constitutional Law of South Africa, 2nd Edition. Juta.
    A critical overview of the way ubuntu has figured into Constitutional law in South Africa and the way that it should.
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  11. Thaddeus Metz (forthcoming). Values in China as Compared to Africa. In Hester du Plessis & Thaddeus Metz (eds.), The Philosophy of Chinese Civilization. MISTRA.
    An overview of moral and non-moral values salient in the Chinese tradition, particularly in its Confucian vein, and a comparison of them with those recurrent in the sub-Saharan tradition. Although both traditions are closer to one another than they are to standard Western perspectives, they are found nonetheless to differ in several important ways.
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  12. Thaddeus Metz (2014). African Values, Human Rights and Group Rights: A Philosophical Foundation for the Banjul Charter. In Oche Onazi (ed.), African Legal Theory and Contemporary Problems: Critical Essays. Springer. 131-51.
    A communitarian perspective, which is characteristic of African normative thought, accords some kind of primacy to society or a group, whereas human rights are by definition duties that others have to treat individuals in certain ways, even when not doing so would be better for others. Is there any place for human rights in an Afro-communitarian political and legal philosophy, and, if so, what is it? I seek to answer these questions, in part by critically exploring one of the most (...)
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  13. Thaddeus Metz (2014). Dignity in the Ubuntu Tradition. In Marcus Düwell (ed.), Cambridge Handbook on Human Dignity. Cambridge University Press. 310-18.
    I draw on ideas commonly advocated by adherents to ubuntu, the term often used to capture sub-Saharan morality, in order to spell out, and sometimes construct, understandings of human dignity that are worth taking seriously by professional ethicists, moral philosophers, jurisprudential scholars and Constitutional Courts anywhere in the world. In particular, I seek to articulate a theory of dignity grounded in African values that could serve as a genuine rival to the influential Kantian conception that currently dominates most intellectual reflection (...)
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  14. Thaddeus Metz (2014). How God Could Assign Us a Purpose Without Disrespect: Reply to Salles. Quadranti - Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia Contemporanea 1 (1).
    In one of the most widely read texts on what makes a life meaningful, composed more than 50 years ago, Kurt Baier presents an intriguing argument against the view that meaning in life would come by fulfilling a purpose God has assigned us. Baier contends that God could not avoid degrading us were He to assign us a purpose, which would mean that God, as a morally ideal being by definition, would not do so. Defenders of God-centred accounts of meaning (...)
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  15. Thaddeus Metz (2014). In Search of Ubuntu: A Political Philosopher’s View of Democratic South Africa. In Busani Ngcaweni (ed.), Liberation Diaries: Reflections on 20 Years of Democracy. ch. 21.
    In this essay I recount how I have been hoping to see more ubuntu in South Africa’s institutions than had been present in the two dominant socio-politico-economic models across the world in the 20th century. I haven’t been expecting utopia from the past 20 years of democracy; I’ve just wanted something new to come out of Africa. I here relate my experience of learning that it is not always forthcoming, at least not as quickly as I would have liked. However, (...)
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  16. Thaddeus Metz (2014). Just the Beginning for Ubuntu: Reply to Matolino and Kwindingwi. South African Journal of Philosophy 33 (1):65-72.
    In an article titled ‘The end of ubuntu’ recently published in this journal, Bernard Matolino and Wenceslaus Kwindingwi argue that contemporary conditions in (South) Africa are such that there is no justification for appealing to an ethic associated with talk of ‘ubuntu’. They argue that political elites who invoke ubuntu do so in ways that serve nefarious functions, such as unreasonably narrowing discourse about how best to live, while the moral ideals of ubuntu are appropriate only for a bygone, pre-modern (...)
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  17. Thaddeus Metz (2014). Life Worth Living. In Alex Michalos (ed.), Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-being Research. Springer. 3602-05.
    In this encyclopedia entry, I seek to distinguish the concept of a worthwhile life from related ones such as a happy or meaningful life, to draw key distinctions that arise in discussion of worthwhileness (e.g., between life worth starting and life worth continuing), and to discuss some of the contemporary debates among ethicists about when a life is indeed worth living and when it's not.
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  18. Thaddeus Metz (2014). Questioning South Africa’s ‘Genetic Link’ Requirement for Surrogacy. South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 7 (1).
    South African law currently forbids those seeking to arrange a surrogate motherhood agreement from creating a child that will not be genetically related to at least one of them. For a surrogacy contract to be legally valid, there must be a ‘genetic link’ between the child created through a surrogate and the parents who will raise it. Currently, this law is being challenged in the High Court of South Africa, and in this article I critically explore salient ethical facets of (...)
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  19. Thaddeus Metz (2014). Ubuntu: The Good Life. In Alex Michalos (ed.), Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-being Research. Springer. 6761-65.
    An overview of a characteristically African approach to the human good.
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  20. Segun Gbadegesin, Sandra A. McCalla, Kevin Behrens, Munamato Chemhuru, Isaac E. Ukpokolo, Justina O. Ehiakhamen, Jim I. Unah, Motsamai Molefe, Elizabeth Oluwafunmilayo Kehinde, Chris Tasie Osegenwune & Thaddeus Metz (2013). Ontologized Ethics: New Essays in African Meta-Ethics. Lexington Books.
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  21. Thaddeus Metz (2013). A Dilemma About the Final Ends of Higher Education -- And a Resolution. Kagisano (The Higher Education Discussion Series) 9:23-41.
    In this article, written for the generally educated reader, I summarize my latest thinking about a dilemma that I believe current theoretical reflection faces about the proper ultimate aims of a public university. Specifically, I make the following three major points: (1) On the one hand, all dominant theories of how properly to spend public resources entail that academics should not pursue knowledge for its own sake and should rather devote their energies toward promoting some concrete public good (such as (...)
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  22. Thaddeus Metz (2013). African Ethics. In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Blackwell. 129-38.
    I critically discuss contemporary work in African, i.e., sub-Saharan, moral philosophy that has been written in English. I begin by providing an overview of the profession, after which I consider some of the major issues in normative ethics, then discuss a few of the more noteworthy research in applied ethics, and finally take up the key issues in meta-ethics. My aim is to highlight discussions that should be of interest to an ethicist working anywhere in the world, focusing on ideas (...)
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  23. Thaddeus Metz (2013). The Virtues of African Ethics. In Stan van Hooft (ed.), The Handbook of Virtue Ethics. Acumen Publishing. 276-84.
    Since its inception as a professional field in the 1960s or so, African ethics has been neglected not only by virtue ethicists, but also by international scholars in moral philosophy generally. This is unfortunate, since sub-Saharan normative perspectives are characteristically virtue-centred, and, furthermore, are both different from traditional Western forms and just as worth taking seriously as they are. In my contribution, I spell out the two major respects in which virtue is a salient theme in African ethics, and critically (...)
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  24. Thaddeus Metz (2013). Engaging with the Philosophy of D A Masolo. Quest 25:7-15.
    This is an introduction to the special issue of Quest devoted to D. A. Masolo’s latest book, Self and Community in a Changing World. It situates this book in relation to not only Masolo’s earlier research on African philosophy but also the field more generally, sketches the central positions of the contributions to the journal issue, and in light of them makes some critical recommendations for future reflection.
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  25. Thaddeus Metz (2013). Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study. Oxford University Press.
    What makes a person's life meaningful? Thaddeus Metz offers a new answer to an ancient question which has recently returned to the philosophical agenda. He proceeds by examining what, if anything, all the conditions that make a life meaningful have in common. The outcome of this process is a philosophical theory of meaning in life. He starts by evaluating existing theories in terms of the classic triad of the good, the true, and the beautiful. He considers whether meaning in life (...)
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  26. Thaddeus Metz (2013). Meaning in Life as the Aim of Psychotherapy: A Hypothesis. In Joshua Hicks & Clay Routledge (eds.), The Experience of Meaning in Life: Classical Perspectives, Emerging Themes, and Controversies. Springer. 405-17.
    The point of psychotherapy has occasionally been associated with talk of ‘life’s meaning’. However, the literature on meaning in life written by contemporary philosophers has yet to be systematically applied to literature on the point of psychotherapy. My broad aim in this chapter is to indicate some plausible ways to merge these two tracks of material that have run in parallel up to now. More specifically, my hunch is that the connection between meaning as philosophers understand it and therapy as (...)
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  27. Thaddeus Metz (2013). The Desirability of a Property Clause: Michelman's Defence of Liberalism. Stellenbosch Law Review 25 (2):312-28.
    I address Frank Michelman’s recent attempts to dispel the notion that there are deep tensions between a liberal approach to constitution making and a resolute commitment to fighting poverty, i.e., to holding what he calls ‘social liberalism’. He focuses on the prima facie tension between anti-poverty struggle on the part of government and the existence of a property clause in a constitution, a tension that several commentators in South Africa have contended requires removing that clause from its Constitution. In reply, (...)
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  28. Thaddeus Metz (2013). Philosophy of Higher Education. In Duncan Pritchard (ed.), Oxford Bibliographies Online: Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
    A lengthy annotated bibliography of the most central work from the past 25 years on various aspects of the philosophy of higher education.
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  29. Thaddeus Metz (2013). Questioning African Attempts to Ground Ethics on Metaphysics. In John Bewaji & Elvis Imafidon (eds.), Ontologized Ethics: New Essays in African Meta-Ethics. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 189-204.
    In the literature on African moral philosophy, it is common to find normative conclusions about the way we ought to act directly drawn from purported metaphysical facts about the nature of ourselves and the world. For example, Kwame Gyekye, the most influential sub-Saharan political philosopher, attempts to defend moderate communitarianism, roughly the view that agents have strong duties to support others in ways that do not violate human rights, by contending that it follows from the dual nature of the self (...)
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  30. Thaddeus Metz (2013). 'The Meaning of Life Lies in the Search': Robert Kane's New Justification of Objective Values. Social Theory and Practice 39 (2):313-27.
    Part of Robert Kane’s response to the contemporary cultural condition of pluralism is to attempt to ground morality in the _search_ for wisdom about how to live. With regard to the right, Kane argues, roughly, that a new principle capturing what all morally permissible actions have in common warrants belief on the part of all inquirers, even in the face of reasonable uncertainty, because it is justified as an essential means to ascertaining wisdom. Upon embarking for wisdom, one quickly discovers (...)
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  31. Thaddeus Metz (2013). Two Conceptions of African Ethics. Quest 25:141-61.
    I focus on D A Masolo’s discussion of morality as characteristically understood by African philosophers. My goals are both historical and substantive, meaning that I use reflection on Masolo’s book as an occasion to shed light not only on the nature of recent debates about African ethics, but also on African ethics itself. With regard to history, I argue that Masolo’s discussion of sub-Saharan morality suggests at least two major ways that the field has construed it, depending on which value (...)
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  32. Thaddeus Metz (2013). The Ethics of Swearing: The Implications of Moral Theories for Oath-Breaking in Economic Contexts. Review of Social Economy 71 (2):228-248.
    Many readers will share the judgment that, having made an oath, there is something morally worse about consequently performing the immoral action, such as embezzling, that one swore not to do. Why would it be worse? To answer this question, I consider three moral-theoretic accounts of why it is “extra” wrong to violate oaths not to perform wrong actions, with special attention paid to those made in economic contexts. Specifically, I address what the moral theories of utilitarianism, Kantianism and a (...)
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  33. Thaddeus Metz (2013). Das Sinnvolle Und Das Lebenswerte: Zur Klärung Ihrer Gemeinsamkeiten Und Unterschiede. In Matthias Hoesch, Sebastian Muders & Markus Rüther (eds.), Glück-Werte-Sinn. Walter de Gruyter. 109-25.
    See abstract for 'The Meaningful and the Worthwhile' Philosophical Forum (2012).
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  34. Thaddeus Metz (2013). The Meaning of Life, Revised Edition. In Edward Zalta (ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    An updated version of the initial, 2007 entry, adding in discussion of key works that have appeared since then.
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  35. Thaddeus Metz (2013). The Western Ethic of Care or an Afro-Communitarian Ethic?: Finding the Right Relational Morality. Journal of Global Ethics 9 (1):77-92.
    In her essay ‘The Curious Coincidence of Feminine and African Moralities’ (1987), Sandra Harding was perhaps the first to note parallels between a typical Western feminist ethic and a characteristically African, i.e., indigenous sub-Saharan, approach to morality. Beyond Harding’s analysis, one now frequently encounters the suggestion, in a variety of discourses in both the Anglo-American and sub-Saharan traditions, that an ethic of care and an African ethic are more or less the same or share many commonalities. While the two ethical (...)
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  36. Thaddeus Metz & Johannes Hirata (2013). Good Governance. In Ilona Boniwell & Dasho Karma Ura (eds.), Report on Wellbeing & Happiness. Centre for Bhutan Studies.
    A critical discussion of the concept of good governance as it figures into Bhutan's Gross National Happiness project as part of a report to the UN General Assembly.
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  37. Thaddeus Metz (2012). An African Theory of Moral Status: A Relational Alternative to Individualism and Holism. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 15 (3):387-402.
    The dominant conceptions of moral status in the English-speaking literature are either holist or individualist, neither of which accounts well for widespread judgments that: animals and humans both have moral status that is of the same kind but different in degree; even a severely mentally incapacitated human being has a greater moral status than an animal with identical internal properties; and a newborn infant has a greater moral status than a mid-to-late stage foetus. Holists accord no moral status to any (...)
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  38. Thaddeus Metz (2012). Contemporary Anti-Natalism, Featuring Benatar's Better Never to Have Been. South African Journal of Philosophy 31 (1):1-9.
    A critical overview of the latest discussion of anti-natalism, with particular reference to David Benatar's work and three additional rationales for anti-natalism that differ from Benatar's.
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  39. Thaddeus Metz (2012). African Values and Capital Punishment. In Gerard Walmsley (ed.), African Philosophy and the Future of Africa. Council for Research in Values and Philosophy. 83-90.
    What is the strongest argument grounded in African values, i.e., those salient among indigenous peoples below the Sahara desert, for abolishing capital punishment? I defend a particular answer to this question, one that invokes an under-theorized conception of human dignity. Roughly, I maintain that the death penalty is nearly always morally unjustified, and should therefore be abolished, because it degrades people’s special capacity for communal relationships. To defend this claim, I proceed by clarifying what I aim to achieve in this (...)
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  40. Thaddeus Metz (2012). Communitarian Ethics and Work-Based Education: Some African Perspectives. In Paul Gibbs (ed.), Learning, Work and Practice: New Understandings. Springer. 191-206.
    I seek to answer questions about work-based education (WBE) that have been rarely posed, ethical ones such as: Is there reason to believe that WBE would tend to make better people (as opposed to make people better off)? That is, can we reasonably expect characteristic WBE learners to exhibit good character to a greater degree relative to non-WBE ones? On a social level, would systematic use of WBE noticeably promote justice, say, by effecting the right sort of reparation to those (...)
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  41. Thaddeus Metz (2012). Developing African Political Philosophy: Moral-Theoretic Strategies. Philosophia Africana 14 (1):61-83.
    If contemporary African political philosophy is going to develop substantially in fresh directions, it probably will not be enough, say, to rehash the old personhood debate between Kwame Gyekye and Ifeanyi Menkiti, or to nit-pick at Gyekye’s system, as much of the literature in the field has done. Instead, major advances are likely to emerge on the basis of new, principled interpretations of sub-Saharan moral thought. In recent work, I have fleshed out two types of moral theories that have a (...)
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  42. Thaddeus Metz (2012). Ethics in Aristotle and in Africa: Some Points of Contrast. Phronimon 13 (2):99-117.
    In this article I compare and, especially, contrast Aristotle’s conception of virtue with one typical of sub-Saharan philosophers. I point out that the latter is strictly other-regarding, and specifically communitarian, and contend that the former, while including such elements, also includes some self-regarding or individualist virtues, such as temperance and knowledge. I also argue that Aristotle’s conception of human excellence is more attractive than the sub-Saharan view as a complete account of how to live, but that the African conception is (...)
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  43. Thaddeus Metz (2012). ’Giving the World a More Human Face’: Human Suffering in African Thought and Philosophy. In Jeff Malpas & Norelle Lickiss (eds.), Perspectives on Human Suffering. Springer. 49-62.
    I present ideas about human suffering that are salient among the black peoples of sub-Saharan Africa, reconstruct them in order to make them relevant to an international audience with philosophical interests, and urge that audience to give them consideration as alternatives or correctives to some dominant Western approaches. I first recount views commonly held by sub-Saharans about the nature, causes and cures of suffering, and then draw on them to articulate an account of it qua enervation, which rivals a neuro-physical (...)
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  44. Thaddeus Metz (2012). Human Rights, African Perspectives. In Deen Chatterjee (ed.), Encyclopedia of Global Justice. Springer. 501-05.
    At least the three major academic debates one encounters about human rights in an African context are usefully framed in terms how they relate to community in various ways. Specifically, this entry first discusses disputes among moral anthropologists and political scientists about the extent to which human rights were present in pre-colonial, communal sub-Saharan societies; then it takes up ways in which group-based claims have significantly influenced human rights discourse and observance in post-war Africa; and finally it discusses how professional (...)
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  45. Thaddeus Metz (2012). Punishment. In Deen Chatterjee (ed.), Encyclopedia of Global Justice. Springer. 915-17.
    A large majority of theoretical debate with regard to criminal justice at the global level has been concerned to identify which kinds of punishment of international agents are morally sound. Three key issues have been: (1) international sentencing, which concerns the rightness of international tribunals to prosecute what might be called ‘large-scale’ or ‘humanitarian’ crimes; (2) extraterritorial punishment, most topically regarding the appropriateness of a state punishing a foreign national for acts committed against it or its citizens while abroad; and (...)
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  46. Thaddeus Metz (2012). African Conceptions of Human Dignity: Vitality and Community as the Ground of Human Rights. Human Rights Review 13 (1):19-37.
    I seek to advance enquiry into the philosophical question of in virtue of what human beings have a dignity of the sort that grounds human rights. I first draw on values salient in sub-Saharan African moral thought to construct two theoretically promising conceptions of human dignity, one grounded on vitality, or liveliness, and the other on our communal nature. I then argue that the vitality conception cannot account for several human rights that we intuitively have, while the community conception can (...)
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  47. Thaddeus Metz (2012). The Meaningful and the Worthwhile: Clarifying the Relationships. Philosophical Forum 43 (4):435-448.
    The question I seek to answer is what the relationship is between judgments of people’s lives as meaningful, on the one hand, and as worth living, on the other. Several in the analytic and Continental literature, including the likes of Albert Camus and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and more recently, Robert Solomon and Julian Baggini, have maintained that the two words mean the same thing, in that they have the same referents or even the same sense. My primary aim is to refute (...)
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  48. Thaddeus Metz (2012). Understanding the Question of Life’s Meaning. In Joshua Seachris (ed.), Exploring the Meaning of Life: An Anthology and Guide. John Wiley & Sons. 23-27.
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  49. Thaddeus Metz, John G. Cottingham, Garrett Thomson, Erik J. Wielenberg, John Martin Fischer & Joshua W. Seachris (eds.) (2012). Exploring the Meaning of Life: An Anthology and Guide. Wiley-Blackwell.
     
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