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 (...) ethical argumentation. In particular, I take up fascinating and underexplored approaches to political power and distributive justice that are characteristic of this tradition. (shrink)
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.
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 (...) on the topic. (shrink)
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 (...) in life, and even many of its detractors such as myself, have by and large argued that Baier is incorrect on this point. However, using my reply to Baier as a foil, Sagid Salles has recently breathed new life into Baier’s old rationale, providing fresh grounds to believe that God could not avoid degrading us if He gave us a purpose to fulfil. Specifically, Salles argues that God would face a dilemma: either He could give us all the same purpose, which would be unfair since some of us would be in a better position to achieve it than others, or He could give us each a different purpose that we would be equally able to fulfil, which would also be disrespectful since God would have limited our lives so as to make other ends out of reach. In this article, I argue that God could avoid the dilemma Salles poses and hence could assign us a purpose without treating us disrespectfully. (shrink)
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.
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.
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.
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 (...) citizenship, justice, autonomy or the like). (2) On the other hand, that view of the academic enterprise entails patent absurdities. (3) The dilemma is best resolved by articulating a new theory of how public resources ought to be spent, one according to which the point of the state and its public institutions ought to be to _balance_ the realization of final goods. (shrink)
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 (...) characteristic of the sub-Saharan region that are under-appreciated not merely for the purpose of comparative ethics, but also for substantive ethical argumentation. In particular, I maintain that there are kinds of communitarian and vitalist approaches to morality commonly held by sub-Saharan philosophers that international scholars should take seriously as genuine rivals to utilitarian, Kantian, contractarian, and care-oriented outlooks that dominate contemporary Euro-American discussion of ethically right action. (shrink)
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 (...) appraise them in relation to some dominant Western conceptions. (shrink)
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 (...) influential theoretical works on human rights in a sub-Saharan setting, namely, Claude Ake’s ‘The African Context of Human Rights’. Ake famously maintains that a typically Western approach to rights is inappropriate in the sub-Saharan region, in two major respects. First, Ake contends that although a human rights legal framework might be suitable for an ‘individualistic’ society, it is not for one of the sort common among traditional black peoples, for whom group rights are alone apt. Second, Ake maintains that, insofar as rights are relevant, rights to socio-economic goods are of much more importance in an African context than rights to civil liberties, due process and the like. Using Ake’s article as a foil, I draw on values salient in sub-Saharan moral worldviews to construct a unified philosophy of rights that not only provides reason to doubt his two claims, but also offers a promising way to reconcile a communitarian framework with a robust prizing of human rights alongside ones that are more collectively oriented. In short, I aim to provide a principled foundation for the core elements of the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights. (shrink)
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.
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 (...) might be about such principles as fulfilling God's purpose, obtaining reward in an afterlife for having been virtuous, being attracted to what merits attraction, leaving the world a better place, connecting to organic unity, or transcending oneself by connecting to what is extensive. He argues that no extant principle satisfactorily accounts for the three-fold significance of morality, enquiry, and creativity, and that the most promising theory is a fresh one according to which meaning in life is a matter of intelligence contoured toward fundamental conditions of human existence. (shrink)
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 (...) psychotherapists ought to practice it is much closer than is suggested by the field of existential psychotherapy, which expressly addresses the topic of life’s meaning and appeals to ideas from classic philosophers such Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, and the like. I instead proffer the claim that psychodynamic and humanistic therapy, clinical psychology, and counselling psychology as such, not a particular branch of them, are best understood as enterprises in search of meaning in life, in the way many present-day philosophers understand this phrase. In this chapter, I spell out what I mean by this bold hypothesis and provide some good reason to take it seriously. (shrink)
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, (...) Michelman argues that in the final analysis there need be no principled conflict between the two, which implies that amending the South African Constitution is unnecessary and perhaps even unwise. I provide reason to think that Michelman’s attempted resolution is incomplete, and suggest plausible ways to understand the legal function of a property clause in a liberal constitutional order beyond those Michelman addresses that can also help to resolve the apparent tension between it and a concerted effort to reduce poverty. (shrink)
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 (...) as both social and individual. In this article, I critically analyze this sort of rationale, and contend that it is unsound. I propose several reconstructions, but conclude that they cannot plausibly bridge the ‘is-ought gap’, and that similar arguments found in the field of African ethics, such as the frequent claim we must treat nature with respect since everything in the universe is interdependent, also fail to do so. (shrink)
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 (...) an important chunk of it about right action, namely, that wisdom will not be found unless one treats others in a particular kind of way. Although, as I discuss, this rationale has some similarities with transcendental arguments to be found in the literature, it is novel and merits careful attention from meta-ethicists. In this critical notice, I focus largely on Kane’s interesting justification of a principle of right action, paying somewhat less attention to the content of this principle, which is akin to Kant’s Formula of Humanity, and the not-merely-mental account of the good that Kane also advances; however, these elements of Kane’s intricate worldview about how to live should also be of interest to normative ethicists. (shrink)
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 (...) is taken to be basic and which ones are deemed derivative. According to one perspective, the ultimate aim of a moral agent should be to improve people’s quality of life, which she can reliably do by supporting community in certain ways, while the other view is that community should instead be valued for its own sake, with the enhancement of welfare being morally relevant only insofar as it is part of that. I claim that Masolo does not indicate a clear awareness of how these two perspectives differ and is not explicit about how they relate to one another. After pointing out that Masolo is not alone in these respects, I draw what is meant to be a definitive, clear distinction between the two major ethical philosophies. Then, I provide what I deem to be conclusive reason to prefer the community- based conception of sub-Saharan ethics to the welfare-based one. (shrink)
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 (...) new communitarian-relational principle entail for the wrongness of oath-breaking. I argue that the former two do not adequately capture why it is extra wrong to perform an immoral action that one swore not to do, but that the latter appeal to a morality of communal relationship offers a promising account. (shrink)
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 (...) perspectives are indeed sisters, in this article I argue, first, that they are not identical twins, and, more strongly, that the family resemblance between the two is significantly less than has been recognized. I highlight key differences between representative forms of an ethic of care and a sub-Saharan communitarian morality, after which I argue, second, that the latter better captures some central feminist concerns and moral considerations generally. That is, I maintain that an African ideal of community, when understood in a philosophically refined way, provides an important, relational corrective to the ethic of care. (shrink)
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 (...) of these beings, assigning it only to groups to which they belong, while individualists such as welfarists grant an equal moral status to humans and many animals, and Kantians accord no moral status either to animals or severely mentally incapacitated humans. I argue that an underexplored, modal-relational perspective does a better job of accounting for degrees of moral status. According to modal-relationalism, something has moral status insofar as it capable of having a certain causal or intensional connection with another being. I articulate a novel instance of modal-relationalism grounded in salient sub-Saharan moral views, roughly according to which the greater a being's capacity to be part of a communal relationship with us, the greater its moral status. I then demonstrate that this new, African-based theory entails and plausibly explains the above judgments, among others, in a unified way. (shrink)
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 (...) essay, criticizing existing objections to the death penalty that ethicists, jurists and others have proffered on ‘African’ grounds, and, finally, advancing a new, dignity-based objection with a sub-Saharan pedigree that I take to be the most promising. (shrink)
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 (...) who have suffered from colonialism or exploitation? I begin to answer these questions first by presenting an overview of traditional black African societies, noting that WBE has been the dominant mode of learning in them. Then, to show that WBE has relevance for contemporary societies, I articulate a communitarian moral theory grounded in mores that have been salient among sub-Saharan peoples, differentiating it from the Western theories more familiar to international readers and motivating them to take it seriously as relevant to moral enquiry in today’s world. Next, I apply this Afro-communitarianism to WBE, enquiring into its prospects for fostering individual character and social justice, particularly in the Global South. (shrink)
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 (...) clearly sub-Saharan basis, that differ from Gyekye’s moral perspective, and that also happen to constitute genuine rivals to dominant Western theories such as utilitarianism, Kantianism and contractualism. In catchwords, these African moral theories are constituted by ideals regarding community or friendliness, on the one hand, and vitality or liveliness, on the other. In this article I sketch these two under-explored ethical perspectives and then suggest several respects in which their implications for salient political controversies are novel and revealing. Sometimes the new African moral theories—and the community-based one in particular--entail different conclusions from Gyekye's position, while other times their conclusions are the same as Gyekye’s, but they provide different rationales for them that are more compelling than his. (shrink)
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 (...) a strong contender for a limited group of the most important virtues related to morality qua rightness. (shrink)
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 (...) perspective that friends of Western science would readily adopt. Then, I address the way one morally should respond to suffering, appealing to judgments about the value of community that are influential among Africans. I show that, upon theoretical refinement, an Afro-communitarianism entails an ethical analysis of suffering that seriously competes with those entailed by standard Western moral philosophies. This view instructs moral agents neither to make others suffer because they deserve it, as per Kantian retributivism, nor to do whatever will minimize suffering, à la utilitarianism. Instead, it roughly prescribes responding to suffering out of love, which can require increasing the amount of suffering in the world by taking it upon oneself, instead of leaving it to others to bear on their own. (shrink)
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 (...) philosophers in and from Africa have tended to view human rights through communitarian lenses. (shrink)
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 (...) (3) punishment and warfare, where the main issue is whether punishment of a guilty actor on the global stage can be a just cause for war. This entry discusses all three topics, devoting the most space to justice in international sentencing. (shrink)
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 (...) do so. I conclude that, of plausible theories of human dignity with an African pedigree, the field ought to favour a community-based view and critically compare it in future work with the Kantian, autonomy-based view that dominates Western thinking about dignity. (shrink)
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 (...) such a position, and instead to provide conclusive reason to believe that, while a meaningful life shares many properties with a worthwhile one, they are not one and the same thing. Differentiating the meaningful from the worthwhile is essential for making accurate and complete appraisals of the value of people’s lives; they are distinct aspects of a good life, with both being necessary for the best one. (shrink)
In this article we focus on three key precepts shared by Confucianism and the African ethic of Ubuntu: the central value of community, the desirability of ethical partiality, and the idea that we tend to become morally better as we grow older. For each of these broad similarities, there are key differences underlying them, and we discuss those as well as speculate about the reasons for them. Our aim is not to take sides, but we do suggest ways that Ubuntu (...) and Confucianism might have something to learn from each other and perhaps come closer. We hope that our preliminary reflections can inspire further debate and thinking on a theme – dialogues between long-standing and large-scale non-Western traditions – that is bound to increase in importance as non-Western societies play a greater role in the global system and as the search continues for a 'global ethic'. (shrink)
I have two major aims in this chapter, which is philosophical in nature. One is to draw upon values that are salient in the southern African region in order to construct a novel and attractive conception of human dignity. Specifically, I articulate the idea that human beings have a dignity in virtue of their communal nature, or their capacity for what I call ‘identity’ and ‘solidarity’, which contrasts the most influential conception in the West, according to which our dignity inheres (...) in our rationality or autonomy. The second aim is to invoke this Afro-communitarian conception of human dignity in order to advance a new conception of why poverty is morally problematic and of what people, particularly states, are ethically required to do with regard to it. Common conceptions of poverty focus on it in terms of people lacking income, preference satisfaction (‘utility’) or general-purpose means (‘social primary goods’ in the Rawlsian jargon). In contrast, if what is special about human beings is our ability to commune with one another in a certain way, then the respects in which poverty can be an injustice and the ways that it must be fought must be understood in more communitarian or relational terms, which I both specify with several concrete examples in a South African context and contrast with the more dominant approaches. (shrink)
Concomitant with the rise of rationalizing accountability in higher education has been an increase in theoretical reflection about the forms accountability has taken and the ones it should take. The literature is now peppered by a wide array of distinctions (e.g. internal/external, inward/ outward, vertical/horizontal, upward/downward, professional/public, political/economic, soft/ hard, positive/negative), to the point that when people speak of ‘accountability’ they risk speaking past one another, having some of these distinctions in mind and not others. Furthermore, often these distinctions are (...) vague and cross-cut each other in ways that are as yet unclear. The field could benefit from having a comprehensive framework in which to place these distinctions and to view their relations. My aim in this article is to provide an analytical tool by which to classify important debate about what accountability in higher education has been and ought to be. Beyond organizing such debate, this schema will serve the purposes of revealing ambiguities in terms, conflations of ideas, assumptions that warrant questioning, and gaps in present research agendas. (shrink)
In his book Better Never to Have Been, David Benatar argues that it is generally all things considered wrong to procreate, such that if everyone acted in a morally ideal way, humanity would elect to extinguish the species. I aim to carefully question the premises and inferences that lead Benatar to draw this anti-natalist conclusion, indicating several places where one could sensibly elect to disembark from the train of argument heading toward such a radical view.
Suppose that it can be right to grant amnesty from criminal and civil liability to those guilty of political crimes in exchange for full disclosure about them. There remains this important question to ask about the proper form that amnesty should take: Which additional burdens, if any, should the state lift from wrongdoers in the wake of according them freedom from judicial liability? I answer this question in the context of a recent South African Constitutional Court case that considered whether (...) an officer having been granted amnesty for apartheid-era killings should be held to mean that the police force may not discharge him on the ground of having been convicted of a serious offence. The Court ruled that, despite amnesty having been granted to the guilty officer, the police force was permitted to discharge him. I distinguish the major ethical reasons the Court gives for its conclusion, which ultimately appeal to the value of national reconciliation, and I argue not only that the reconciliation-based rationales rest on empirical contingencies for which there is little evidence, but also that their logic in fact provides some reason to reject the Court’s conclusion. Then, I sketch an attractive new theory of right action, grounded on salient sub-Saharan values often associated with talk of ‘ubuntu’, that I maintain provides a stronger, unitary foundation for the Court’s key pronouncements. I conclude by discussing some of the broader implications of the moral theory for related matters, such as the rights of victims in the processes leading up to presidential pardons of those who have committed atrocities and the duties of newspapers with regard to the reputations of the latter. (shrink)
Three of the great sources of meaning in life are the good, the true, and the beautiful, and I aim to make headway on the grand Enlightenment project of ascertaining what, if anything, they have in common. Concretely, if we take a (stereotypical) Mother Teresa, Mandela, Darwin, Einstein, Dostoyevsky, and Picasso, what might they share that makes it apt to deem their lives to have truly mattered? I provide reason to doubt two influential answers, noting a common flaw that supernaturalism (...) and consequentialism share. I instead develop their most plausible rival, a naturalist and non-consequentialist account of what enables moral achievement, intellectual reflection, and aesthetic creation to confer great meaning on a person's life, namely, the idea that they do so insofar as a person transcends an aspect of herself in some substantial way. I criticize several self-transcendence theories that contemporary philosophers have advanced, before presenting a new self-transcendence view and defending it as the most promising. (shrink)
There are three major reasons that ideas associated with ubuntu are often deemed to be an inappropriate basis for a public morality. One is that they are too vague, a second is that they fail to acknowledge the value of individual freedom, and a third is that they a fit traditional, small-scale culture more than a modern, industrial society. In this article, I provide a philosophical interpretation of ubuntu that is not vulnerable to these three objections. Specifically, I construct a (...) moral theory grounded on southern African worldviews, one that suggests a promising new conception of human dignity. According to this conception, typical human beings have a dignity in virtue of their capacity for community, understood as the combination of identifying with others and exhibiting solidarity with them, where human rights violations are egregious degradations of this capacity. I argue that this account of human rights violations straightforwardly entails and explains many different elements of South Africa’s Bill of Rights and naturally suggests certain ways of resolving contemporary moral dilemmas in South Africa and elsewhere relating to land reform, political power and deadly force. (shrink)