In Defence of Ubuntu

Studies in Philosophy and Education 31 (1):47-60 (2011)
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Abstract

The article defends ubuntu against the assault by Enslin and Horsthemke (Comp Educ 40(4):545–558, 2004 ). It challenges claims that the Africanist/Afrocentrist project, in which the philosophy of ubuntu is central, faces numerous problems, involves substantial political, moral, epistemological and educational errors, and should therefore not be the basis for education for democratic citizenship in the South African context. The article finds coincidence between some of the values implicit in ubuntu and some of the values that are enshrined in the constitution of South Africa and that on that basis argues that ubuntu has the potential to serve as a moral theory and a public policy. The educational upshot of this article’s argument is that South Africa’s educational policy framework not only places a high premium on ubuntu, which it conceives as human dignity, but it also requires the schooling system to promote ubuntu-oriented attributes and dispositions among the learners. The article finds similarities between ubuntu and bildung, whose key advocates, among others was German scholar and intellectual Wilhelm von Humboldt. It argues that it would be ethnocentric, and indeed silly to suggest that the ubuntu ethic of caring and sharing is uniquely African when some of the values which it seeks to promote can also be traced in various Eurasian philosophies

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