Two Conceptions of African Ethics

Quest 25:141-61 (2013)
  Copy   BIBTEX


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.



External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles


Added to PP

646 (#15,033)

6 months
63 (#25,484)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Thaddeus Metz
University of Pretoria

Citations of this work

An Overview of African Ethics.Thaddeus Metz - 2017 - In Isaac Ukpokolo (ed.), Themes, Issues and Problems in African Philosophy. Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 61-75.
Animal rights and the need for a universal ethics.Georges Chapouthier - 2015 - Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 25 (1):13-14.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Equality and equal opportunity for welfare.Richard J. Arneson - 1989 - Philosophical Studies 56 (1):77 - 93.
Toward an african moral theory.Thaddeus Metz - 2007 - Journal of Political Philosophy 15 (3):321–341.
Ubuntu as a Moral Theory and Human Rights in South Africa.Thaddeus Metz - 2011 - African Human Rights Law Journal 11 (2):532-559.

View all 15 references / Add more references