The Need for Others in Public Policy: An African Approach

In Motsamai Molefe & Chris Allsobrook (eds.), Towards an African Political Philosophy of Needs. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 21-37 (2021)


When reflecting on human need as a moral-political category, it is natural to include some intersubjective conditions. Surely, children need to be socialized, adults need to be recognized, and the poor need to be given certain resources. I point out that there are two different respects in which such intersubjective factors could be considered needs. On the one hand, they might be needed roughly for their own sake, that is, for exemplifying relational values such as caring for others and sharing a way of life with them. On the other hand, those intersubjective conditions might be needed for the realization of intrinsic values distinct from them, such as autonomy, biological health, or the absence of pain. After spelling out this intrinsic/relational way of valuing intersubjectivity, I provide reason to take seriously the characteristically African idea that we need others in our lives largely because certain ways of relating are valuable as ends and not merely as means to intrinsic goods. I also argue that acknowledging that we need others for such relational considerations would affect public policy in revealing and plausible ways, specifically with respect to poverty, employment, education, and the fourth industrial revolution.

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I and Thou.Martin Buber - 1970 - New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons 57.
Meaningfulness and Time.Antti Kauppinen - 2012 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (2):345-377.
Self and Community in a Changing World.D. A. Masolo - 2010 - Indiana University Press.

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