The Western Ethic of Care or an Afro-Communitarian Ethic?: Finding the Right Relational Morality

Journal of Global Ethics 9 (1):77-92 (2013)
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Abstract

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.

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Thaddeus Metz
University of Pretoria