New York: Palgrave Macmillan (2019)

Motsamai Molefe
University of Witwatersrand
This book explores the salient ethical idea of personhood in African philosophy. It is a philosophical exposition that pursues the ethical and political consequences of the normative idea of personhood as a robust or even foundational ethical category. Personhood refers to the moral achievements of the moral agent usually captured in terms of a virtuous character, which have consequences for both morality and politics. The aim is not to argue for the plausibility of the ethical and political consequences of the idea of personhood. Rather, the book showcases some of the moral-political content and consequences of the account it presents.
Keywords African philosophy  Agent-centred personhood  Patient-centred personhood  Dignity  Options  Impartiality  Partiality  Personhood
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ISBN(s) 978-3-030-15560-5   978-3-030-15561-2   3030155609   9783030155605
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Chapters BETA
Personhood as a Political Theory of Duties

The relationship between the idea of personhood and rights is explored by Molefe in this chapter. The aim of this exploration is to investigate whether rights will feature incidentally or significantly in a correct understanding of personhood. Molefe complicates our understanding of the implications... see more

Personhood and Dignity in African Philosophy

What kind of work can the idea of personhood do in political theory? To answer this question, Molefe, engages with Ikuenobe’s novel approach to the idea of dignity; Ikuenobe defends a communal conception of dignity that grounds it on the normative idea of personhood. Ikuenobe’s aims in doing so are ... see more

Personhood and Options in African Moral Thought

In this chapter, Molefe explores the way in which the issue of options affects our understanding of personhood-as-morality. Options, on deontological approaches to morality, delimit morality: they provide room for non-moral pursuits beyond our strict moral duties. Molefe’s central question here is w... see more

Personhood: Partiality or Impartiality?

Molefe explores the meta-ethical debate regarding partiality and impartiality in African philosophy, focusing on the implications that personhood has for it. ‘Partiality’ defines morality as essentially accommodating favouritism while ‘impartiality’ defines it as essentially concerned with equality.... see more

An Exposition of Personhood as Moral Theory

In this chapter, Molefe elaborates the idea of personhood as a moral theory. He conducts this discussion in a three-fold manner: Molefe begins by clarifying the relationship between being human and being a person; three such relationships are discussed. Next, he considers the agent-centred nature of... see more

A Conceptual Mapping of Personhood

Molefe revisits texts in African Philosophy that have influenced the discourse of personhood. The focus of the chapter is on three such texts. Firstly, Ifeanyi Menkiti’s thoughts on personhood in his article ‘Person and Community in Traditional African Thought’ are examined. Molefe proceeds to consi... see more


In the introductory chapter, Molefe gives the reader an overview of the philosophical issues central to his book. His focus is the normative idea of personhood in African philosophy; his aim in this work is to draw out the implications of personhood for moral and political theory. The introduction i... see more

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Citations of this work BETA

The Need for Others in Public Policy: An African Approach.Thaddeus Metz - 2021 - In Motsamai Molefe & Chris Allsobrook (eds.), Towards an African Political Philosophy of Needs. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 21-37.
Enyimba’s Notion of Madukaku and The Question of Anthropocentricism In African Environmental Ethics.Samuel Akpan Bassey & Thomas Micah Pimaro Jr - 2019 - International Journal of Environmental Pollution and Environmental Modelling 2 (3):129-136.

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