Cultura 14 (2):49-68 (2017)

Authors
Motsamai Molefe
University of Witwatersrand
Abstract
This article repudiates the dichotomy that African ethics is communitarian (relational) and Western ethics is individualistic. ‘Communitarianism’ is the view that morality is ultimately grounded on some relational properties like love or friendship; and, ‘individualism’ is the view that morality is ultimately a function of some individual property like a soul or welfare. Generally, this article departs from the intuition that all morality including African ethics, philosophically interpreted, is best understood in terms of individualism. But, in this article, I limit myself to the literature in the African moral tradition; and, I argue that it is best construed in terms of individualism contrary to the popular stance of communitarianism. I defend my view by invoking two sorts of evidences. (1) I invoke prima facie evidence, which shows that both secular and religious moral thinkers in the tradition tend to understand it in individualistic terms. And, (2) I invoke concrete evidence, I show that the two terms that can be said to be definitive features of African ethical framework, namely: personhood and dignity, are individualistic. I conclude by considering possible objections against my defense of individualism as a central feature of African ethics.
Keywords African ethics  Communitarianism  Dignity  Individualism  Relationalism
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Reprint years 2017
ISBN(s) 1584-1057
DOI 10.3726/cul.2017.02.03
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References found in this work BETA

Two Kinds of Respect.Stephen Darwall - 1977 - Ethics 88 (1):36-49.
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.
African Ethics.Kwame Gyekye - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2010.

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