The Malagasy Ideal of Fihavanana and Western Ethics

Comparative Philosophy 13 (2):94-110 (2022)
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This essay explores various ethical dimensions of the important concept of fihavanana and its role in Malagasy ethics. As a first pass, we can say that fihavanana is a state of peace or harmony that people can achieve with others within their communities; it is modeled on the peace, harmony, solidarity, love, and closeness that is often seen in family ties. Understanding the role that fihavanana plays in the traditional ethics of the people of Madagascar does not come close to providing a complete picture of Malagasy ethics, but fihavanana is arguably the most crucial ethical concept for Malagasy. After using Malagasy proverbs (ohabolana) to sketch various ethical dimensions of fihavanana, these dimensions are compared to certain themes from Western ethics. The essay also comments on the state of fihavanana today in Madagascar and draws some lessons to be learned from this important ethical ideal. Directions for further research are sketched throughout the essay.

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Casey Woodling
Coastal Carolina University

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