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Motsamai Molefe
University of Witwatersrand
  1. Relational Ethics and Partiality: A Critique of Thad Metz’s ‘Towards an African Moral Theory’.Motsamai Molefe - 2017 - Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory 64 (152):53-76.
    In this article, I question the plausibility of Metz’s African moral theory from an oft-neglected moral topic of partiality. Metz defends an Afro-communitarian moral theory that posits that the rightness of actions is entirely definable by relationships of identity and solidarity (or, friendship). I offer two objections to this relational moral theory. First, I argue that justifying partiality strictly by invoking relationships (of friendship) ultimately fails to properly value the individual for her own sake – this is called the ‘focus (...)
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  2. An African Perspective on the Partiality and Impartiality Debate: Insights From Kwasi Wiredu's Moral Philosophy.Motsamai Molefe - 2017 - South African Journal of Philosophy 36 (4):470-482.
    In this article, I attempt to bridge the gap between partiality and impartiality in moral philosophy from an oft-neglected African perspective. I draw a solution for this moral-theoretical impasse between partialists and impartialists from Kwasi Wiredu's, one of the most influential African philosophers, distinction between an ethic and ethics. I show how an ethic accommodates partiality and ethics impartiality. Wiredu's insight is that partialism is not concerned with strict moral issues. -/- .
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  3. A Critique of Thad Metz’s African Theory of Moral Status.Motsamai Molefe - 2017 - South African Journal of Philosophy 36 (2):195-205.
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  4. An African Philosophy of Personhood, Morality, and Politics.Motsamai Molefe - 2019 - New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
    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 (...)
     
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  5. African Metaphysics and Religious Ethics.Motsamai Molefe - 2018 - Filosofia Theoretica: Journal of African Philosophy, Culture and Religions 7 (3):19 - 37.
    Scholars of African moral thought reject the possibility of an African religious ethics by invoking at least three major reasons. The first objection to ‘ethical supernaturalism’ argues that it is part of those aspects of African culture that are ‘anachronistic’ insofar as they are superstitious rather than rational; as such, they should be jettisoned. The second objection points out that ethical supernaturalism is incompatible with the utilitarian approach to religion that typically characterises some African peoples’ orientation to it. The last (...)
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  6. African Ethics and Partiality.Motsamai Molefe - 2016
    This article explores the debate between partiality and impartiality from an African perspective. I take one influential instance of a defence of impartiality in the African tradition, ‘sympathetic impartiality’, by Kwasi Wiredu, as a foil to represent African ethics. I argue that impartiality fails to cohere with three centrally defining features of African moral thought: the high regard attributed to the family, the veneration of ancestors and the notion of personhood. I merely highlight the first two aspects of African thought; (...)
     
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  7.  16
    A Rejection of Humanism in the African Moral Tradition.Motsamai Molefe - 2015 - Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory 62 (143).
    In this article, I motivate for the view that the best account of the foundations of morality in the African tradition should be grounded on some relevant spiritual property - a view that I call ‘ethical supernaturalism’. In contrast to this position, the literature has been dominated by humanism as the best interpretation of African ethics, which typically is accompanied by a direct rejection of ‘ethical supernaturalism’ and a veiled rejection of non-naturalism . Here, primarily, I set out to challenge (...)
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  8.  7
    A Critique of Kwasi Wiredu's Humanism and Impartiality.Motsamai Molefe - 2016 - Acta Academica 48:89 - 108.
    This article offers a critical reflection on Kwasi Wiredu’s moral theory. One the one hand, the article is concerned with the meta-ethical question regarding the nature of moral properties, specifically, whether they are physical (natural) or spiritual (supernatural). On the other, I reflect on one facet of Wiredu’s normative theory, namely, whether morality is best captured by partiality or impartiality in the African tradition. With regards to meta-ethics, I argue that the Wiredu’s rejection of a spiritual (supernaturalist) foundation of African (...)
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  9.  19
    Solving the Conundrum of African Philosophy Through Personhood: The Individual or Community?Motsamai Molefe - 2020 - Journal of Value Inquiry 54 (1):41-57.
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  10.  4
    Relational Ethics and Partiality.Motsamai Molefe - 2017 - Theoria 64 (152):53-76.
    In this article, I question the plausibility of Metz’s African moral theory from an oft neglected moral topic of partiality. Metz defends an Afro-communitarian moral theory that posits that the rightness of actions is entirely definable by relationships of identity and solidarity. I offer two objections to this relational moral theory. First, I argue that justifying partiality strictly by invoking relationships ultimately fails to properly value the individual for her own sake – this is called the ‘focus problem’ in the (...)
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  11.  10
    Revisiting the Menkiti-Gyekye Debate: Who Is a Radical Communitarian?Motsamai Molefe - 2016 - Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory 63 (149).
  12.  17
    Traditional African Religion as a Neglected Form of Monotheism.Thaddeus Metz & Motsamai Molefe - 2021 - The Monist 104 (3):393–409.
    Our aims are to articulate some core philosophical positions characteristic of Traditional African Religion and to argue that they merit consideration as monotheist rivals to standard interpretations of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. In particular, we address the topics of how God’s nature is conceived, how God’s will is meant to bear on human decision making, where one continues to exist upon the death of one’s body, and how long one is able to exist without a body. For each of these topics, (...)
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  13.  16
    An African Ethics of Personhood and Bioethics: A Reflection on Abortion and Euthanasia.Motsamai Molefe - 2020 - New York, NY, USA: Palgrave Macmillan.
    This book articulates an African conception of dignity in light of the salient axiological category of personhood in African cultures. The idea of personhood embodies a moral system for evaluating human lives exuding with virtue or ones that are morally excellent. This book argues that this idea of personhood embodies an under-explored conception of dignity, which accounts for it in terms of our capacity for the virtue of sympathy. It then proceeds to apply this personhood-based conception of dignity to bioethical (...)
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  14. An African Religious Moral Theory and Abortion.Motsamai Molefe (ed.) - 2014 - Insititute of Philosophy at UWM.
    Presuming the truth of a dominant conception of an African ontological system, this chapter offers some understanding of African moral theory and its recommendations for abortion. I argue that an African moral theory, all things equal, forbids abortion.
     
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  15. An African Religious Moral Theory.Motsamai Molefe - manuscript
    Abstract This article reconstructs an under-explored conception of African religious ethics qua vitality – a spiritual energy emanating and maximally inhering in God. Much of the literature in African morality takes a historical or anthropological approach to morality. By use analytic philosophy, I advocate, note, not defend, an African religious ethics. By ‘religious ethics’, I mean, firstly, a meta-ethical theory, an account about the nature of moral properties that they are spiritual. ‘Rightness’ is definable as an instance of positive relation (...)
     
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  16. An African Religious Ethics and the Euthyphro Problem.Motsamai Molefe - 2017 - Acta Academica 49 (1):22-38.
    Supposing that an African metaphysics grounded on the notion and/or value of vitality is true, can it do a better job in terms of informing an African religious ethics than its Western counterparts, specifically, the Divine Command theory (DCT)? By ‘religious ethics’, in this article, I have in a mind a meta-ethical theory i.e., an account of moral properties whether they are best understood in spiritual rather than physical terms. In this article, I articulate an under-explored African meta-ethical theory grounded (...)
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  17. A Critique of Kwasi Wiredu's Moral Theory.Motsamai Molefe - manuscript
    This article critically engages with Kwasi Wiredu’s moral theory. I observe that major criticisms of this moral theory have not sufficiently addressed two aspects of it. Firstly, they have not exhaustively problematized Wiredu’s ‘welfarism’ – the claim that morality is definable purely in terms of welfare. In this regard, it is not clear what Wiredu and much of the African literature might mean by ‘welfare’, I give some account of this. Secondly, Wiredu’s ethical principle of sympathetic impartiality (golden rule) appears (...)
     
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  18. A Defence of Moderate Communitarianism: A Place of Rights in African Moral-Political Thought.Motsamai Molefe - 2018 - Phronimon 18:181 - 203.
    This article attempts to defend Kwame Gyekye’s moderate communitarianism (MC) from the trenchant criticism that it is as defective as radical communitarianism (RC) since they both fail to take rights seriously. As part of my response, I raise two critical questions. Firstly, I question the supposition in the literature that there is such a thing as radical communitarianism. I point out that talk of radical communitarianism is tantamount to attacking a “straw-man.” Secondly, I question the efficacy of the criticism that (...)
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  19.  21
    African Personhood and Applied Ethics.Motsamai Molefe - 2020 - Grahamstown, South Africa: NISC.
    Recently, the salient idea of personhood in the tradition of African philosophy has been objected to on various grounds. Two such objections stand out – the book deals with a lot more. The first criticism is that the idea of personhood is patriarchal insofar as it elevates the status of men and marginalises women in society. The second criticism observes that the idea of personhood is characterised by speciesism. The essence of these concerns is that personhood fails to embody a (...)
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  20.  1
    Critical Comments on Afro-Communitarianism: Community Versus the Individual.Motsamai Molefe - 2017 - Filosofia Theoretica 6 (1):1-22.
    This article draws our attention to the centrality of the normative idea of personhood in elucidating a robust Afro-communitarianism. To do so, it visits the debate between the so-called moderate and radical communitarians to argue that the assertion that a community takes priority over an individual is not an implausible position. It argues that this assertion, given a nuanced moral interpretation, can offer a promising African perspective on how to secure a life of dignity withoutnecessarily appealing to rights but to (...)
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  21. Critical Reflections on Gyekye's Humanism: Defending Supernaturalism.Motsamai Molefe (ed.) - 2013 - Lexington Books.
    This chapter evaluates Kwame Gyekye's argument for rejecting ethical supernaturalism in the African moral tradition (Gyekye, 2010). In this chapter, I reject Gyekye's argument for two major reasons. Firstly, I observe that Gyekye's argument is incompatible with much of African thought which is holistic, where the spiritual and physical are part of the same reality. Secondly, I criticise Gyekye for rejecting an African spiritual meta-ethics. I observe that his treatment of African meta-ethics leans heavily on Western moral theory of the (...)
     
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  22. Editorial: African Philosophy and Rights.Motsamai Molefe & Christopher John Allsobrook - 2018 - Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory 65.
     
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  23. Individualism in African Moral Cultures.Motsamai Molefe - 2017 - Cultura 14 (2):49-68.
    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 (...)
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  24. Personhood and a Meaningful Life in African Philosophy.Motsamai Molefe - 2020 - South African Journal of Philosophy 39 (2): 194-207.
    This article proffers a personhood-based conception of a meaningful life. I look into the ethical structure of the salient idea of personhood in African philosophy to develop an account of a meaningful life. In my view, the ethics of personhood is constituted by three components, namely (1) the fact of being human, which informs (2) a view of moral status qua the capacity for moral virtue, and (3) which specifies the final good of achieving or developing a morally virtuous character. (...)
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  25. Personhood and (Rectification) Justice in African Thought.Motsamai Molefe - 2018 - Politikon:1- 18.
    This article invokes the idea of personhood (which it takes to be at the heart of Afrocommunitarian morality) to give an account of corrective/rectification justice. The idea of rectification justice by Robert Nozick is used heuristically to reveal the moral-theoretical resources availed by the idea of personhood to think about historical injustices and what would constitute a meaningful remedy for them. This notion of personhood has three facets: (1) a theory of moral status/dignity, (2) an account of historical conditions and (...)
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  26. Reflections on 'A Report on Ubuntu'. [REVIEW]Motsamai Molefe - 2014 - Acta Academica 46:157 - 164.
    Leonhard Praeg’s book 'A report on Ubuntu' treats the question of “What is Ubuntu?” in a unique and illuminating fashion. The book begins with an approach that repositions Ubuntu by drawing a crucial distinction between what we mean when we ask the question “What is Ubuntu?”, and what we are doing when we ask this question. Praeg shifts his focus to the latter question. This crucial distinction escapes the gaze of many scholars of Ubuntu, and this book makes this gaze (...)
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  27. Towards an African Political Philosophy of Needs.Motsamai Molefe & Chris Allsobrook (eds.) - 2021 - Palgrave Macmillan.
    This book focuses on the domains of moral philosophy, political philosophy, and political theory within African philosophy. At the heart of the volume is a call to imagine African political philosophy as embodying a needs-based political vision. While discourses in African political philosophy have fixated on the normative framework of human rights law to articulate demands for social and global justice, this book charts a new frontier in African political thought by turning from ‘rights’ to ‘needs.’ The authors aim to (...)
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  28.  1
    The Criticism of Secular Humanism in African Philosophy.Motsamai Molefe - 2019 - In Munamato Chemhuru (ed.), African Environmental Ethics: A Critical Reader. Springer Verlag. pp. 59-76.
    In this article, I motivate for the view that the best account of the foundations of morality in the African tradition should be grounded on some relevant spiritual property—a view that I call ‘ethical supernaturalism’. In contrast to this position, the literature has been dominated by humanism as the best interpretation of African ethics, which typically is accompanied by a direct rejection of ‘ethical supernaturalism’ and a veiled rejection of non-naturalism. Here primarily, by appeal to methods of analytic philosophy, which (...)
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  29.  2
    The Function of “It” in Ifeanyi Menkiti’s Normative Account of Personhood: A Response to Bernard Matolino.Motsamai Molefe & Mutshidzi Maraganedzha - 2017 - Filosofia Theoretica 6 (1):90-109.
    This article is a response to Bernard Matolino’s criticisms against Ifeanyi Menkiti’s elucidations on the normative notion of personhood in African philosophy. This article argues that Menkiti’s article is best understood to be ultimately focused on articulating the normative notion of personhood; so understood, Menkiti’s analysis eschews many of the objections made against it by Matolino. We show that the confusion lies in a general failure in African philosophy to distinguish three distinct senses of the notion of a person. We (...)
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  30. The “Normative” Concept of Personhood in Wiredu’s Moral Philosophy.Motsamai Molefe - 2021 - Filosofia Theoretica: Journal of African Philosophy, Culture and Religions 10 (1):119-144.
    The article explores the place and status of the normative concept of personhood in Kwasi Wiredu’s moral philosophy. It begins by distinguishing an ethic from an ethics, where one involves cultural values and the other strict moral values. It proceeds to argue, by a careful exposition of Wiredu’s moral philosophy, that he locates personhood as an essential aspect of communalism [an ethic], and it specifies culture-specific standards of excellence among traditional African societies. I conclude the article by considering one implication (...)
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  31. Ubuntu and Development: An African Conception of Development.Motsamai Molefe - 2019 - Africa Today 66:97 - 115.
    This article articulates an African conception of development. I call such an account African insofar as it is based on the moral worldview of ubuntu, which is salient largely among the Bantu peoples. To articulate a conception of development, I rely on the paradigm of development ethics, which construes development as an ethical or philosophical enterprise constituted by three questions: what is a good life? what is a just society? and what duties do we owe to the environment? Answers to (...)
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