•  36
    Philosophical Papers 34 (3): 311-329. 2005.
    This article introduces a special issue of Philosophical Papers devoted to the topic of meaning in life. In the paper, I engage with articles by Robert Audi, David Velleman, John Martin Fischer, Laurence Thomas, Berit Brogaard, Barry Smith and Larry James, laying out their central views, criticizing them, and suggesting ways they could be developed.
  •  50
    A Dilemma Regarding Academic Freedom and Public Accountability in Higher Education
    Journal of Philosophy of Education 44 (4): 529-549. 2010.
    The aim of this article is to establish that current thought about the point of a publicly funded university faces a dilemma. On the one hand, influential and attractive ‘macro’-level principles about how state resources ought to be accountably used entail that academic freedom should be utilised solely for the sake of social justice or some other concrete public good. Standard theories of public morality entail that an academic’s responsibility is entirely to be ‘responsive’ or ‘relevant’ to he…Read more
  •  44
    How to Ground Animal Rights on African Values: A Reply to Horsthemke
    Journal of Animal Ethics 7 (2): 163-174. 2017.
    I seek to advance plausible replies to the several criticisms Kai Horsthemke makes of ‘African Modal Relationalism’, his label for my theory of animal rights with a sub-Saharan pedigree. Central to this view is the claim that, roughly, a being has a greater moral status, the more it is in principle capable of relating communally with characteristic human beings. Horsthemke maintains that this view is anthropocentric and speciesist, is poorly motivated relative to his egalitarian-individualist ap…Read more
  •  218
    Suppose that it can be right to grant amnesty from criminal and civil liability to those guilty of political crimes in exchange for full disclosure about them. There remains this important question to ask about the proper form that amnesty should take: Which additional burdens, if any, should the state lift from wrongdoers in the wake of according them freedom from judicial liability? I answer this question in the context of a recent South African Constitutional Court case that considered whethe…Read more
  •  282
    A Dilemma about the Final Ends of Higher Education -- and a Resolution
    Kagisano (The Higher Education Discussion Series) 9 23-41. 2013.
    In this article, written for the generally educated reader, I summarize my latest thinking about a dilemma that I believe current theoretical reflection faces about the proper ultimate aims of a public university. Specifically, I make the following three major points: (1) On the one hand, all dominant theories of how properly to spend public resources entail that academics should not pursue knowledge for its own sake and should rather devote their energies toward promoting some concrete public g…Read more
  •  353
    The Nature of Reactive Practices: Exploring Strawson’s Expressivism
    South African Journal of Philosophy 27 (3): 49-63. 2008.
    I aim to answer the questions of whether reactive practices such as gratitude and punishment are inherently expressive, and, if so, in what respect. I distinguish seven ways in which one might plausibly characterize reactive practices as essentially expressive in nature, and organise them so that they progress in a dialectical order, from weakest to strongest. I then critically discuss objections that apply to the strongest conception, questioning whether it coheres with standard retributive und…Read more
  •  175
    In this article we focus on three key precepts shared by Confucianism and the African ethic of Ubuntu: the central value of community, the desirability of ethical partiality, and the idea that we tend to become morally better as we grow older. For each of these broad similarities, there are key differences underlying them, and we discuss those as well as speculate about the reasons for them. Our aim is not to take sides, but we do suggest ways that Ubuntu and Confucianism might have something to…Read more
  •  50
    I present ideas about human suffering that are salient among the black peoples of sub-Saharan Africa, reconstruct them in order to make them relevant to an international audience with philosophical interests, and urge that audience to give them consideration as alternatives or correctives to some dominant Western approaches. I first recount views commonly held by sub-Saharans about the nature, causes and cures of suffering, and then draw on them to articulate an account of it qua enervation, whi…Read more
  •  53
    Imperfection as sufficient for a meaningful life : How much is enough?
    In Yujin Nagasawa & Erik J. Wielenberg (eds.), New Waves in Philosophy of Religion, Palgrave-macmillan. pp. 192-214. 2009.
    Supernaturalism about meaning in life appears plausible insofar it is reasonable to think that a meaningful life can come only from a world in which there is a perfect value of some kind. Call the view that meaningfulness depends on perfection the ‘perfection thesis’. My aim in this chapter is to develop the contrasting ‘imperfection thesis’, the claim that a life that is significant on balance does not require any perfect value. I argue that principles that naturalists have offered (or suggeste…Read more
  •  128
    Recent Philosophies of Social Protection: From Capability to Ubuntu
    Global Social Policy 16 (2): 132-150. 2016.
    In the past decade or two, philosophies of social protection have shifted away from a nearly exclusive focus on the subjective and the individual (e.g., autonomous choices, utility) and towards values that are more objective and relational. The latter approaches, typified by the well established Capabilities Approach and the up and coming ethic of ubuntu, have been substantially inspired by engagements with the Global South, particularly India and Africa. In this article, part of a special issue…Read more
  •  531
    Persian translation by Seyyed Mostafa Mousavi A’zam of 'The Immortality Requirement for Life's Meaning' (Ratio 2003).
  •  322
    The African ethic of Ubuntu/Botho: implications for research on morality
    with Joseph B. R. Gaie
    Journal of Moral Education 39 (3): 273-290. 2010.
    In this article we provide a theoretical reconstruction of sub-Saharan ethics that we argue is a strong competitor to typical Western approaches to morality. According to our African moral theory, actions are right roughly insofar as they are a matter of living harmoniously with others or honouring communal relationships. After spelling out this ethic, we apply it to several issues in both normative and empirical research into morality. With regard to normative research, we compare and contrast …Read more
  •  248
    Ubuntu Como uma Teoria Moral e os Direitos Humanos na África do Sul
    Revista Culturas Jurídicas 3 (5): 1-33. 2016.
    Portuguese translation by Jean-Bosco Kakozi and Karina Macedo Fernandes of 'Ubuntu as a Moral Theory and Human Rights in South Africa', which first appeared in the African Human Rights Law Journal (2011).
  •  65
    Dignity in the Ubuntu Tradition
    In Marcus Düwell (ed.), Cambridge Handbook on Human Dignity, Cambridge University Press. pp. 310-18. 2014.
    I draw on ideas commonly advocated by adherents to ubuntu, the term often used to capture sub-Saharan morality, in order to spell out, and sometimes construct, understandings of human dignity that are worth taking seriously by professional ethicists, moral philosophers, jurisprudential scholars and Constitutional Courts anywhere in the world. In particular, I seek to articulate a theory of dignity grounded in African values that could serve as a genuine rival to the influential Kantian conceptio…Read more
  •  124
    God's purpose as irrelevant to life's meaning: Reply to affolter
    Religious Studies 43 (4): 457-464. 2007.
    Elsewhere I have contended that if a God-centred account of meaning in life were true, it would not be because meaning comes from fulfilling God’s purpose for us. Specifically, I have argued that this ‘purpose theory’ of life’s meaning cannot be the correct God-based view since God would have to be atemporal, immutable, and simple for meaning to logically depend on His existence, and since such a being lacking extension could not be purposive. Jacob Affolter has developed a fresh account of the …Read more
  •  26
    Koheleth and the Meaning of Life
    In Stephen Leach & James Tartaglia (eds.), The Meaning of Life and the Great Philosophers, Routledge. pp. 73-78. 2018.
    This chapter critically discusses the most salient positions about life’s meaning advanced by Koheleth, the presumed author of Ecclesiastes, a book from the Hebrew Bible. Koheleth famously argues that ‘life is futility’ (or ‘vanity’) for a variety of reasons, with this chapter focusing on the three that are most recurrent in the text and have been particularly influential in the Western tradition of philosophy. These are considerations about: the mortality of humankind, the undeserved allocation…Read more
  •  53
  •  35
    Poverty as Inhuman: Plausible but Illiberal?
    International Journal of Applied Philosophy 30 (1): 1-14. 2016.
    In this article, part of a special issue devoted to Hennie Lötter’s Poverty, Ethics and Justice, I draw out an interesting implication of Hennie Lötter’s original and compelling conception of the nature of poverty as essentially inhuman. After motivating this view, I argue that it, like the capabilities approach and other views that invoke a conception of good and bad lives, is inconsistent with a standard understanding of a liberal account of the state’s role, one that is independently supporte…Read more
  •  133
    Three of the great sources of meaning in life are the good, the true, and the beautiful, and I aim to make headway on the grand Enlightenment project of ascertaining what, if anything, they have in common. Concretely, if we take a (stereotypical) Mother Teresa, Mandela, Darwin, Einstein, Dostoyevsky, and Picasso, what might they share that makes it apt to deem their lives to have truly mattered? I provide reason to doubt two influential answers, noting a common flaw that supernaturalism and cons…Read more
  •  26
    African Political Philosophy
    In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Ethics, Wiley. pp. 1-9. 2015.
    I critically discuss contemporary work in African, i.e., sub-Saharan, political philosophy that has been written in English. I begin by providing an overview of the profession and discussing the aptness of focusing on African political philosophy as a distinct topic. Next, I highlight discussions that should be of interest to a political philosopher working anywhere in the world, focusing on ideas characteristic of the sub-Saharan region that are under-appreciated not merely for the purpose of c…Read more
  •  130
    African Values and Human Rights as Two Sides of the Same Coin: Reply to Oyowe
    African Human Rights Law Journal 14 (2): 306-21. 2014.
    In an article previously published in this Journal, Anthony Oyowe critically engages with my attempt to demonstrate how the human rights characteristic of South Africa’s Constitution can be grounded on a certain interpretation of Afro-communitarian values that are often associated with talk of ‘ubuntu’. Drawing on recurrent themes of human dignity and communal relationships in the sub-Saharan tradition, I have advanced a moral-philosophical principle that I argue entails and plausibly explains a…Read more
  •  1079
    Just the Beginning for Ubuntu: Reply to Matolino and Kwindingwi
    South African Journal of Philosophy 33 (1): 65-72. 2014.
    In an article titled ‘The end of ubuntu’ recently published in this journal, Bernard Matolino and Wenceslaus Kwindingwi argue that contemporary conditions in (South) Africa are such that there is no justification for appealing to an ethic associated with talk of ‘ubuntu’. They argue that political elites who invoke ubuntu do so in ways that serve nefarious functions, such as unreasonably narrowing discourse about how best to live, while the moral ideals of ubuntu are appropriate only for a bygon…Read more
  •  88
    Review of Liam Murphy, Moral Demands in Nonideal Theory (review)
    Philosophical Review 110 (4): 614-617. 2001.
    How much must a given individual benefit others, apart from any obligation to do so because of prior acts, special relationships, or self-regard? In short, to what extent is a person morally required to promote the well-being of strangers?
  •  64
    Arbitrariness, Justice, and Respect
    Social Theory and Practice 26 (1): 25-45. 2000.
    I examine John Rawls' objection to libertarianism that it permits economic shares to be distributed in a morally arbitrary way. This argument was dropped largely for two reasons. First, talk of "arbitrariness" has been vague and associated with implausible views about moral desert, collective assets, and noumenal selves. Second, several criticisms which Robert Nozick made 25 years ago have gone unanswered. In this essay, I reconstruct the arbitrariness argument, giving it a new, Kantian interpre…Read more