•  74
    Life Worth Living
    In Alex Michalos (ed.), Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-being Research, Springer. pp. 3602-05. 2014.
    In this encyclopedia entry, I seek to distinguish the concept of a worthwhile life from related ones such as a happy or meaningful life, to draw key distinctions that arise in discussion of worthwhileness (e.g., between life worth starting and life worth continuing), and to discuss some of the contemporary debates among ethicists about when a life is indeed worth living and when it's not.
  •  89
    Meaning in Life
    In Benjamin Matheson & Yujin Nagasawa (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook on the Afterlife, Palgrave-macmillan. pp. 353-370. 2017.
    This chapter critically explores contemporary philosophical understandings of whether meaning in life might depend on the presence or absence of an afterlife. After distinguishing various kinds of afterlife, it focuses most on the potential relevance of an eternal one, and considers at length the extreme but common views amongst philosophers that an eternal afterlife would be either necessary for a meaningful life or, conversely, sufficient for a meaningless one. It concludes by considering the …Read more
  •  289
    New developments in the meaning of life
    Philosophy Compass 2 (2). 2007.
    In this article I survey philosophical literature on the topic of what, if anything, makes a person’s life meaningful, focusing on systematic texts that are written in English and that have appeared in the last five years (2002-2007). My aims are to present overviews of the most important, fresh, Anglo-American positions on meaning in life and to raise critical questions about them worth answering in future work.
  •  17
    Reprint of an article that initially appeared in Ratio (2003).
  •  202
    In this chapter, a reprinted article from Southern African Public Law (2010), I argue that, even supposing substantive principles of distributive justice entail that animals warrant constitutional protection, there are other, potentially weightier forms of injustice that would probably be done by interpreting a Bill of Rights as implicitly applying to animals, namely, formal injustice and compensatory injustice. Formal injustice would result from such a reading of the Constitution in that the st…Read more
  •  11
    Reprint of an article that initially appeared in Religious Studies (2000).
  •  21
    How to Deal with Neglected Tropical Diseases in the Light of an African Ethic
    Developing World Bioethics 18 (3): 233-240. 2018.
    Many countries in Africa, and more generally those in the Global South with tropical areas, are plagued by illnesses that the wealthier parts of the world (mainly ‘the West’) neither suffer from nor put systematic effort into preventing, treating or curing. What does an ethic with a recognizably African pedigree entail for the ways various agents ought to respond to such diseases? As many readers will know, a characteristically African ethic prescribes weighty duties to aid on the part of those …Read more
  •  313
    Toward an african moral theory
    Journal of Political Philosophy 15 (3). 2007.
    In this article I articulate and defend an African moral theory, i.e., a basic and general principle grounding all particular duties that is informed by sub-Saharan values commonly associated with talk of "ubuntu" and cognate terms that signify personhood or humanness. The favoured interpretation of ubuntu (as of 2007) is the principle that an action is right insofar as it respects harmonious relationships, ones in which people identify with, and exhibit solidarity toward, one another. I maintai…Read more
  •  18
    Legal Punishment
    In Christopher Roederer & Darrel Moellendorf (eds.), Jurisprudence, Juta. pp. 555-87. 2004.
    We seek to outline philosophical answers to the questions of why punish, whom to punish and how much to punish, with illustrations from the South African legal system. We begin by examining the differences between forward- and backward-looking moral theories of legal punishment, their strengths and also their weaknesses. Then, we ascertain to which theory, if any, contemporary South Africa largely conforms. Finally, we discuss several matters of controversy in South Africa in the context of forw…Read more
  •  14
    The African Ethic of Ubuntu/Botho (repr.)
    with Joseph Gaie
    In Sharlene Swarz & Monica Taylor (eds.), Moral Education in Sub-Saharan Africa, Routledge. pp. 7-24. 2011.
    In this chapter, a reprint of an article initially appearing in the Journal of Moral Education (2010), 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 empiri…Read more
  •  100
    African and western moral theories in a bioethical context
    Developing World Bioethics 10 (1): 49-58. 2010.
    The field of bioethics is replete with applications of moral theories such as utilitarianism and Kantianism. For a given dilemma, even if it is not clear how one of these western philosophical principles of right (and wrong) action would resolve it, one can identify many of the considerations that each would conclude is relevant. The field is, in contrast, largely unaware of an African account of what all right (and wrong) actions have in common and of the sorts of factors that for it are german…Read more
  •  19
    Reprint of an article initially appearing in Educational Philosophy and Theory (2015).
  •  85
    Review of Todd May, A Significant Life (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 8 (19): 0. 2015.
    Approx. 2000 word review of Todd May's _A Significant Life: Human Meaning in a Silent Universe_ (University of Chicago Press)
  •  155
    Henry Richardson has recently published the first book ever devoted to ancillary care obligations, which roughly concern what medical researchers are morally required to provide to participants beyond what safety requires. In it Richardson notes that he has presented the ‘only fully elaborated view out there’ on this topic, which he calls the ‘partial-entrustment model’. In this article, I provide a new theory of ancillary care obligations, one that is grounded on ideals of communion salient in …Read more
  •  25
    Over the last two decades, the capabilities approach has become an increasingly influential theory of development. It conceptualises human wellbeing in terms of an individual's ability to achieve functionings we have reason to value. In contrast, the African ethic of ubuntu views human flourishing as the propensity to pursue relations of fellowship with others, such that relationships have fundamental value. These two theoretical perspectives seem to be in tension with each other; while the capa…Read more
  •  208
    God’s Role in a Meaningful Life: New Reflections from Tim Mawson
    European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 10 (3): 171-191. 2018.
    Characteristic of the contemporary field of life's meaning has been the combination of monism in method and naturalism in substance. That is, much of the field has sought to reduce enquiry into life's meaning to one question and to offer a single principle as an answer to it, with this principle typically focusing on ways of living in the physical world as best known by the scientific method. T. J. Mawson's new book, God and the Meanings of Life, provides fresh reason to doubt both this form and…Read more
  •  3
    Reprint of an article first appearing in Politikon (2017).
  •  156
    God, Morality and the Meaning of Life
    In Samantha Vice & Nafsika Athanassoulis (eds.), The Moral Life: Essays in Honour of John Cottingham, Palgrave-macmillan. pp. 201-227. 2008.
    In this chapter, I critically explore John Cottingham's most powerful argument for the thesis that the existence of God is necessary for meaning in life. This is the argument that life would be meaningless without an invariant morality, which could come only from God. After demonstrating that Cottingham's God-based ethic can avoid not only many traditional Euthyphro meta-ethical concerns, but also objections at the normative level, I consider whether it can entail the unique respect in which mor…Read more
  •  305
    Realism and the Censure Theory of Punishment
    In Patricia Smith & Paolo Comanducci (eds.), Legal Philosophy: General Aspects, Franz Steiner Verlag. pp. 117-29. 2002.
    I focus on the metaphysical underpinnings of the censure theory of punishment, according to which punishment is justified if and because it expresses disapproval of injustice. Specifically, I seek to answer the question of what makes claims about proportionate censure true or false. In virtue of what is it the case that one form of censure is stronger than another, or that punishment is the censure fitting injustice? Are these propositions true merely because of social conventions, as per the do…Read more
  •  154
    آثار جدید درباره معناى زندگى (Farsi: 'Recent Work on the Meaning of Life’)
    Naqd Va Nazar: Quarterly Journal of Philosophy and Theology 8 (29-30): 266-313. 2003.
    Persian translation by Mohsen Javadi of 'Recent Work on the Meaning of Life' (first published in Ethics 2002).
  •  13
    Ubuntu and the Value of Self-Expression in the Mass Media
    Communicatio 41 (3): 388-403. 2015.
    In this article I consider what the implications of ubuntu, interpreted as an African moral philosophy, are for self-expression as a value that the media could help to promote. In contrast to the natural hunches that self-expression is merely a kind of narcissism or makes sense for only individualist cultures to prize, I argue that an attractive construal of ubuntu entails that self-expression can play an important communitarian role. The mass media can be obligated to enable people to express t…Read more
  •  53
    Developing African Political Philosophy: Moral-Theoretic Strategies
    Philosophia Africana 14 (1): 61-83. 2012.
    If contemporary African political philosophy is going to develop substantially in fresh directions, it probably will not be enough, say, to rehash the old personhood debate between Kwame Gyekye and Ifeanyi Menkiti, or to nit-pick at Gyekye’s system, as much of the literature in the field has done. Instead, major advances are likely to emerge on the basis of new, principled interpretations of sub-Saharan moral thought. In recent work, I have fleshed out two types of moral theories that have a cle…Read more
  •  72
    Higher Education, Knowledge For Its Own Sake, and an African Moral Theory
    Studies in Philosophy and Education 28 (6): 517-536. 2009.
    I seek to answer the question of whether publicly funded higher education ought to aim intrinsically to promote certain kinds of ‘‘blue-sky’’ knowledge, knowledge that is unlikely to result in ‘‘tangible’’ or ‘‘concrete’’ social benefits such as health, wealth and liberty. I approach this question in light of an African moral theory, which contrasts with dominant Western philosophies and has not yet been applied to pedagogical issues. According to this communitarian theory, grounded on salient s…Read more
  •  64
    In an article previously published in this journal, Phillip Montague critically surveys and rejects a handful of contemporary attempts to explain why state punishment is morally justified. Among those targeted is one of my defences of the censure theory of punishment, according to which state punishment is justified because the political community has a duty to express disapproval of those guilty of injustice. My defence of censure theory supposes, per argumentum, that there is always some defea…Read more
  •  24
    Punishment
    In Deen Chatterjee (ed.), Encyclopedia of Global Justice, Springer. pp. 915-17. 2012.
    A large majority of theoretical debate with regard to criminal justice at the global level has been concerned to identify which kinds of punishment of international agents are morally sound. Three key issues have been: (1) international sentencing, which concerns the rightness of international tribunals to prosecute what might be called ‘large-scale’ or ‘humanitarian’ crimes; (2) extraterritorial punishment, most topically regarding the appropriateness of a state punishing a foreign national for…Read more
  •  89
    In her essay ‘The Curious Coincidence of Feminine and African Moralities’ (1987), Sandra Harding was perhaps the first to note parallels between a typical Western feminist ethic and a characteristically African, i.e., indigenous sub-Saharan, approach to morality. Beyond Harding’s analysis, one now frequently encounters the suggestion, in a variety of discourses in both the Anglo-American and sub-Saharan traditions, that an ethic of care and an African ethic are more or less the same or share man…Read more
  •  33
    The Meaning of Life, Revised Edition
    In Edward Zalta (ed.), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University. 2013.
    An updated version of the initial, 2007 entry, adding in discussion of key works that have appeared since then.
  •  209
    Confucianism and African Conceptions of Value, Reality and Knowledge (儒家思想与非洲的价值观、现实 观与知识观)
    International Social Science Journal (Chinese Edition 国际社会科学杂志) 33 (4): 159-170. 2016.
    This article, translated into Chinese by Tian Kaifang, summarizes and critically reflects on the current state of the literature that has recently begun to put Chinese Confucianism into dialogue with characteristically African conceptions of what is good, what fundamentally exists, and how to obtain knowledge. As most of this literature has addressed value theory, this article focuses largely on it, too. It first illustrates how similar the foundational values are between the two cultural tradit…Read more
  •  29
    Meaning in Life as the Right Metric
    Society 53 (2): 294-296. 2016.
    In “Happiness Is the Wrong Metric,” Amitai Etzioni largely argues that human beings are motivated by more than just their own happiness, whether conceived in terms of pleasant experiences or fulfilled preferences, and that the state should attend to more than merely people’s happiness. He contends that people are often disposed to seek out, and that public policy ought to promote, what is morally right and good. While not disagreeing with this thrust of Etzioni’s position, I maintain in my contr…Read more