•  33
    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
  •  332
    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
  •  6
    _A Relational Moral Theory_ draws on neglected resources from the Global South and especially the African philosophical tradition to provide a new answer to a perennial philosophical question: what do all morally right actions have in common as distinct from wrong ones? Metz points out that the principles of utility and of respect for autonomy, the two rivals that have dominated western moral theory for the last two centuries, share an individualist premise. Once that common assumption is replac…Read more
  •  339
    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
  •  990
    Therapists and related theorists and practitioners of mental health tend to hold one of two broad views about how to help patients. On the one hand, some maintain that, or at least act as though, the basic point of therapy is to help patients become clear about what they want deep down and to enable them to achieve it by overcoming mental blockages. On the other hand, there are those who contend that the aim of therapy should instead be to psychologically enable patients to live objectively desi…Read more
  •  198
    آثار جدید درباره معناى زندگى (Persian: '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).
  •  16
    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
  •  66
    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
  •  165
    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
  •  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
  •  98
    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
  •  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.
  •  297
    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
  •  68
    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
  •  27
    Review of Heidi Hurd, Moral Combat (review)
    Philosophical Review 110 (3): 434-436. 2001.
    It appears that it would almost always be wrong to punish a person for having performed a morally justified action. The axiom of “weak retributivism” maintains that the state must not routinely punish those who have not broken a just law. However, it seems that respect for the rule of law and for majority rule requires government officials to punish individuals for breaking laws that may be somewhat unjust. An impartial and democratic state could not function if individuals flouted institutional…Read more
  •  29
    Many readers will share the judgment that, having made an oath, there is something morally worse about consequently performing the immoral action, such as embezzling, that one swore not to do. Why would it be worse? To answer this question, I consider three moral-theoretic accounts of why it is “extra” wrong to violate oaths not to perform wrong actions, with special attention paid to those made in economic contexts. Specifically, I address what the moral theories of utilitarianism, Kantianism a…Read more
  •  24
    African Philosophy as a Multidisciplinary Discourse
    In Toyin Falola & Adeshina Afolayan (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of African Philosophy, Palgrave-macmillan. pp. 795-812. 2017.
    Philosophy is often labelled the ‘Queen of the Sciences’, meaning that it not merely gave birth to most other disciplines, but also has continued to influence their course. This chapter proceeds on these assumptions as well as the idea that post-independence, academic African philosophy ought to shape the development of other disciplines. It addresses the clusters of Law/Politics, Business/Management, Economics/Development Studies, Sociology/Anthropology, Psychology/Medicine, Education, Religiou…Read more
  •  53
    Values in China as Compared to Africa: Two Conceptions of Harmony
    Philosophy East and West 67 (2): 441-465. 2017.
    Given a 21st century context of sophisticated market economies and other Western influences such as Christianity, what similarities and differences are there between characteristic indigenous values of sub-Saharan Africa and China, and how do they continue to influence everyday life in these societies? Establishing that central to both non-Western, indigenous value systems are ideals of harmonious relationships, I compare and contrast traditional African and Chinese conceptions of harmony and an…Read more
  •  30
    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
  •  375
    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
  •  88
    Thaddeus Metz defends the retributive theory of punishment against challenges mounted by some of the contributors to this collection. People, he thinks, ought to be censured in a way that is proportional to what they have done and for which they are responsible. Understanding does not conflict with judging. On the contrary, according to him, the more we understand, the better we are able to censure appropriately. Metz’s argument is Kantian insofar as he argues that ‘respect for persons [victims,…Read more
  •  39
    I critically evaluate South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in light of a philosophical interpretation of the southern African ethic of ubuntu. Roughly, according to this moral philosophy, an act or policy is right insofar as it honours communal relationships, ones of identifying with others and exhibiting solidarity with them. After spelling out this ethical principle and the specific kind of national reconciliation it prescribes, I show that there is a powerful justification…Read more
  •  26
    African Ethics and Journalism Ethics: News and Opinion in Light of Ubuntu
    Journal of Media Ethics 30 (2): 74-90. 2015.
    In this article, I address some central issues in journalism ethics from a fresh perspective, namely, one that is theoretical and informed by values salient in sub-Saharan Africa. Drawing on a foundational moral theory with an African pedigree, which is intended to rival Western theories such as Kantianism and utilitarianism, I provide a unified account of an array of duties of various agents with respect to the news/opinion media. I maintain that the ability of the African moral theory to plaus…Read more
  •  31
    I consider what prima facie attractive communitarian ethical perspectives salient among indigenous African peoples entail for distributive justice within a state, and I argue that they support a form of economic egalitarianism that differs in several important ways from varieties common in contemporary Anglo-American political philosophy. In particular, the sort of economic egalitarianism I advance rivals not only luck-oriented variants from the likes of Ronald Dworkin, G. A. Cohen and theorists…Read more
  •  179
    How God Could Assign Us a Purpose without Disrespect: Reply to Salles
    Quadranti - Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia Contemporanea 1 (1): 99-112. 2013.
    In one of the most widely read texts on what makes a life meaningful, composed more than 50 years ago, Kurt Baier presents an intriguing argument against the view that meaning in life would come by fulfilling a purpose God has assigned us. Baier contends that God could not avoid degrading us were He to assign us a purpose, which would mean that God, as a morally ideal being by definition, would not do so. Defenders of God-centred accounts of meaning in life, and even many of its detractors such …Read more
  •  226
    Questioning South Africa’s ‘Genetic Link’ Requirement for Surrogacy
    South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 7 (1): 34-39. 2014.
    South African law currently forbids those seeking to arrange a surrogate motherhood agreement from creating a child that will not be genetically related to at least one of them. For a surrogacy contract to be legally valid, there must be a ‘genetic link’ between the child created through a surrogate and the parents who will raise it. Currently, this law is being challenged in the High Court of South Africa, and in this article I critically explore salient ethical facets of the dispute. I argue t…Read more
  •  319
    I have two major aims in this chapter, which is philosophical in nature. One is to draw upon values that are salient in the southern African region in order to construct a novel and attractive conception of human dignity. Specifically, I articulate the idea that human beings have a dignity in virtue of their communal nature, or their capacity for what I call ‘identity’ and ‘solidarity’, which contrasts the most influential conception in the West, according to which our dignity inheres in our rat…Read more
  •  3
    Two values salient in the sub-Saharan tradition that are invoked to ground the superlative, equal worth of persons and the human rights to which they are entitled are, first, vitality or 'life-force' and, second, community or relationships of identity and solidarity. This entry, which draws heavily on an article appearing in Human Rights Review (2012), sketches these two conceptions of dignity and presents an overview of key strengths and weaknesses of them.
  •  499
    This is an introduction to the special issue of Quest devoted to D. A. Masolo’s latest book, Self and Community in a Changing World. It situates this book in relation to not only Masolo’s earlier research on African philosophy but also the field more generally, sketches the central positions of the contributions to the journal issue, and in light of them makes some critical recommendations for future reflection.