• Problems of Living Meaningfully in Psychiatry and Philosophy
    Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry. forthcoming.
    A brief critical notice of Dan J Stein's new book _Problems of Living: Perspectives from Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Cognitive-Affective Science_.
  • In this article I advance a globally unfamiliar theory of punishment according to which the state normally ought to have offenders reform their characters and compensate their victims in ways the offenders find burdensome, thereby disavowing the crime and tending to foster improved relationships between offenders, their victims, and the broader society. I begin by indicating how this theory draws on ideas about reconciliation from the Global South, and especially sub-Saharan Africa, and is disti…Read more
  • Desert theorists of state punishment think that the more severe the crime, the greater the penalty should be. Traditionally that principle has been understood to prescribe proportionality, a penalty that fits the severity of the crime (taken to include degree of responsibility for it). In this article, I show that there is logical space for another, non-proportionate way of meting out graded penalties, and I also argue that it has some advantages relative to the dominant, proportionality approac…Read more
  • A critical overview of the way human rights has figured into African philosophical thought about morality and politics, along with the advancement of the author's favoured view that a human rights violation is well conceived as an instance of extreme discord or unfriendliness.
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    Meaning and Medicine: An Underexplored Bioethical Value
    Ethik in der Medizin 33 (4). 2021.
    In this article, part of a special issue on meaning in life and medical ethics, I argue that several issues encountered in a bioethical context are not adequately addressed only with values such as morality and welfare. I maintain, more specifically, that the value of what makes a life meaningful is essential to being able to provide conclusive judgements about which decisions to make. After briefly indicating how meaningfulness differs from rightness and happiness, I point out how it is plausib…Read more
  • In this essay I critically discuss some ideas from the under-explored indigenous African tradition of philosophy of religion. Salient in African thought are four major beliefs that would make good sense of the view that it is appropriate to feel grateful for being alive. First, there is a religious belief, namely, in a personal God as the creator of everything in the universe, a globally unrecognized form of monotheism alongside the Abrahamic faiths. Second, there is a force rather than object o…Read more
  • For the more than a decade, I have advanced an account of what makes animals and other beings entitled to moral treatment that is informed by characteristically African ideas about relationality and a great chain of being. Roughly according to this account, a being has a greater moral status, the more it is capable of communing with us (as a subject) or of us communing with it (as an object). Over the years, several commentators have raised criticisms of this position, including sustained ones i…Read more
  • African Values and Capital Punishment (Repr.)
    In Mark Timmons (ed.), Disputed Moral Issues: A Reader, 5th ed, Oxford University Press. 2019.
    Reprint of a chapter initially published in G. Walmsley (ed.) African Philosophy and the Future of Africa (2011).
  • Shortened and mildly revised version of an essay that initially appeared in Murove (ed.) African Ethics (2009). This chapter is a work of applied ethics that aims to provide a convincing comprehensive account of how a government official in a post-independence sub-Saharan country should make decisions about how to allocate goods such as civil service jobs and contracts with private firms. Should such a person refrain from considering any particulars about potential recipients, or might it be app…Read more
  • Harmony as a central or basic value is neglected in globally influential philosophical discussions about rights, power, and other facets of public policy; it is not prominent in articles that appear in widely read journals or in books published by presses with a global reach. In particular, the field remains ignorant of the similarities and differences between various harmony-oriented approaches to political philosophy from around the world. In this chapter, I begin to rectify these deficiencies…Read more
  • Medicine and the Meaning of Life (tentative title)
    In Alex Broadbent (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Medicine, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    A critical survey of how the value of meaning in life has figured, and plausibly could figure, into philosophical reflection on the ends of, means of, and constraints on medical practice.
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    Exactly Why Are Slurs Wrong?
    Daimon: Revista Internacional de Filosofía 84 13-29. 2021.
    This article, part of a special issue on 'Expressing Hatred', seeks to provide a comprehensive and fundamental account of why racial epithets and similar slurs are immoral, whenever they are. It considers three major theories, roughly according to which they are immoral because they are harmful (welfarism), because they undermine autonomy (Kantianism), or because they are unfriendly (an under-considered, relational approach informed by ideas from the Global South). This article presents new obje…Read more
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    On the rise over the past 20 years has been ‘moderate supernaturalism’, the view that while a meaningful life is possible in a world without God or a soul, a much greater meaning would be possible only in a world with them. William Lane Craig can be read as providing an important argument for a version of this view, according to which only with God and a soul could our lives have an eternal, as opposed to temporally limited, significance, by virtue of our moral choices then making an ultimate di…Read more
  • A Relational Theory of Justice
    Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    The core idea of A Relational Theory of Justice (RTJ) is that normative political and legal philosophy should be grounded on people’s relational features, roughly their ability to commune with others and be communed with by them. Usually, philosophers of justice in the West have based their views on people’s intrinsic features, ones that make no essential reference to others, such as their autonomy, self-ownership, or well-being. In addition, often critics of basing politics and law on justice, …Read more
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    Recent Work in African Political and Legal Philosophy
    Philosophy Compass 16 (9): 1-10. 2021.
    In this article I critically survey non-edited books on political and legal philosophy that have been composed by those working in the sub-Saharan African tradition and have appeared in print since 2016. These monographs principally address political, distributive, and criminal justice at the domestic level, with this article recounting the essentials of these texts as well as noting prima facie weaknesses in their positions and gaps in current research agendas. My aims are to enable readers to …Read more
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    An updated version of this encyclopedia entry on the concept of what, if anything, makes life worthwhile.
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    Karl Popper is famous for favoring an open society, one in which the individual is treated as an end in himself and social arrangements are subjected to critical evaluation, which he defends largely by appeal to a Kantian ethic of respecting the dignity of rational beings. In this essay, I consider for the first time what the implications of a characteristically African ethic, instead prescribing respect for our capacity to relate communally, are for how the state should operate in an open socie…Read more
  • An African Theory of Economic Justice (Repr.)
    In Austin Okigbo & Paul Nnodim (eds.), Ubuntu: A Comparative Study of an African Concept of Justice, Leuven University Press. forthcoming.
    Shortened and mildly revised reprint of an article first appearing in Ethical Perspectives (2020).
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    Persian translation by Ashkan M. Roshan of _God, Soul and the Meaning of Life_.
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    What does an African ethic of social cohesion entail for social distancing?
    Developing World Bioethics 21 (1): 7-16. 2021.
    The most prominent strand of moral thought in the African philosophical tradition is relational and cohesive, roughly demanding that we enter into community with each other. Familiar is the view that being a real person means sharing a way of life with others, perhaps even in their fate. What does such a communal ethic prescribe for the coronavirus pandemic? Might it forbid one from social distancing, at least away from intimates? Or would it entail that social distancing is wrong to some degree…Read more
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    The COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant challenges to healthcare systems worldwide, and in Africa, given the lack of resources, they are likely to be even more acute. The usefulness of Traditional African Healers in helping to mitigate the effects of pandemic has been neglected. We argue from an ethical perspective that these healers can and should have an important role in informing and guiding local communities in Africa on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Particularly, we argue no…Read more
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    The Meaning of Life (Second Revised Edition)
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2021.
    A 10,000+ word critical overview of analytic philosophy devoted to life's meaning, with some focus on books and more recent works.
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    Supernaturalist analytic existentialism: Critical notice of Clifford Williams’ Religion and the meaning of life
    International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 89 (2): 189-198. 2021.
    In this critical notice of Clifford Williams’ Religion and the meaning of life, I focus on his argumentation in favour of the moderate supernaturalist position that, while a meaningful life would be possible in a purely physical world, a much greater meaning would be possible only in a world with God and an eternal afterlife spent close to God. I begin by expounding and evaluating Williams’ views of the physical sources of meaning, providing reason to doubt both that he has captured all the cent…Read more
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    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 to…Read more
  • Judaism’s Distinct Perspectives on the Meaning of Life
    Journal of Jewish Ethics. forthcoming.
    In contemporary Anglo-American philosophy, there has been substantial debate between religious and secular theorists about what would make life meaningful, with a large majority of the religious philosophers having drawn on Christianity. In this article, in contrast, I draw on Judaism, with the aims of articulating characteristically Jewish approaches to life's meaning, which is a kind of intellectual history, and of providing some support for them relative to familiar Christian and Islamic appr…Read more
  • Arabic translation by Ahmed Al-Ansari of 'Happiness and Meaningfulness' (a chapter first published in 2009).
  • Does the Lack of Cosmic Meaning Make Our Lives Bad?
    Journal of Value Inquiry. forthcoming.
    This article is part of a special issue devoted to David Benatar’s anti-natalism. There are places in his oeuvre where he contends that, while our lives might be able to exhibit some terrestrial or human meaning, that is not enough to make them worth creating, which would require a cosmic meaning that is unavailable to us. There are those who maintain, in reply to Benatar, that some of our lives do have a cosmic meaning, but I grant Benatar here that none of our lives does. I instead argue that …Read more
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    Insofar as artificial intelligence is to be used to guide automated systems in their interactions with humans, the dominant view is probably that it would be appropriate to programme them to maximize (expected) utility. According to utilitarianism, which is a characteristically western conception of moral reason, machines should be programmed to do whatever they could in a given circumstance to produce in the long run the highest net balance of what is good for human beings minus what is bad for…Read more
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    In this article I critically discuss some recent English language books in African philosophy. Specifically, I expound and evaluate key claims from books published by sub-Saharan thinkers since 2017 that address epistemology, metaphysics, and value theory and that do so in ways of interest to an audience of at least Anglo-American-Australasian analytic philosophers. My aim is not to establish a definitive conclusion about these claims, but rather to facilitate cross-cultural engagement by highli…Read more