•  1146
    Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study
    Oxford University Press. 2013.
    What makes a person's life meaningful? Thaddeus Metz offers a new answer to an ancient question which has recently returned to the philosophical agenda. He proceeds by examining what, if anything, all the conditions that make a life meaningful have in common. The outcome of this process is a philosophical theory of meaning in life. He starts by evaluating existing theories in terms of the classic triad of the good, the true, and the beautiful. He considers whether meaning in life might be about …Read more
  •  26
    Open Perfectionism and Global Justice
    Theoria 51 (104): 96-127. 2004.
    In his book Cosmopolitan Justice, Darrel Moellendorf argues that respect for persons has the following rough implications (among others): requires states to enact liberal legislation; permits them to interfere with religious or otherwise perfectionist regimes; forbids them from restricting immigration for perfectionist ends; and requires them to permit secession. In this article, I do not question Moellendorf's Kantian foundation; what I do here is question the inferences from this principle to …Read more
  •  43
    Das Sinnvolle und das Lebenswerte: Zur Klärung ihrer Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede
    In Matthias Hoesch, Sebastian Muders & Markus Rüther (eds.), Glück-Werte-Sinn, Walter De Gruyter. pp. 109-25. 2013.
    'The Meaningful and the Worthwhile' (Philosophical Forum 2012) translated into German by Markus Rüther.
  •  57
    A Theory of National Reconciliation: Some Insights from Africa
    In Claudio Corradetti, Nir Eisikovits & Jack Rotondi (eds.), Theorizing Transitional Justice, Ashgate. pp. 119-35. 2015.
    In this chapter I articulate and defend a basic principle capturing the underlying structure of an attractive sort of national reconciliation that accounts for a wide array of disparate judgments about the subject. There are extant theories of national reconciliation in the literature, most of which are informed by Kantian, liberal-democratic and similar perspectives. In contrast to these, I spell out a theory grounded on a comparatively underexplored sub-Saharan ethic. My foremost aim is to dem…Read more
  •  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
  •  220
    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
  •  463
    Two Conceptions of African Ethics
    Quest 25 141-61. 2013.
    I focus on D A Masolo’s discussion of morality as characteristically understood by African philosophers. My goals are both historical and substantive, meaning that I use reflection on Masolo’s book as an occasion to shed light not only on the nature of recent debates about African ethics, but also on African ethics itself. With regard to history, I argue that Masolo’s discussion of sub-Saharan morality suggests at least two major ways that the field has construed it, depending on which value is …Read more
  •  45
    Accountability in Higher Education: A Comprehensive Analytical Framework
    Theory and Research in Education 9 (1): 41-58. 2011.
    Concomitant with the rise of rationalizing accountability in higher education has been an increase in theoretical reflection about the forms accountability has taken and the ones it should take. The literature is now peppered by a wide array of distinctions (e.g. internal/external, inward/ outward, vertical/horizontal, upward/downward, professional/public, political/economic, soft/ hard, positive/negative), to the point that when people speak of ‘accountability’ they risk speaking past one anoth…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
  •  130
    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
  •  285
    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
  •  78
    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
  •  190
    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
  •  66
    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
  •  112
    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
  •  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
  •  533
    Persian translation by Seyyed Mostafa Mousavi A’zam of 'The Immortality Requirement for Life's Meaning' (Ratio 2003).
  •  252
    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).
  •  169
    Many religious thinkers hold the immortality requirement, the view that immortality of some kind is necessary for life to have meaning. After clarifying the nature of the immortality requirement, this essay examines three central arguments for it. The article establishes that existing versions of these arguments fail to entail the immortality requirement. The essay then reconstructs the arguments, and it shows that once they do plausibly support the immortality requirement, they equally support …Read more
  •  40
    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
  •  99
    Recent work in African ethics
    Journal of Moral Education 39 (3): 381-391. 2010.
    In this article I review the two books published in the last few years that would be of most interest to those researching or teaching African morality. They are African Ethics: An Anthology of Comparative and Applied Ethics and Persons in Community: African Ethics in a Global Culture, which are both collections of contemporary essays. These texts are among the first anthologies ever to appear that are strictly devoted to the values of black peoples below the Sahara, and they include many fresh …Read more
  •  132
    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
  •  1097
    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