•  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
  •  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
  •  338
    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
  •  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).
  •  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
  •  111
    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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  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.
  •  96
    Respect for persons and perfectionist politics
    Philosophy and Public Affairs 30 (4). 2001.
    Can a state seek to promote a thick conception of the good (such as fostering a kind of meaning or excellence in people's lives) without treating its citizens disrespectfully? The predominant answer among friends of the principle of respect for persons is "no." The most powerful Kantian objection to non-liberalism or perfectionism is the claim that citizens who do not share the state's conception of the good would be wronged in that the state would treat a certain way of life as more important …Read more
  •  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.
  •  71
    This article considers how global ethical matters might be approached differently in the English-speaking literature if values salient in sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia were taken seriously. Specifically, after pointing out how indigenous values in both of these major parts of the world tend to prescribe honouring harmonious relationships, the article brings out what such an approach to morality entails for political power, foreign relations and criminal justice. For each major issue, it sugge…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
  •  14
    Jus Interruptus Bellum: The Ethics of Truce-Making
    Journal of Global Ethics 13 (1): 6-13. 2017.
    With his new book, A Theory of Truces, Nir Eisikovits has succeed in producing the most comprehensive and insightful book to exist on the nature and morality of truces during international military conflict. In it he plausibly argues that thought about such conflict should avoid binary terms such as long-lasting peace and all-out war, and instead must readily acknowledge conditions “in between” them, such as cease-fires and agreements to limit belligerence to certain times. In this critical noti…Read more
  •  35
    Confucian Harmony from an African Perspective
    African and Asian Studies 15 (1): 1-22. 2016.
    Chenyang Li’s new book, The Philosophy of Confucian Harmony, has been heralded as the first book-length exposition of the concept of harmony in the approximately 3,000 year old Confucian tradition. It provides a systematic analysis of Confucian harmony and defence of its relevance for contemporary moral and political thought. In this philosophical discussion of Li’s book, I expound its central claims, contextualize them relative to other salient work in English-speaking Confucian thought, and cr…Read more