•  4743
    Contemporary Anti-Natalism, Featuring Benatar's Better Never to Have Been
    South African Journal of Philosophy 31 (1): 1-9. 2012.
    A critical overview of the latest discussion of anti-natalism, with particular reference to David Benatar's work and three additional rationales for anti-natalism that differ from Benatar's.
  •  3465
    In this article I compare and, especially, contrast Aristotle’s conception of virtue with one typical of sub-Saharan philosophers. I point out that the latter is strictly other-regarding, and specifically communitarian, and contend that the former, while including such elements, also includes some self-regarding or individualist virtues, such as temperance and knowledge. I also argue that Aristotle’s conception of human excellence is more attractive than the sub-Saharan view as a complete accoun…Read more
  •  1668
    Ubuntu as a Moral Theory: Reply to Four Critics
    South African Journal of Philosophy 26 (4): 369-87. 2007.
    In this article, I respond to questions about, and criticisms of, my article “Towardan African Moral Theory” that have been put forth by Allen Wood, Mogobe Ramose, Douglas Farland and Jason van Niekerk. The major topicsI address include: what bearing the objectivity of moral value should have on cross-cultural moral differences between Africans and Westerners; whether a harmonious relationship is a good candidate for having final moral value; whether consequentialism exhausts the proper way to r…Read more
  •  1343
    Good Governance
    with Johannes Hirata, Ritu Verma, and Eric Zencey
    In Centre for Bhutan Studies (ed.), Happiness: Transforming the Development Landscape, Centre For Bhutan Studies and Gnh. pp. 329-346. 2017.
    An analysis of the nature of good governance as it figures into the Royal Government of Bhutan's policy of Gross National Happiness.
  •  1222
    Ubuntu as a Moral Theory and Human Rights in South Africa
    African Human Rights Law Journal 11 (2): 532-559. 2011.
    There are three major reasons that ideas associated with ubuntu are often deemed to be an inappropriate basis for a public morality. One is that they are too vague, a second is that they fail to acknowledge the value of individual freedom, and a third is that they a fit traditional, small-scale culture more than a modern, industrial society. In this article, I provide a philosophical interpretation of ubuntu that is not vulnerable to these three objections. Specifically, I construct a moral theo…Read more
  •  1144
    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
  •  1095
    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
  •  1022
    I critically examine the South African university student and worker protests of 2015/2016 in light of moral principles governing the use of force that are largely uncontested in both the contemporary Western and African philosophies of just war, violence and threats. Amongst these principles are: “discrimination”, according to which force should be directed not towards innocent bystanders but instead should target those particularly responsible for injustice; “likely success”, meaning that, ins…Read more
  •  994
    The Motivation for “Toward an African Moral Theory”
    South African Journal of Philosophy 26 (26): 331-335. 2007.
    Here I introduce the symposium issue of the South African Journal of Philosophy that is devoted to critically analysing my article “Toward an AfricanMoral Theory.” In that article, I use the techniques of analytic moral philosophy to articulate and defend a moral theory that both is grounded on the values of peoples living in sub-Saharan Africa and differs from what is influential in contemporary Western ethics. Here, I not only present a précis of the article, but also provide a sketch of why I…Read more
  •  989
    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
  •  880
    Community Vitality
    with Ilona Boniwell and Rowan Conway
    In Centre for Bhutan Studies (ed.), Happiness: Transforming the Development Landscape, Centre For Bhutan Studies and Gnh. pp. 347-378. 2017.
    An analysis of the value of community vitality as it figures into the Royal Government of Bhutan's policy of Gross National Happiness.
  •  792
    Suppose a person lives in a sub-Saharan country that has won its independence from colonial powers in the last 50 years or so. Suppose also that that person has become a high-ranking government official who makes decisions on 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 appropriate to consider, for example, family membership, party affiliation, race or re…Read more
  •  729
    Happiness and Meaningfulness: Some Key Differences
    In Lisa Bortolotti (ed.), Philosophy and Happiness, Palgrave-macmillan. pp. 3-20. 2009.
    In this chapter, I highlight the differences between the two goods of happiness and meaningfulness. Specifically, I contrast happiness and meaning with respect to six value-theoretic factors, among them: what the bearers of these values are, how luck can play a role in their realization, which attitudes are appropriate in response to them, and when they are to be preferred in a life. I aim not only to show that there are several respects in which happiness and meaning differ as categories of val…Read more
  •  645
    Definitions of Terms
    with Alejandro Adler, Ilona Boniwell, Evelyn Gibson, Martin Seligman, Yukiko Uchida, and Zhanjun Xing
    In Centre for Bhutan Studies (ed.), Happiness: Transforming the Development Landscape, Centre For Bhutan Studies and Gnh. pp. 21-38. 2017.
    Definitions of terms that are central to a theoretical understanding of the Royal Government of Bhutan's policy of Gross National Happiness.
  •  603
    The Meaning of Life (Textbook)
    In Duncan Pritchard (ed.), What Is This Thing Called Philosophy?, Routledge. pp. 319-358. 2015.
    A three chapter part of a textbook for undergraduate philosophy majors.
  •  587
    A Life of Struggle as Ubuntu
    In Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni & Busani Ngcaweni (eds.), Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: Decolonial Ethics of Liberation and Servant Leadership, Africa World Press. pp. 97-111. 2018.
    In this chapter I aim to provide a moral-philosophical grounding for much of Nelson Rolihlaha Mandela’s life. I spell out a principled interpretation of ubuntu that focuses on its moral import, and then apply it to salient facets of Mandela’s 50+ struggle years, contending that they exemplify it in many ways. Specifically, I first address Mandela’s decisions to fight apartheid in the 1940s, to use violence in response to it in the 1950s and ‘60s, and to refuse to renounce the use of violence dur…Read more
  •  573
    In this essay I recount how I have been hoping to see more ubuntu in South Africa’s institutions than had been present in the two dominant socio-politico-economic models across the world in the 20th century. I haven’t been expecting utopia from the past 20 years of democracy; I’ve just wanted something new to come out of Africa. I here relate my experience of learning that it is not always forthcoming, at least not as quickly as I would have liked. However, I conclude by indicating that the prom…Read more
  •  565
    Auf dem Weg zu einer afrikanischen Moraltheorie
    In Franziska Dübgen & Stefan Skupien (eds.), Afrikanische politische Philosophie - Postkoloniale Positionen, Suhrkamp. pp. 295-329. 2015.
    German translation by Andreas Rauhut of a mildly revised version of 'Toward an African Moral Theory' (Journal of Political Philosophy 2007).
  •  533
    Persian translation by Seyyed Mostafa Mousavi A’zam of 'The Immortality Requirement for Life's Meaning' (Ratio 2003).
  •  527
    There has been the recurrent suspicion that community, harmony, cohesion, and similar relational goods as understood in the African ethical tradition threaten to occlude difference. Often, it has been Western defenders of liberty who have raised the concern that these characteristically sub-Saharan values fail to account adequately for individuality, although some contemporary African thinkers have expressed the same concern. In this chapter, I provide a certain understanding of the sub-Saharan …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.
  •  492
    The Ethics of Routine HIV Testing: A Respect-Based Analysis
    South African Journal on Human Rights 21 (3): 370-405. 2005.
    Routine testing is a practice whereby medical professionals ask all patients whether they would like an HIV test, regardless of whether there is anything unique to a given patient that suggests the presence of HIV. In three respects I aim to offer a fresh perspective on the debate about whether a developing country with a high rate of HIV infection morally ought to adopt routine testing. First, I present a neat framework that organises the moral issues at stake, bringing out the basic principles…Read more
  •  486
    For the Sake of the Friendship: Relationality and Relationship as Grounds of Beneficence
    Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory 57 (125): 54-76. 2010.
    I contend that there are important moral reasons for individuals, organisations and states to aid others that have gone largely unrecognised in the literature. Most of the acknowledged reasons for acting beneficently in the absence of a promise to do so are either impartial and intrinsic, on the one hand, being grounded in properties internal to and universal among individuals, such as their pleasure or autonomy, or partial and extrinsic, on the other, being grounded in non-universal properties …Read more
  •  484
    African Values and Capital Punishment
    In Gerard Walmsley (ed.), African Philosophy and the Future of Africa, Council For Research in Values and Philosophy. pp. 83-90. 2017.
    What is the strongest argument grounded in African values, i.e., those salient among indigenous peoples below the Sahara desert, for abolishing capital punishment? I defend a particular answer to this question, one that invokes an under-theorized conception of human dignity. Roughly, I maintain that the death penalty is nearly always morally unjustified, and should therefore be abolished, because it degrades people’s special capacity for communal relationships. To defend this claim, I proceed by…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
  •  403
    Symposium: Are Certain Knowledge Frameworks More Congenial to the Aims of Cross-Cultural Philosophy?
    with Leigh Jenco, Steve Fuller, David H. Kim, and Miljana Milojevic
    Journal of World Philosophies 2 (2): 99-107. 2017.
    In “Global Knowledge Frameworks and the Tasks of Cross-Cultural Philosophy,” Leigh Jenco searches for the conception of knowledge that best justifies the judgment that one can learn from non-local traditions of philosophy. Jenco considers four conceptions of knowledge, namely, in catchwords, the esoteric, Enlightenment, hermeneutic, and self- transformative conceptions of knowledge, and she defends the latter as more plausible than the former three. In this critical discussion of Jenco’s article…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
  •  359
    The Nature of Reactive Practices: Exploring Strawson’s Expressivism
    South African Journal of Philosophy 27 (3): 49-63. 2008.
    I aim to answer the questions of whether reactive practices such as gratitude and punishment are inherently expressive, and, if so, in what respect. I distinguish seven ways in which one might plausibly characterize reactive practices as essentially expressive in nature, and organise them so that they progress in a dialectical order, from weakest to strongest. I then critically discuss objections that apply to the strongest conception, questioning whether it coheres with standard retributive und…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
  •  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