Thaddeus Metz

Thaddeus Metz
University of Pretoria | UP · Department of Philosophy

Doctor of Philosophy (Cornell University)
Soon composing _A Relational Theory of Justice_, a book on institutional choice in the light of communal values.

About

242
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3,780
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Citations since 2017
120 Research Items
2760 Citations
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Introduction
I work on a variety of topics in value theory, moral/political/legal philosophy, and philosophy of religion. In terms of book projects, in 2022 Oxford University Press published A Relational Moral Theory, which analytically interprets the African ethical tradition. In 2023 What Makes a Life Meaningful? A Debate (with Joshua Seachris) is expected to appear with Routledge. Lastly, A Relational Theory of Justice is under contract with Oxford University Press, and is due to appear in 2024.

Publications

Publications (242)
Chapter
Since its inception as a professional field in the 1960s or so, African ethics has yet to be given serious consideration by virtue ethicists and international scholars in moral philosophy generally. This neglect is unfortunate, since sub-Saharan perspectives on how to live are characteristically virtue-centred and, furthermore, are both different f...
Chapter
Since the transition to a constitutional order, in what respects have cultures in higher education institutions in South Africa become Africanised, and, going forward, how should they be? In this chapter I provide an overview of the major different forms that Africanisation of institutional culture could take, and indicate the respects in which Sou...
Article
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Up to now, a very large majority of work in the religious philosophy of life's meaning has presumed a conception of God that is Abrahamic. In contrast, in this article I critically discuss some of the desirable and undesirable facets of Traditional African Religion's salient conceptions of God as they bear on meaning in life. Given an interest in a...
Chapter
A large swathe of the indigenous African ethical tradition is frequently encapsulated in the maxim, “A person is a person through other persons.” This phrasing is an overly literal translation of some sayings that are prominent in the southern and central regions of Africa, but that resonate with most indigenous sub-Saharan cultures. This chapter a...
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Unlike the Chinese, Indian, and Western ethical traditions, the African one had not been text-based until as recently as the 1960s. Since a very large majority of indigenous sub-Saharan societies had oral cultures, there are no classic texts in the field of African ethics and hence also no Big Names; there's nothing comparable to, say, Aristotle’s...
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Adherents to reconciliation, restorative justice, and related approaches to dealing with social conflict are well known for seeking to minimize punishment, in favor of offenders hearing out victims, making an apology, and effecting compensation for wrongful harm as well as victims forgiving offenders and accepting their reintegration into society....
Article
I propose a theory of punishment that is unfamiliar in the West, 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...
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This chapter is a work of normative political philosophy that aims to provide a convincing comprehensive account of how a government official in a post-independence sub-Saharan African 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...
Chapter
The author of this chapter critically discusses views about what at least analytic philosophers have in mind when reflecting on what makes life meaningful. He first demonstrates that there has been a standard view of that, according to which meaningfulness involves the actions of persons, ones that exhibit a high desirability characteristically pre...
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When it comes to the question of how much the state ought to punish a given offender, the standard understanding of the desert theory for centuries has been that it should give him a penalty proportionate to his offense, that is, an amount of punishment that fits the severity of his crime. In this article, we maintain that a desert theorist is not...
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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 maint...
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In this article, I briefly reply to four critics who have critically engaged with my book God, Soul and the Meaning of Life in a special issue of the International Journal of Philosophy and Theology. I view them mainly as addressing the ‘meaning’ of God in three distinct senses, namely, in terms of how best to understand the word ‘God’ and related...
Chapter
Adherents to reconciliation, restorative justice, and related approaches to dealing with social conflict are well known for seeking to minimize punishment, in favor of offenders hearing out victims, making an apology, and effecting compensation for wrongful harm as well as victims forgiving offenders and accepting their reintegration into society....
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Chapter 11 reflects on what educators owe students in higher education institutions and the broader society when it comes to which knowledge to teach. It points out how utilitarianism and Kantianism naturally ground a cosmopolitan approach to instructing matters of culture, whereas the communal ethic does not. Rightness as friendliness instead supp...
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While there is a budding literature on media ethics in the light of characteristic sub-Saharan moral values, there is virtually nothing on wartime reporting more specifically. Furthermore, the literature insofar as it has a bearing on wartime reporting suggests that embedded journalism and patriotic journalism are ethically justified during war. In...
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Definition of the problem: Since the origin of bioethics as a discipline, the field has been dominated by consideration of two main values, well-being and morality. I cast doubt on whether those are sufficient to resolve an array of important debates about which decisions to make in respect of medicine, and I also consider whether a third, under-ex...
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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...
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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 char...
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This article 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-con...
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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 essenti...
Book
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 t...
Book
What do Mother Theresa, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the exploration of Mars teach us about the meaning of life? World-renowned experts, David Benatar and Thaddeus Metz, give you their answers to life’s biggest question. Spoiler alert: it isn’t 42. We’ve all felt a unique sense of isolation over the past year. Is there a way to find meaning in thi...
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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 hu...
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In this paper, I aim to progress towards the philosophical goal of ascertaining what, if anything, all mental illnesses have in common, attempting to unify a large subset of those with a relational or interpersonal dimension. One major claim is that, if we want a promising theory of mental illness, we must go beyond the dominant western accounts of...
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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...
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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...
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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 b...
Book
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Persian translation of _God, Soul and the Meaning of Life_
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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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When reflecting on human need as a moral-political category, it is natural to include some intersubjective conditions. Surely, children need to be socialized, adults need to be recognized, and the poor need to be given certain resources. I point out that there are two different respects in which such intersubjective factors could be considered need...
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For four decades Ifeanyi Menkiti has addressed the question of which sort of community constitutes personhood from a characteristically African perspective. In this chapter, I critically discuss the conceptions of how one acquires personhood through community that Menkiti has advanced, in search of the one that would most enable him to avoid promin...
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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 approac...
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Appealing largely to southern African values associated with ubuntu such as communion and reconciliation, elsewhere I have argued that they require compensating those who have been wronged in ways that are likely to improve their lives. In the context of land reform in southern Africa, I have further contended that this approach probably entails no...
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This chapter explores prominent respects in which humility figures into ubuntu, the southern African (and specifically Nguni) term for humanness often used to capture moral philosophies and cultures indigenous to the sub-Saharan region. The chapter considers respects in which humility is prescribed by ubuntu, understood not just as a relational nor...
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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 anal...
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Elsewhere I have argued that African values such as communion and reconciliation require compensating those who have been wronged in ways likely to improve their lives. I have also contended that, when applied to land reform, this principle entails not transferring unjustly acquired land en masse and immediately to dispossessed populations since do...
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Many values originating in Africa and in China, and ones that continue to influence much of everyday communication in those societies, are aptly placed under the common heading of “harmony.” After first spelling out what harmony involves in substantially Confucian China, and then in Africa, this article notes respects in which the Confucian and Afr...
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Full-text available
Karl Popper is famous for favouring 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 ethics of respecting the dignity of rational beings. In this essay, I consider for the first time what the implications of a ch...
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Full-text available
Philosophy is rational enquiry that addresses fundamental matters of human life and that transcends science in some way. For example, biologists and chemists appeal to physical facts when explaining what transpires in the world, but philosophers (and specifically ontologists) consider whether there is only a physical realm and whether there is evid...
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I expound and assess two theories of meaning in life informed by the indigenous sub-Saharan African philosophical tradition. According to one view, a life is more meaningful, the more it promotes community with other human persons. According to the other view, a life is more meaningful, the more it promotes vitality in oneself and others. I argue t...
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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...
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Recent work by comparative philosophers, global ethicists, and cross-cultural value theorists indicates that, unlike most Western thinkers, those in many other parts of the globe, such as indigenous Africa, East Asia, and South America, tend to prize relationality. These relational values include enjoying a sense of togetherness, participating coop...
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In this article, I seek to answer the following questions: What would a characteristically African, and specifically relational, conception of a criminal trial's final end look like? What would the Afro-relational approach prescribe for sentencing? Would its implications for this matter forcefully rival the kinds of penalties that judges in South A...
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In this chapter, I add to the new body of philosophical literature that addresses African approaches to just war by reflecting on some topics that have yet to be considered and by advancing different perspectives. My approach is two-fold. First, I spell out a foundational African ethic, according to which one must treat people’s capacity to relate...
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In this article I critically discuss English-speaking philosophical literature addressing the question of what it essentially means to speak of “life’s meaning”. Instead of considering what might in fact confer meaning on life, I make two claims about the more abstract, meta-ethical question of how to understand what by definition is involved in ma...
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In this article I critically discuss Professor Oladele Abiodun Balogun's reflections on the proper final ends of doing philosophy and related sorts of abstract, speculative, or theoretical inquiry. Professor Balogun appears to argue that one should undertake philosophical studies only insofar as they are likely to make a practical difference to peo...
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There has been the recurrsent 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 individuali...
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What should be the aim when teaching matters of culture to students in public high schools and universities in Africa? One approach, which is parochial, would focus exclusively on imparting local culture, leaving students unfamiliar with, or perhaps contemptuous of, other cultures around the world. A second, cosmopolitan approach would educate stud...
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This chapter addresses the question of what makes addiction morally problematic, and seeks to answer it by drawing on values salient in the sub-Saharan African philosophical tradition. Specifically, it appeals to life-force and communal relationship, each of which African philosophers have at times advanced as a foundational value, and spells out h...
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The dominant conceptions of moral status in the English-speaking literature are either holist or individualist, neither of which accounts well for widespread judgments that: animals and humans both have moral status that is of the same kind but different in degree; even a severely mentally incapacitated human being has a greater moral status than a...
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This chapter critically discusses philosophical literature bearing on the question of what the implications of atheism – roughly the nonexistence of God as conceived in the monotheist tradition – might be for whether and how our lives are meaningful, with a major focus on what has been published in English in the twenty‐first century. Its aim is to...
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The dominant view amongst contemporary Anglo-American philosophers about the essence of a natural object is that it is constituted by its intrinsic properties. The ontological approach salient in the African philosophical tradition, in contrast, accounts for a thing's essence by appeal to its relational properties. The African ontology is under-dev...
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Usually a relational approach, such as one appealing to care or love, is contrasted with an account of justice. In this chapter, however, I argue that distributive justice is well conceived as itself a matter of honouring people in virtue of their capacity to love and to be loved. After spelling out a familiar conception of love, I explain how trea...
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This chapter considers how some international ethical matters might be approached differently in the English-speaking literature if values salient in sub-Saharan Africa were taken seriously. Specifically, after pointing out how indigenous values in this part of the world tend to prescribe relating communally, this chapter articulates a moral-philos...
Book
Part of the Elements Philosophy of Religion series, this short book focuses on the spiritual dimensions of life’s meaning as they have been discussed in the recent English and mainly analytic philosophical literature. The overarching philosophical question that this literature has addressed is about the extent to which, and respects in which, spiri...
Book
A textbook written mainly for final year law students taking Jurisprudence at an African university, but that would also be of use to those in a political philosophy course. It includes primary sources from both the Western and African philosophical traditions, and addresses these central questions: what is the nature of law?; how should judges int...
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The aim of this chapter is not to consider particular ethical questions; it is to ask whether there are general facts about morality and our ability to make moral judgments that count in favor of either theism or atheism.
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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 partic...
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A critical exploration of the position that God is necessary for meaning in life for mainly undergraduate and postgraduate readers, with some defence of the view that He is not.
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With her new book, The Conceptual Foundations of Transitional Justice, Colleen Murphy has advanced novel, comprehensive and sophisticated philosophical accounts of both what severely conflict-ridden societies should be aiming for and how they should pursue it. Ultimately grounded on a prizing of rational agency, Murphy maintains that these societie...
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In my view, postmodernism, as a cluster of bold epistemological claims, foundered on the rocks of contemporary science. Many postmodern positions about knowledge have conflicted with views of science that are extraordinarily difficult to doubt, which in this short article (composed to honour Educational Philosophy and Theory's 50th anniversary), I...
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This article draws on the indigenous African intellectual tradition to ground a moral-philosophical theory of leadership that is intended to rival accounts prominent in the East Asian and Western traditions. After providing an interpretation of the characteristically sub-Saharan value of communion, the article advances a philosophical account of a...
Article
I address the question of what makes addiction morally problematic, and seek to answer it by drawing on values salient in the sub-Saharan African philosophical tradition. Specifically, I appeal to life-force and communal relationship, each of which African philosophers have at times advanced as a foundational value, and spell out how addiction, or...
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Prevladavajući pogled među suvremenim filozofima Zapada po pitanju bȋti jest da je utemeljuju intrinzična svojstva. Suprotno, istaknuti ontološki pristup u afričkoj filozofskoj tradiciji utvrđuje bit stvari prema njenim relacijskim svojstvima. Afro-relacijska ontologija je nedovoljno razvijena, stoga je prvi cilj članka pomoći u njenom razvoju. Spe...
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I consider the implications of two globally influential love-centred value systems for how to respond to painful memories that are a consequence of large-scale social conflict. More specifically, I articulate a moral-philosophical interpretation of the sub-Saharan worldview of ubuntu, and consider what it entails for responding to such trauma. Acco...
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In the face of differences between the ethical religio-philosophies believed across the globe, how should a media ethicist theorize or make recommendations in the light of theory? One approach is relativist, taking each distinct moral worldview to be true only for its own people. A second approach is universalist, seeking to discover a handful of b...
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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 tra...
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n this article, I reply to a critical notice of my book, Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study, that Stephen Kershnar has published elsewhere in this issue of Science, Religion & Culture. Beyond expounding the central conclusions of the book, Kershnar advances two major criticisms of it, namely, first, that I did not provide enough evidence that meani...
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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 te...
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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...
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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...
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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 unjust...
Book
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An e-book devoted to 13 critical discussions of Thaddeus Metz's book "Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study", with a lengthy reply from the author.
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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 wha...
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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 ex...
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This essay first analyzes the concept of survivor's guilt, distinguishing various manifestations of it and considering whether any truly count as a form of guilt. Then, it addresses arguments for thinking that survivor's guilt is unreasonable to exhibit, after which it takes up arguments for thinking that it is not unreasonable. The aim is not to c...
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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...
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In his article "Prediction, Understanding, and Medicine," Alex Broadbent argues that the nature of medicine is determined by its competences, that is, which things it can do well. He argues that although medicine cannot cure well, it can do a good job of enabling people not only to understand states of the human organism and of what has caused them...
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The first part of an issue devoted to Alex Broadbent's essay titled "Prediction, Understanding, and Medicine," this article notes the under-development of a variety of issues in the philosophy of medicine that transcend bioethics and the longstanding debates about the nature of health/illness and of evidence-based medicine. It also indicates the im...
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English-speaking research on morally right decisions in a healthcare context over the past few decades has been dominated by two major perspectives, namely, the four principles, of which the principle of respect for autonomy has been most salient, and the ethic of care, often presented as a rival to not only a focus on autonomy but also a reliance...
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In this chapter I expound “African Modal Relationalism,” Kai Horsthemke’s label for my theory of animal rights with a sub-Saharan pedigree, and I defend it from several criticisms he has recently made of it in his book Animals and African Ethics. Central to my theory, developed in the light of some values salient in indigenous African thought, is t...
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I seek to advance enquiry into the point of a public higher education institution by drawing on ideals salient in the sub-Saharan African philosophical tradition. There are relational, and specifically communal, values prominently held by African thinkers that I use to ground a promising rival to the dominant contemporary Western, and especially An...
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Influential moral theories in the contemporary West face problems making sense of the conflict between the interests of animals and people’s interests in culture. They have trouble explaining either the existence of strong direct duties to animals or the importance of people’s right to culture (and frequently both). In this chapter, I aim to advanc...
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Discussion of whether values and norms are neutral or not has mainly appeared in works on the nature of prudential rationality and morality. Little systematic has yet appeared in the up and coming field of the meaning of life. What are the respects in which the value of meaningfulness is neutral or, in contrast, partial, relational, or ‘biased’? In...
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In her essay, “Global Knowledge Frameworks and the Tasks of Cross-Cultural Philosophy,” Leigh Jenco proposes that certain knowledge frameworks may, in virtue of their accessibility to erstwhile outsiders, be more congenial to the aims of cross-cultural philosophy. Her co-symposiasts use Jenco’s essay to further the discussion on different aspects o...
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Although values indigenous to Africa have been compared and contrasted with Western philosophy and monotheistic religions such as Christianity and Islam, Metz contends that rigorous “South-South” engagements have been lacking. Philosophers representative of the majority of the world’s population have not spoken to one another directly anywhere near...
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Philosophy is often labelled the “Queen of the Sciences,” meaning not merely that it gave birth to most other disciplines, but also that it has influenced their course. In this chapter, Metz proceeds not merely on these assumptions, but also in light of the idea that philosophy ought to shape the development of certain other disciplines. The chapte...

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Project
Consider which salient views about ontology in the African tradition are defensible.