Revisiting the Menkiti-Gyekye Debate

Who Is a Radical Communitarian?

in Theoria
View More View Less
  • 1 University of KwaZulu-Natal motsaik@yahoo.com
Restricted access

Abstract

In this article, I intervene in the debate about the nature of Afrocommunitarianism between Ifeanyi Menkiti and Kwame Gyekye. I contend that Menkiti’s talk of ‘personhood’ entails a perfectionist moral theory to the effect that one ought to lead a morally excellent life in a context of ‘being-with-others’. Secondly, I deny that Menkiti’s political theory rejects rights per se; rather, I submit, a more charitable reading would recognise that he takes an agnostic stance towards them and that he conceives of an African political theory as one that is duty-based (and if it considers rights at all, these are secondary to duties). I also highlight that Menkiti’s contribution poses a challenge to African philosophers to justify their ontological commitment to rights. I conclude by drawing our attention to the fact that Gyekye’s in his latter political philosophy writings endorses Menkiti’s duty-based political theory, that rights take secondary consideration to duties.

Contributor Notes

Motsamai Molefe is a lecturer in Ethics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. His research and teaching interests encompass African philosophy, African ethics, applied ethics, and moral philosophy. He is author of ‘A Rejection of Humanism in the African Moral Tradition’ (2015); ‘An African Religious Moral Theory and Abortion’ (In Man, Medicine and Values. Edited by E. Starzyńska-Kościuszko & A. Kucner, 2014); and ‘Critical Reflections on Gyekye’s Humanism – Defending Supernaturalism’ (In Ontologized Ethics: A Critical Reader in African Meta-ethics, 2013).

Theoria

A Journal of Social and Political Theory

  • Ajei, M. 2015. ‘Human Rights in a Moderate Communitarian Political Framework’, South African Journal of Philosophy 34: 491503.

  • Behrens, K. 2013. ‘Two “Normative” Conceptions of Personhood’, Quest 25: 103118.

  • Bujo, B. 2001. Foundations of an African Ethic: Beyond the Universal Claims of Western Morality. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • DeGrazia, D. 2008. ‘Moral Status as a Matter of Degree’, The Southern Journal of Philosophy 66: 181198.

  • Donnelly, J. 1982. ‘Human Rights and Human Dignity: An Analytic Critique of Non-Western Conceptions of Human Rights’, The American Political Science Review 76: 303316.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Dworkin, R. 1978. Taking Rights Seriously. London: Duckworth.

  • Eze, O. and T. Metz. 2015. ‘Emergent Issues in African Philosophy: A Dialogue with Kwasi Wiredu’, Philosophia Africana 17: 7587.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Famanikwa, J. 2010. ‘How Moderate is Kwame Gyekye’s Moderate Communitarianism?’, Thought and Practice: A Journal of the Philosophical Association of Kenya 2: 6577.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gyekye, K. 1992. ‘Person and Community in African Thought’, in K. Gyekye and K. Wiredu, Person and Community: Ghanaian Philosophical Studies, 1. Washington DC: Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 101122.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gyekye, K. 1997. Tradition and Modernity: Philosophical Reflections on the African Experience. New York: Oxford University Press.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gyekye, K. 2004. Beyond Cultures: Perceiving a Common Humanity, Ghanaian Philosophical Studies. Accra: The Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gyekye, K. 2010. ‘African Ethics’, in Edward N. Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available at: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2011/entries/african-ethics (accessed on 16 January 2013).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ikuenobe, P. 2006. ‘The Idea of Personhood in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart’, Philosophia Africana 9: 117131.

  • Kasenene, P. 1994. ‘Ethics in African Theology’, in J. De Grunchy and C. Villa-Vicencio (eds), Doing Ethics in Context: South African Perspectives. Johannesburg: Orbis Books, 138148.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lutz, D. 2009. ‘African Ubuntu Philosophy and Global Management’, Journal of Business Ethics 84: 313328.

  • MacNaughton, D. and P. Rawling. 2006. ‘Deontology’, in D. Copp (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory. Oxford: Oxford Press, 425458.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Menkiti, I. 1984. ‘Person and Community in African Traditional Thought’, in R.A. Wright (ed.), African Philosophy: An Introduction. Lanham: University Press of America, 171181.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Menkiti, I. 2004. ‘On the Normative Conception of a Person’, in K. Wiredu (ed.), Companion to African Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 324331.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Metz, T. 2007. ‘Ubuntu as a Moral Theory: Reply to Four Critics’, South African Journal of Philosophy 24: 369387.

  • Metz, T. 2012. ‘Developing African Political Philosophy: Moral-Theoretic Strategies’, Philosophia Africana 14: 6183.

  • Metz, T. 2013. ‘Introduction: Engaging with the Philosophy o fD.A. Masolo’, Quest 25: 716.

  • Mokgoro, Y. 1998. ‘Ubuntu and the Law in South Africa’, Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal 1: 111.

  • Neal, P. and D. Paris. 1990. ‘Liberalism and the Communitarian Critique: A Guide for the Perplexed’, Canadian Journal of Political Science 23: 419439.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ramose, M. 1999. African Philosophy through Ubuntu. Harare: Mond Books.

  • Shutte, A. 2001. Ubuntu: An Ethic for a New South Africa. Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications.

  • Tempels, P. 1959. Bantu Philosophy, 2nd edn, translated by Colin King. Paris: Présence Africaine.

  • Toscano, M. 2011. ‘Human Dignity as High Moral Status’, The Ethics Forum 6: 425.

  • Tshivhase, M. 2013. ‘Personhood: Social Approval or a Unique Identity?’, Quest: An African Journal of Philosophy 25: 119140.

  • Tutu, D. 1999. No Future without Forgiveness. New York: Random House

  • Wall, S. 2012. ‘Perfectionism in Moral and Political Philosophy’. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Edward N. Zalta: Available at: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2012/entries/perfectionism-moral/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wiredu, K. 1980. Philosophy and African Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Wiredu, K. 1992. ‘Moral Foundations of an African Culture’, in K. Wiredu and K. Gyekye (eds), Person and Community: Ghanaian Philosophical Studies, 1. Washington DC: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 192206.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wiredu, K. 1996. Cultural universals and particulars: An African perspective. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

  • Wiredu, K. 2004. ‘Introduction: African Philosophy in our Time’, K. Wiredu (ed), A Companion to African Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 127.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wiredu, K. 2008. ‘Social Philosophy in Postcolonial Africa: Some Preliminaries Concerning Communalism and Communitarianism’, South African Journal of Philosophy 27: 332339.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wiredu, K. 2009. An Oral Philosophy of Personhood: Comments on Philosophy and Orality. Research in African Literatures 40: 818.

  • Van Niekerk, J. 2013. Ubuntu and Moral Value. Johannesburg: University of the Witwatersrand.

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 98 97 33
Full Text Views 31 31 0
PDF Downloads 2 2 0