Relational Ethics and Partiality

A Critique of Thad Metz’s ‘Towards an African Moral Theory’

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

Abstract

In this article, I question the plausibility of Metz’s African moral theory from an oft neglected moral topic of partiality. Metz defends an Afro-communitarian moral theory that posits that the rightness of actions is entirely definable by relationships of identity and solidarity (or, friendship). I offer two objections to this relational moral theory. First, I argue that justifying partiality strictly by invoking relationships (of friendship) ultimately fails to properly value the individual for her own sake – this is called the ‘focus problem’ in the literature. Second, I argue that a relationship-based theory cannot accommodate the agent-related partiality since it posits some relationship to be morally fundamental. My critique ultimately reveals the inadequacy of a relationship-based moral theory insofar as it overlooks some crucial moral considerations grounded on the individual herself in her own right.

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, Moral philosophy and Social and Political Philosophy. His latest publications are ‘A Rejection of Humanism in the African Moral Tradition’ (2015); ‘A Critique of Thad Metz’s African Theory of Moral Status’ (2017); ‘An African Religious Ethics and The Euthyphro Problem’ (2017); ‘Personhood and Partialism in African Philosophy’ (Forthcoming). Recently, he has been requested to contribute a chapter into the International Encyclopedia of Ethics on ‘Ubuntu ethics’; and, he is also contributing a chapter on a book dedicated to African Environmental Ethics.

Theoria

A Journal of Social and Political Theory

  • Appiah, A. 1998. ‘Ethical Systems, African’, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by E. Craig. http://0-www.rep.routledge.com.ujlink.uj.ac.za:80/article/Z008SECT5 (accessed 4 July 2009).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bell, D. and T. Metz. 2011. ‘Confucianism and Ubuntu: Reflections on a Dialogue between Chinese and African Traditions’, Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38: 7895.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cottingham, J. 1983. ‘Ethics and Impartiality’, Philosophical Studies: An International Journal of Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition 43: 8389.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Cottingham, J. 1986. ‘Partiality, Favouritism and Morality’, Philosophical Quarterly 36: 357373.

  • Cottingham, J. 1991. ‘The Ethics of Self-concern’, Ethics 101: 798817.

  • Eze, O. 2005. Ubuntu: A Communitarian Response to Liberal Individualism. Pretoria: University of Pretoria.

  • Gaie, J. and T. Metz. 2010. ‘The African Ethic of Ubuntu/Botho: Implications for Research on Morality’, Journal of Moral Education 39: 273290.

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

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Keller, S. 2013. Partiality. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  • Lord, E. 2016. ‘Justifying Partiality’. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice: An International Forum 19: 569590.

  • Lutz, D. 2009. ‘African Ubuntu Philosophy and Global Management’, Journal of Business Ethics 84: 313328. Relational Ethics and Partiality 75

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MacNaughton, D. and P. Rawling. 1992. ‘Honoring and Promoting Values’, Ethics 102: 835843.

  • Mbiti, J. 1969. African Religion and Philosophy. London: Heinemann.

  • 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 Person’. In K. Wiredu (ed.) Companion to African Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell, 324331.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Metz, T. 2007a. ‘Toward an African Moral Theory’, The Journal of Political Philosophy 15: 321341.

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

  • Metz, T. 2009. ‘African and Western Moral Theories in Bioethical Context’, Developing World Bioethics 10: 4958.

  • Metz, T. 2010. ‘Human Dignity, Capital Punishment and an African Moral Theory: Toward a New Philosophy of Human Rights’, Journal of Human Rights 9: 8199.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Metz, T. 2012a. ‘Ethics in Africa and in Aristotle: Some Points of Contrast’, Phronimon 13: 99117.

  • Metz, T. 2012b. ‘An African Theory of Moral Status: A Relational Alternative to Individualism and Holism’, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice: An International Forum 14: 387402.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Metz, T. 2013a. ‘Two Conceptions of African Ethics in the Work of D. A. Masolo’, Quest 25: 715.

  • Metz, T. 2013b. ‘The Western Ethic of Care or an Afro-communitarian Ethic? Specifying the Right Relational Morality’, Journal of Global Ethics 9: 7792.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Molefe, M. 2016a. ‘A Critique of Kwasi Wiredu’s Humanism and Impartiality’, Acta Academica 48: 89108.

  • Molefe, M. 2016b. ‘African Ethics and Partiality’. Phronimon 17: 104122.

  • Molefe, M. 2018. ‘Personhood and Partialism in African Philosophy’. African Studies.

  • Pojman, L. 2002. ‘What Is Ethics?’, in L. Pojman (ed.), Ethical Theory: Classic and Contemporary Readings. London: Wadsworth, 17.

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

  • Ramose, M. 2007. ‘But Hans Kelsen Was Not Born in Africa: A Reply to Thaddeus Metz’, South African Journal of Philosophy 26: 348355.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Scheffler, S. 1995. ‘Individual Responsibility in a Global Age’, Social Philosophy and Policy 12: 219236.

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

  • 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.

  • van Niekerk, J. 2007. ‘In Defence of an Autocentric Account of Ubuntu’, South African Journal of Philosophy 26: 364368.

  • Wiredu, K. 1992. ‘Moral Foundations of an African Culture’, in K. Gyekye and K. Wiredu (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. 2008. ‘Social Philosophy in Postcolonial Africa: Some Preliminaries Concerning Communalism and Communitarianism’, South African Journal of Philosophy 27: 332339.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wood, A. 2007. ‘Cross-cultural Moral Philosophy: Reflections on Thaddeus Metz: “Toward an African Moral Theory”’, South African Journal of Philosophy 26: 337348.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 49 49 6
Full Text Views 9 9 0
PDF Downloads 5 5 0