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Rights and Duties in Menkiti

A Response to Masaka's Objection of Menkiti

Vitumbiko Nyirenda

Dennis Masaka argues that individuals have rights outside those conferred by the community. The argument is a critique to Ifeanyi Menkiti’s view of personhood. He argues that Menkiti uses the word person and personhood as synonymous. Masaka makes a distinction between the two, where person is an ontological concept, and personhood is a normative concept. For Masaka, individuals have rights by virtue of being persons and not personhood. My approach to the paper is therapeutic. I argue that Masaka misinterprets Menkiti’s views. I argue that Menkiti does not allocate rights in his idea of personhood and as something conferred by the community as proposed by Masaka. This implies that Masaka’s view is not radically different from Menkiti’s.

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Jonathan O. Chimakonam and Victor C. A. Nweke

We argue that Menkiti and Gyekye – the forerunners in Afro-communitarianism, to different extents both trivialise the notion of human rights. While Menkiti prioritises community and denies human rights, Gyekye who upholds human rights subsumes these to the community. We contend that both are however mistaken in their trivial conceptions of human rights. To clarify the confusion, we propose that the notion of rights in Afro-communitarianism can have two possible senses namely, rights as participatory and rights as entitlements and that the failure to recognise these senses was what led Menkiti to a fringed position and Gyekye to a difficult position. We then conclude that Afro-communitarianism, in both Menkiti and Gyekye harbours a certain notion of rights contrary to Menkiti’s assumption but it is not one that accommodates the idea of inalienability contrary to Gyekye’s suggestion.

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The Three Duties of Good Fortune

'Luck' as a Relational Process among Hunting Peoples of the Siberian Forest in Pre-Soviet Times

Roberte N. Hamayon

This article is based on data from pre-Soviet Siberia, mainly, the West Buryat and Tungus Evenk groups. As a product that cannot be produced, game is an ideal example of something that requires 'luck'. Far from being passively received, luck requires an active behavior and implies controlled interactions with various types of agencies of the natural environment and within society. Luck is the outcome of a multirelational process that starts with multiple precautionary measures, continues with fostering, and ends with sharing practices. This action results, paradoxically, in challenging both equality and differentiation, social redistribution and individual responsibility. Throughout this process, luck is associated with meat and vital force (as a substance) and with love, play, and wealth (as a value).

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A Global Ethic and Human Duties

Global Civilisation at the End of the Twentieth Century – A Universal Ethic and Human Duties, or Relative Values across World Cultures?

Karl-Josef Kuschel

Someone standing on the threshold of a new millennium has a better view than earlier generations of the long-term trends that characterise our century. In this connection, Germany currently offers a good illustration of the fact that many European countries are at present going through a third wave of pluralisation. After the first wave, which ruptured medieval church unity in the sixteenth century and which might be termed a denominational, internal Christian pluralism, a second wave began to build up during the eighteenth century; this involved the shattering of 'Christian' unity – which, despite it all, still existed- and the splitting of society into one part wedded to Christian values and another of secular-humanistic outlook.

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Jonathan Magonet

It is a sad duty to record in this issue the death of three people who in very different ways contributed to contemporary Jewish life in Europe.

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Cosmopolitan Justice

Education and Global Citizenship

Penny Enslin and Mary Tjiattas

Darrel Moellendorf argues that duties of justice have global scope. We share Moellendorf’s rejection of statism and his emphasis on duties of justice arising out of association in Cosmopolitan Justice. Building on Moellendorf’s view that there are cosmopolitan duties of justice, we argue that in education they are both negative and positive, requiring redistribution of educational resources and transnational educational intervention. We suggest what kinds of intervention are justifiable and required, the kinds of international structures that could regulate them, and a conception of cosmopolitan citizenship to underpin education for global citizenship.

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Richard Child

Statists claim that robust egalitarian distributive norms only apply between the citizens of a common state. Attempts to defend this claim on nationalist grounds often appeal to the 'associative duties' that citizens owe one another in virtue of their shared national identity. In this paper I argue that the appeal to co-national associative duties in order to defend the statist thesis is unsuccessful. I first develop a credible theory of associative duties. I then argue that although the associative theory can explain why the members of a national community should abide by egalitarian norms, it cannot show that people have a duty to become or to continue as a member of a national community in the first place. The possibility that citizens might exercise their right to reject their national membership undermines the state's ability justifiably to coerce compliance with egalitarian distributive norms and, ultimately, the statist claim itself.

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Revisiting the Menkiti-Gyekye Debate

Who Is a Radical Communitarian?

Motsamai Molefe

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.

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Yamini Narayanan

The fundamental sustainability tension may be said to lie in reconciling want and greed. This places the human self or the human soul as a moral battleground where desire and duty constantly attempt to triumph over each other. However, desire must be understood and integrated as part of a fully self-conscious human self in order to enable a consistent and unwavering performance of duty. In this article, I propose the Hindu notion of the purusharthas, or the fourfold path to self-actualization, as one illustrative example of a green telos. The purusharthas prescribe a path comprising of material and sensuous experience, in obedience to dharma or duty, such that moksha or a state of complete self-awareness may be achieved. I suggest that the stage of dharma is thus where the most profitable connections between Hinduism and sustainable development might be made.

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Erasmus Masitera

There has been much debate on the question of rights in African communitarian thinking. Some scholars have averred that duties are prior to rights in African communitarian society, and that to prioritise rights is foreign to the non-Western perspective. Yet, there are others who argue that in non-Western societies rights are prior to duties. I share this view. I present my position by arguing that economic rights in African communitarianism affirms autonomy of the individual, though the same rights are expressed through the ideas of consensus and human well-being. In my argument I state that human well-being is well expressed as a communal effort climaxed through consensus where all these are premised on individual autonomy. By arguing in this way, I respond to the accusation that says African philosophers who argue for the priority of rights have failed to demonstrate how rights are considered prior to duties in African societies.