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African Personhood and Applied Ethics

by Motsamai Molefe

Recently, the salient idea of personhood in the tradition of African philosophy has been objected to on various grounds. Two such objections stand out – the book deals with a lot more. The first criticism is that the idea of personhood is patriarchal insofar as it elevates the status of men and marginalises women in society. The second criticism observes that the idea of personhood is characterised by speciesism. The essence of these concerns is that personhood fails to embody a robust moral-political view.

African Personhood and Applied Ethics offers a philosophical explication of the ethics of personhood to give reasons why we should take it seriously as an African moral perspective that can contribute to global moral-political issues. The book points to the two facets that constitute the ethics of personhood – an account of (1) moral perfection and (2) dignity. It then draws on the under-explored view of dignity qua the capacity for sympathy inherent in the moral idea of personhood to offer a unified account of selected themes in applied ethics, specifically women, animal and development.

ISBN 9781920033699 | 150 pages | 244 x 170 mm | 2020 | NISC (Pty) Ltd, South Africa | Paperback


eBook ISBN: 9781920033712


‘Molefe addresses some central themes in African normative thought and important ones philosophically speaking. The manuscript made me think, which is what those working in the field of philosophy want to see. It advances original positions (sometimes novel views, sometimes novel defences of familiar views) with admirable clarity and interestingly strives to advance a unified account of character, rightness and justice.’

Thaddeus Metz, Humanities Research Professor, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

‘The work presents a new approach in African political philosophy which is grounded on personhood. One can decipher a fusion of moral and communal frameworks in African political philosophy. The work is both innovative and critical. (It) is an engagement with the works of professional African philosophers (which) shows that we can build an African political philosophy from the works of African philosophers, past and current. The author brings in a new dimension, say modern dimension, which is rights and duty based, to the understanding of personhood in African philosophy as initiated by Mbiti and fully espoused by Menkiti, Gyekye,Wiredu, Gbadegesin among others.’

Olatunji Oyeshile, Professor of Philosophy, University of Ibadan, Nigeria



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