Ubuntu and moral value

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dc.contributor.author Van Niekerk, Jason
dc.date.accessioned 2014-02-04T09:50:02Z
dc.date.available 2014-02-04T09:50:02Z
dc.date.issued 2014-02-04
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net10539/13638
dc.description Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of the Witwatersrand, Faculty of Humanities, Philosophy, 2013 en_ZA
dc.description.abstract This thesis argues for a perfectionist account of the African communitarian philosophy ubuntu as the best account of ubuntu qua theory of moral value. Surveying extant work on ubuntu, it finds that most such work reproduces the ambiguities and difficulties of the fraught public discourse on ubuntu, or falls to fallacies characteristic of many African philosophical projects. It argues that the approach which most successfully avoids these difficulties, thus reflecting the concerns and critical methodologies developed over the recent history of African philosophy more broadly, is the Analytic approach exemplified by Thaddeus Metz’ work. Metz makes explicit the constellation of value claims generally glossed as ubuntu, and proposes an attractive positive account, but does not account for the aretaic (or virtue-ethical) features integral to and attractive in most accounts of ubuntu. Seeking an account capable of incorporating the advantages of Metz’ account and these aretaic features, the thesis proposes two possible bases for such an aretaic account: an autocentric account, reducing moral value to the agents’ prudential value; and a perfectionist account, entailing moral normativity from the fullest development of some essential feature of human nature. The third chapter proposes the best formulation of an autocentric ubuntu in response to Metz’ objections to such accounts. In light of further objections, even this proves insufficient to support an intuitively attractive account of ubuntu. The fourth chapter develops and defends a perfectionist account of ubuntu, according to Thomas Hurka’s methodology, on which the relevant essential feature of human nature is our disposition toward relationships of communion with one another. This feature takes what is relevantly essential to be an emergent property of features already plausibly essential to human nature – rationality and language-use – and is congruent with the account of human nature proposed by advocates of ubuntu and African communitarianism. Since this perfectionist account is coherent and intuitively attractive, and offers novel, plausible responses to challenges facing aretaic accounts of ubuntu and ubuntu generally, this dissertation concludes that it is the most attractive account of ubuntu qua theory of moral value. en_ZA
dc.language.iso en en_ZA
dc.title Ubuntu and moral value en_ZA
dc.type Thesis en_ZA


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