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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Ubuntu as a moral theory and human rights in South Africa
Author:Metz, Thaddeus
Year:2011
Periodical:African Human Rights Law Journal (ISSN 1609-073X)
Volume:11
Issue:2
Pages:532-559
Language:English
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:human rights
ethics
philosophy
jurisprudence
Abstract:There are three major reasons why ideas associated with ubuntu are often deemed to be an inappropriate basis for a public morality in today's South Africa. One is that they are too vague; a second is that they fail to acknowledge the value of individual freedom; and a third is that they fit traditional, small-scale culture more than a modern, industrial society. In this article, the author provides a philosophical interpretation of ubuntu that is not vulnerable to these three objections. Specifically, the author constructs a moral theory grounded on Southern African world views, one that suggests a promising new conception of human dignity. According to this conception, typical human beings have a dignity by virtue of their capacity for community, understood as the combination of identifying with others and exhibiting solidarity with them, where human rights violations are egregious degradations of this capacity. The author argues that this account of human rights violations straightforwardly entails and explains many different elements of South Africa's Bill of Rights and naturally suggests certain ways of resolving contemporary moral dilemmas in South Africa and elsewhere relating to land reform, political power and deadly force. If this jurisprudential interpretation of ubuntu does both account for a wide array of intuitive human rights and provide guidance to resolve present-day disputes about justice, then the three worries about vagueness, collectivism and anachronism should not stop one from thinking that something fairly called 'ubuntu' can ground a public morality. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]
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