Relational Ethics and Partiality: A Critique of Thad Metz’s ‘Towards an African Moral Theory’

Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory 64 (152):53-76 (2017)
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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.

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Motsamai Molefe
University of Witwatersrand


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