Partiality and Impartiality in African Philosophy fills the lacuna in African philosophy literature on the inherent tension between requirements of partiality (favoritism) and impartiality (equality). Motsamai Molefe deploys two strategies to philosophically resolve the tension between partiality and impartiality. The first strategy involves applying the moral theories of Kwasi Wiredu, Thaddeus Metz, and Kwame Gyekye to the problem. Finding their views useful in some ways and seriously limited in others, Molefe turns to the second strategy in which he invokes the salient normative concept of personhood in African cultures. Molefe argues that the concept of personhood adjoins theories of human dignity and moral perfection (virtue). The major insight that emerges is a robust ethical theory qua personhood that accommodates both partiality and impartiality. He grounds requirements of impartiality on human dignity, which operates largely as a macro-ethical concept that normatively informs the character of our social institutions (politics). Politics is characterized by fairness, equality, and impartiality. Partiality (the agent-and-other-centred forms of it) is directly connected with the agent’s chief moral duty to achieve her own virtue (moral perfection), which operates as a micro-ethical concept. These two kinds of moral partialism, self-favoritism and close ties such as family, are justified by appeal to the project's view, instead of the individuals-and-relationships view typically invoked to justify moral partiality in the literature.
M. Molefe is senior researcher at the Centre for Leadership Ethics in Africa (CLEA), at the University of Fort Hare.
Introduction: The Missing Debate on Partiality and Impartiality in African Philosophy
Chapter One: Kwasi Wiredu on Partiality and Impartiality
Chapter Two: Partiality and Impartiality in Metz’s Moral Philosophy
Chapter Three: Kwame Gyekye’s Moral Philosophy on Partiality and Impartiality
Chapter Four: Conclusion: Highlighting Major Themes
Chapter Five: Personhood and Morality in African Philosophy
Chapter Six: Ethics of Personhood: Partiality and Impartiality in African Philosophy
About the Author
“With this book, M. Molefe continues his important analytical enquiry into African ethics, now critically discussing how strong our obligations are to strangers compared to associates. Whereas some working in the African tradition deny that morality prescribes any kind of favouritism towards intimates and others accept that it does when it comes to right action, Molefe’s novel view is that partiality is best understood as an instance of morally good character (personhood). His virtue-centric approach and his defense of it as both more African and more philosophically plausible than the alternatives, deserve attention from the field.”
"M. Molefe has done a lucid analysis of how African communalism (Ubuntu) and its normative conception of personhood illuminate the nature and role of, debates on, and efforts to reconcile the apparent divergence between partiality and impartiality in ethics. With this nuanced and focused examination, this book highlights a relevant point of interface and dialogue between Western and African philosophy and makes a significant contribution to moral philosophy."
"Questions about partiality and personhood are some of the most vexed and controversial issues in African philosophy. Molefe manages to tackle both topics, paying careful analytical attention to their roots and intersections in African thought. In so doing, he also succeeds in giving a sense of the distinctive contribution that African theorizing makes to debates that tend to be saturated with thinking from Western ethical traditions. Molefe’s contribution is important, as an addition both to African literature on partiality and personhood and to global philosophical debates on these topics."