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Cultura International Journal of Philosophy of Culture and Axiology

Volume 14, Issue 2, 2017

Cross-Cultural Semiotic Dialogue Between East and West

Motsamai Molefe
Pages 49-68

Individualism in African Moral Cultures

This article repudiates the dichotomy that African ethics is communitarian (relational) and Western ethics is individualistic. „Communitarianism‟ is the view that morality is ultimately grounded on some relational properties like love or friendship; and, „individualism‟ is the view that morality is ultimately a function of some individual property like a soul or welfare. Generally, this article departs from the intuition that all morality including African ethics, philosophically interpreted, is best understood in terms of individualism. But, in this article, I limit myself to the literature in the African moral tradition; and, I argue that it is best construed in terms of individualism contrary to the popular stance of communitarianism. I defend my view by invoking two sorts of evidences. (1) I invoke prima facie evidence, which shows how both secular and religious moral thinkers in the tradition tend to understand it in individualistic terms. And, (2) I invoke concrete evidence, I show that the two terms that can be said to be definitive features of African ethical framework, namely: personhood and dignity, are individualistic. I conclude by considering possible objections against my defense of individualism as a central feature of African ethics.