Volume 7, Issue 2, 2018
Radical versus Moderate Communitarianism: Gyekye’s and Matolino’s Misinterpretations of Menkiti
This essay provides an exposition and a plausible interpretation of Ifeanyi Menkiti’s conception of personhood vis-a-vis this community. I do this, partly, to rebut some specific criticisms by Kwame Gyekye and Bernard Matolino. They construe Menkiti’s account, primarily, as a metaphysical thesis about the community that provides the essential ontological basis for the nature of personhood. They argue that this view of communitarianism is radical or extreme because the community diminishes individuality and prioritizes community’s interests over individuals’ interests, freedom, and rights. I argue that Gyekye’s and Matolino’s interpretations of Menkiti’s view are mistaken, and that Menkiti’s account of the connection between the community and personhood is a social-moral thesis. This thesis argues that the community provides the norms and material conditions for individuals to live a meaningful life and achieve personhood, and achieving
personhood involves being integrated into, and contributing positively to the harmony of, the community.