Volume 10, 2008
The Golden Rule Principle in African Ethics and Kant’s Categorical Imperative
A Comparative Study on the Foundation of Morality
This research attempts to throw light on and show the fundamental similarities and differences between the African and Western ethical conceptions by examining the foundation of ethics and morality in the two systems, using the Golden rule principle in African ethics and Kant’s categorical imperative in Western ethics as tools of comparative analysis. The African indigenous ethics revolves round the “Golden Rule Principle” as the ultimate moral principle. This principle states that “Do unto others what you want them to do unto you”. This principle compares favourably with Immanuel Kant’s whose main thrust is found in his “Categorical Imperative”, with the injunction for us to “Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” The categorical imperative becomes for Kant, the principle of universalizability, which according to Kant, is categorical and must be equally binding on everyone. This idea of Kant, we argue, compares with the “Golden Rule Principle”. Both are rationalistic and social but the limitations of Kant which we hope to point out, make it quite insufficient as the foundation of morality. The Africans’ which is more humanistic describes morality and is better served. The main difference between the two ethical systems lies in the fact that whereas the “golden rule” starts from the self and considers the consequences on the first before others, the universalizability principle on the other hand considers the consequences on others first before self.