Senior Researcher’s New Book Pays Tribute to An African Intellectual Giant

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Dr Motsamai Molefe, a Senior Researcher at the University of Fort Hare’s Centre for Leadership Ethics in Africa (CLEA) has published a book in honour of late African Philosopher, Professor Ifeanyi Mentiki.

Titled: African Personhood and Applied Ethics,  Dr Molefe says the book sought to invoke the African idea of personhood to reflect on some of the pressing practical moral problems. 

 The book was published this month (February 2020)

“The inspiration behind the book is two-fold. It is a response to the swelling criticisms against the idea of personhood in the tradition of African philosophy. I also wrote it as a tribute to Professor Ifeanyi Menkiti who passed away recently. He was the first African Philosopher to elucidate on the moral idea of personhood. I thought it was both fitting to honour this intellectual giant and to equally demonstrate the robustness of the idea of personhood,” said Dr Molefe.

Explaining the title of the book, Dr Molefe said African cultures have moral concepts that account for some of our deeply perplexing philosophical questions. “One salient moral category in African cultures is that of personhood, which in my view, I take to be interchangeable with that of Ubuntu. At the heart of the concept of personhood is the idea of a human being with a good heart or a beautiful character insofar as it abounds with virtues like kindness, compassion, generosity and friendliness.”

The core message of the book is that the moral idea of personhood does have theoretical resources to give an under-explored vision of an egalitarian society – a society that recognises “the equality of both males and females,  a society which stands as potent criticism against any forms of sexual or gender discriminations”.

“This book also challenges the socio-cultural practices of using animals for human and cultural consumption. Finally, it urges us to create a society that enables all human beings to pursue personal excellence”, writes Dr Molefe.

 Dr. Molefe joined CLEA on 1 July 2019. His research focuses on African ethics, applied ethics, social and political philosophy []. He is the author of ‘An African Philosophy of Personhood, Morality and Politics’ [2019, Palgrave Macmillan]. He is currently working on a manuscript titled ‘Dignity in African Philosophy’.