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African Ethics. The Ethiopian Enlightenment Zera Yacob Zera Yacob (1599-1692) argues that reason, applied to the available evidence, supports the conclusion.

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Presentation on theme: "African Ethics. The Ethiopian Enlightenment Zera Yacob Zera Yacob (1599-1692) argues that reason, applied to the available evidence, supports the conclusion."— Presentation transcript:

1 African Ethics

2 The Ethiopian Enlightenment

3 Zera Yacob Zera Yacob ( ) argues that reason, applied to the available evidence, supports the conclusion that the world, God’s creation, is essentially good Because creation is essentially good, enjoying it is also good

4 Dispositions Zera Yacob calls reason the “light of the heart.” He uses it to criticize the ethical prescriptions of various religions, which imply that the order of nature itself is wrong

5 Dispositions Rules that restrain our natural dispositions may be acceptable But those that contradict them cannot be

6 Ethical Test Reason thus serves as a foundation for morality and as a test for religious beliefs Any view that teaches that some part of the natural order, or some natural disposition, is wrong cannot be correct

7 Ethics and Religion Divine command theorists take God’s will as itself making some acts right and others wrong Many other religious thinkers have believed that God reveals moral truth and that we can know that truth only because God reveals it to us

8 Religion Defenders of each religion claim that they know the only true way Obviously, not all can be right How can we decide who is right? How can we judge which alleged revelations really come from God?

9 Criterion The only way to tell true revelations from pretenders is –using reason to discover moral truth and –judging the claims of those religions by the light of reason Ethics must precede religion It doesn’t depend on it

10 Communitarian Consequentialism Kwame Gyekye, of the Akan tribe, has written about the Akan view of causality, metaphysics, religion, and ethics

11 Communitarian Consequentialism Consequentialism: the view that all moral value depends solely on the consequences of actions Good acts are those that bring about the well-being of society; bad actions work against it

12 Communitarian Consequentialism

13 Individualism Western consequentialists, who treat the good of a community as the sum of the goods of its members The Akan maintain that the good of the community cannot be reduced to individual goods

14 Communitarianism According to communitarian consequentialism: Good acts promote the well-being of society Social well-being: social welfare, solidarity, harmony, and other features of the social order itself

15 Communitarianism People are essentially social One can speak of the good of an individual only in terms of the good of the society he or she inhabits It Takes a Village: People cannot achieve the good on their own; they must rely upon others Consequently, individual good depends on the good of the community

16 Ordinary and Extraordinary Evils Extraordinary evils bring suffering to the whole community, not just to individual members of it Theft, adultery, lying, and backbiting are ordinary evils; they harm specific people, but do little to affect people not immediately connected to the act Murder, rape, incest, cursing the chief, etc., affect the entire community, undermining a people’s sense of community

17 East African Islamic Ethics Islam + traditional African beliefs

18 East African Islamic Ethics The key concept is utu, humanity or goodness Like the English word humanity, utu has descriptive and normative dimensions –Descriptively, it refers to the essence of human beings—what makes us human –Normatively, it refers to what makes us humane

19 “A Human Being is Utu” Descriptively: tautology—“a human being is human.” Normatively: we are essentially moral beings

20 “Utu is Action” Humanity and morality are expressed in what we do That we are essentially rational and therefore moral beings implies that we deserve moral respect, equally

21 “A Human Being is Not a Thing.” Utu contrasts with kitu (thing) People must not be used, but must be respected as moral agents


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