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Rethinking communitarianism and personhood: a critical review of the metaphysical and moral commitments.

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exists the notion in African philosophy that to be regarded as a person, an individual needs to be morally excellent, and the way to secure this moral excellence is through maintaining good relations with others, meaning that one has duties directed towards others. This is the view which was popularized in philosophy by Ifeanyi Menkiti (1984) and is known as the communitarian normative conception of person. Proponents of this view tend to stress the importance of the community in facilitating the development of the individual. Kwame Gyekye (1997) argues against Menkiti for the latter’s over-exaggeration of the role of the community, and calls him a radical communitarian for doing so. However, Gyekye ends up committing to the same error as the radicals. As a result, a debate has ensued regarding the appropriate characterization of the community/individual relationship, with the above-mentioned philosophers, classic communitarians, favouring the community over the individual. However, this paper seeks to argue that this view is unattractive because it faces difficulty in conferring the judgement of who counts as a person. Moreover, I argue that this view is open the incoherency between moral excellence and adherence to communal values. As a result, I seek to defend the limited communitarianism conception of person as it escapes these and other difficulties, by positing that persons consist of a metaphysical identity and a social identity, and as a result of the former identity preceding the latter identity, certain individual rights are inviolable.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.