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Baum, Rob, , . Moral Good, the Self, and the M/other. Upholding Difference
2020, In: Imafidon, E. (ed.) Handbook of African Philosophy of Difference. Cham: Springer, 511-523
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Björn Freter

Abstract: This chapter employs the relevant ethical phenomenologies of Buber, Lévinas, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche as well as the philosophical psychoanalysis of Lacan to examine the moral good of difference and to determine the rationale of treating either self or other as more deserving of good. Difference and otherness are not synonymous. Following the Socratic style of dialogue, the chapter emerges from a conversation with a Zulu man who perceives the author as a privileged, white, female South African other due to the failure of the self to understand the actual difference of the other. There also seems, the author acknowledges, to be a pre-existing and fundamental moral value in regard to relating with and comprehending the other as both self-like and necessarily not-self, a moral value emerging from the Christian overdetermination of many South Africans including the Zulu man – the author is, again, “other” (not privileged, not white, not South African, and not Christian). To this end, Levitical and Deuteronomic texts are invoked as a shared philosophical basis for understanding the difference between self and other. From these analyses, the chapter shows that we other violently, when we do not understand our difference. But when we take time to stop and reflect and listen, we can reach agreement that we are completely different in a positive sense – a strategic rethinking of “otherness.” This important and essential form of difference is theorized in the chapter as “m/othering,” illustrating the original forming of identity on which we tend to base perceptions of the other. Difference is shown to be not only desirable but possibly imperative for cultural growth.

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Imafidon, Elvis, , . Intrinsic Versus Earned Worth in African Conception of Personhood
2020, In: Imafidon, E. (ed.) Handbook of African Philosophy of Difference. Cham: Springer, 239-254
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Björn Freter

Abstract: Every human being ought to have some form of intrinsic value that she has in herself as well as earned or extrinsic value that she earns for herself. Although not free from contention, the possibility of a human being having certain intrinsic values is essential for the very idea of personhood. It is the reason why it would be wrong not to take a baby as a person simply because she is at that moment unable to earn some value for herself. In this chapter, I interrogate how the idea of personhood dominant in African cultures separates one category of persons from another category. In the first category of human beings, persons are intrinsically valued as persons due to their possession of certain ontological and normative qualities. In the second category, a few other persons are not intrinsically valued as persons due to their lack of certain required ontological and normative qualities needed to belong to the first category of human beings. But in this second category, such persons have the opportunity to earn the value of personhood given to those in the first category. Put differently, the other has the potential of becoming the one if he works tirelessly toward it through individual and group efforts. I explore three specific examples of the second category of persons who have worked to earn some form of worth that the African society in which they live presents as extrinsic to them: persons with albinism, black people, and black women. In this case, a consistent individual lifestyle of rising above expectations and group rights advocacy are essential. I conclude that the African conception of personhood is flawed in its failure to recognize the intrinsic worth and value of all human beings regardless of their ontological and normative status and because it also fails in appreciating the importance of difference in the unfolding of reality.

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Midgley, Mary, , . The Concept of Beastliness: Philosophy, Ethics and Animal Behaviour
1973, Philosophy 48 (184):111-135
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Added by: Anne-Marie McCallion, Contributed by:

Introduction: Every age has its pet contradictions. Thirty years ago, we used to accept Marx and Freud together, and then wonder, like the chameleon on the tartan, why life was so confusing. Today there is similar trouble over the question whether there is, or is not, something called Human Nature. On the one hand, there has been an explosion of animal behaviour studies, and comparisons between animals and men have become immensely popular. People use evidence from animals to decide whether man is naturally aggressive, or naturally territorial; even whether he has an Aggressive or Territorial Instinct. On the other hand, many sociologists and psychologists still seem to hold the Behaviourist view that man is a creature entirely without instincts, and so do existentialist philosophers. If so, all comparison with animals must be irrelevant. On that view, man is entirely the product of his culture. He starts off infinitely plastic, and is formed completely by the society in which he grows up.

Comment: This text offers a relatively accessible and vibrant discussion of the concept of human nature as well as what can be learned philosophically about humanity by examining it in relation to the surrounding environment. It would be suitable for political theory classes – especially in relation to discussions on the State of Nature, Animal Ethics or Environmental ethics. Background knowledge of existing theories on human nature would be helpful though are not necessary in order to access the text.

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Midgley, Mary, , . Trying Out One's New Sword
1981, Heart and Mind: The Varieties of Moral Experience. London: The Harvester Press Ltd., 69-75
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Daniel Weltman

Abstract: All of us are, more or less, in trouble today about trying to understand cultures strange to us. We hear constantly of alien customs. We see changes in our lifetime which would have astonished our parents. I want to discuss here one very short way of dealing with this difficulty, a drastic way which many people now theoretically favour. It consists in simply denying that we can ever understand any culture except our own well enough to make judgements about it. Those who recommend this hold that the world is sharply divided into separate societies, sealed units, each with its own system of thought. They feel that the respect and tolerance due from one system to another forbids us ever to take up a critical position to any other culture. Moral judgement, they suggest, is a kind of coinage valid only in its country of origin.

Comment:

Midgley describes and attempts to refute cultural relativism, the view that we should not morally judge other cultures. She uses clear examples, writes in a straightforward manner, and makes her points concisely.

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Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli, , . The Philosophy of the Upanishads
1924, Unwin Brothers Limited.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Peter Jones

Overview: Not focused on any one Upanishad in particular, it conveys the spirit in which the Upanishads were written and provides a short overview of their Metaphysics, Ethics and Epistemology.

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Tshivhase, Mpho, , . Personhood
2020, In: Imafidon, E. (ed.) Handbook of African Philosophy of Difference. Cham: Springer, 347-360
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Björn Freter

Abstract: Certain descriptions of personhood imbue an individual with a particular kind of moral status. There are different person-making capacities that are generally laid out as central to the idea of personhood. Some of the person-making capacities are what people generally refer to as the grounding of certain normative requirements that enable us to respond to individuals as entities with a moral status. Herein personhood is a matter of certain capacities that create one’s moral status. These descriptions of personhood bring about a specific structure of identification that has implications for moral accountability. In this paper I aim to interpret the person-making capacities and argue that they can, in some sense, be limiting, and this may be the case in relation to women as a gender group whose personhood has not always been fairly recognized. I will argue that a view of personhood whose person-making capacities exclude a gender group can have negative implications, and I will explore two implications that I think have this negative attitude. On the one hand, a conception of personhood, especially in the descriptive sense that prioritizes rationality and free will above all else, could imply that women, by virtue of lacking such capacities, are not to be considered as individuals with a moral status, wherein society cannot hold them accountable for their actions, nor would they be able to hold others morally accountable. On the other hand, and this second implication relates to difference in the sense of uniqueness, which is grounded on personhood – if women are denied the status of a person, then they would also be excluded from exploring their uniqueness qua radical difference.

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