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Ethical systems, African

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-Z008-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 15, 2024, from

Article Summary

Ethical thought in sub-Saharan Africa grows largely out of traditions that are communalistic, not based in individual consent, anti-universalizing, naturalistic, and humanist. Within such thought, the general vocabulary of evaluation, like such English words as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, does not strongly differentiate between narrow moral assessments, on the one hand, and technical or aesthetic evaluation on the other. This is true of places where Islam has been present for many centuries. The substantial exposure, in the colonial and postcolonial periods, to European moral ideas (both through various forms of Christian missionary evangelism and as a result of contact with secular moral and political traditions from elsewhere), along with the changes produced by the modern economy, have produced a wide range of ethical ideas. However, the residue of precolonial ethical theory remains the most distinctive, if not always the most important, component and is the main topic of this entry.

Citing this article:
Appiah, K. Anthony. Ethical systems, African, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Z008-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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