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Prof. T. Metz

Prof Thaddeus Metz
Prof. T. Metz
Department of Philosophy Permanent Staff
Distiguished Professor

Contact Details
B Ring 605
+27 (0) 11 559 3997



 Prof Metz hails from the United States, where he received his PhD from Cornell University in 1997. He relocated to South Africa in 2004, when he joined the Philosophy Department at the University of the Witwatersrand. In 2009, he became Professor (Research Focus) at the University of Johannesburg.

Prof Metz has published about 200 scholarly papers in value theory and in moral, political and legal philosophy (abstracts for which can be found here).

Most of these are journal articles and book chapters that address one of five major topics: the meaning of life, mental health/psychotherapy, the African ethic of ubuntu, dignity-based approaches to justice, and the philosophy of higher education.

With regard to life's meaning, Prof Metz has been mainly interested in determining a plausible theory of what all the meaningful aspects of a life have in common as distinct from the meaningless ones.

When it comes to mental health and psychotherapy, Prof Metz has advanced comprehensive accounts of what it means to grow psychologically and of what therapists ought to be aiming to achieve with their clients.

In the context of ubuntu, Prof Metz has been developing a principle of morally right action informed by sub-Saharan values, a principle that grounds all particular duties, that provides concrete guidance about how to resolve moral problems, and that differs in attractive ways from dominant Western principles. He has also applied this African moral theory to several contemporary debates, e.g., the morality of the death penalty, the purpose of higher education, the justification of affirmative action, and the duties of medical professionals.

With respect to justice, Prof Metz has articulated and defended dignity-based analyses of a variety of contemporary social issues, such as: which actions the state should punish, why it ought to punish offenders, how a state should distribute wealth, how it should test its citizens for HIV, how it ought to ration scarce medical resources, and when a state may interfere in the affairs of others states.

In the philosophy of higher education, Prof Metz has published on conceptual and normative issues such as accountability, managerialism, institutional culture, academic freedom and the point of a university.

Recent awards for Metz’s research include: an ‘A’ rating from the South African National Research Foundation, the Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Research from the University of Johannesburg (UJ), and a Distinguished Professorship from UJ.


Selected Recent Publications (from 2017)

Jurisprudence in an African Context, with D Bilchitz and O Oyowe (Oxford University Press, 2017) 

‘Replacing Development: An Afro-Communal Approach to Global Justice’ Philosophical Papers 46 (2017) 

‘What Can the Capabilities Approach Learn from an Ubuntu Ethic?: A Relational Approach to Development Theory’ with N Hoffmann, World Development 97 (2017) 

‘Distributive Justice as a Matter of Love: A Relational Approach to Liberty and Property’ in I Dalferth (ed.) Love and Justice (Mohr Siebeck, 2017) 

‘Values in China as Compared to Africa: Two Conceptions of Harmony’ Philosophy East and West 67 (2017) 

‘Confucianism and African Philosophy’ in T Falola and A Afolayan (eds) Handbook of African Philosophy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)

‘The Assumptions of Cross-cultural Philosophy: What Makes It Possible to Learn from Other Traditions’ Journal of World Philosophies 1 (2017)

‘Teaching African Philosophy alongside Western Philosophy: Some Advice about Topics and Texts’ in E Etieyibo (ed.) Decolonisation, Africanisation and the Philosophy Curriculum (Routledge, 2017)

‘Africanising Institutional Culture: What is Possible and Plausible’ in M Cross and A Ndofirepi (eds) Knowledge and Change in African Universities (Sense Publishers, 2017) 

‘An Ubuntu-Based Evaluation of the South African State's Responses to Marikana: Where's the Reconciliation?’ Politikon 44 (2017)

‘Ancillary Care Obligations in Light of an African Bioethic: From Entrustment to Communion’ Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 38 (2017) 

‘A Bioethic of Communion: Beyond Care and the Four Principles with Regard to Reproduction’ in M Soniewicka (ed.) The Ethics of Reproductive Genetics (Springer, 2017) 

‘The Ethics and Politics of the Brain Drain: A Communal Alternative to Liberal Perspectives’ South African Journal of Philosophy 36 (2017) 

Jus Interruptus Bellum: The Ethics of Truce-Making’ Journal of Global Ethics 13 (2017) 

‘How to Ground Animal Rights on African Values: Reply to Horsthemke’ Journal of Animal Ethics 7 (2017) 

‘Duties towards Animals versus Rights to Culture: An African Understanding of the Conflict in Terms of Communion’ in L Cordeiro-Rodrigues and L Mitchell (eds) Multiculturalism, Race and Animals (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) 

‘African Philosophy as a Multidisciplinary Discourse’ in T Falola and A Afolayan (eds) Handbook of African Philosophy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) 

‘An Overview of African Ethics’ in I Ukpokolo (ed.) Themes, Issues and Problems in African Philosophy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)

‘Managerialism as Anti-Social: Some Implications of Ubuntu for Knowledge Production’ in M Cross and A Ndofirepi (eds) Knowledge and Change in African Universities (Sense Publishers, 2017) 

‘Making Sense of Survivor’s Guilt: Why It Is Justified by an African Ethic’ in L Ntsebeza and G Hull (eds) Philosophy in Africa, Africa in Philosophy (Brill, 2017) 

‘South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the Light of Ubuntu’ in M Swart and K van Marle (eds) The Limits of Transition: The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission 20 Years on (Brill, 2017)

‘A Life of Struggle as Ubuntu’ in S Ndlovu-Gatsheni and B Ngcaweni (eds) Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: Decolonial Ethics of Liberation and Servant Leadership (Africa World Press, 2017)

‘Exploring the Ethical Foundations of Nkrumah’s Consciencism’ in M Ajei (ed.) Disentangling Consciencism: Essays on Kwame Nkrumah’s Philosophy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017)

‘The Meaning of Life and the Afterlife’ in B Matheson and Y Nagasawa (eds) Palgrave Handbook on the Afterlife (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) 

‘Neutrality, Partiality and the Value of Meaning in Life’ De Ethica 4 (2017)

‘Review of Tim Mulgan’s Purpose in the UniverseEthics 127 (2017)


Downloadable Publications

Confucian Harmony from an African PerspectiveAfrican and Asian Studies 15 (2016)

Meaning in Life as the Right Metric: A Key Value beyond Happiness and MoralitySociety 53 (2016)

The Politics of Philosophy in Africa: A ConversationSouth African Journal of Philosophy 34 (2015)

Ubuntu and the Value of Self-Expression in the Mass MediaCommunicatio 41 (2015)

'Assessing Lives, Capturing Naturalism, and Giving Supernaturalism Its Due: Reply to 13 Critics of Meaning in Life' in M Morioka (ed.) Reconsidering Meaning in Life: A Philosophical Dialogue with Thaddeus Metz (Waseda University, 2015)

'African Ethics and Journalism Ethics: News and Opinion in Light of Ubuntu' Journal of Media Ethics 30 (2014)

African Values and Human Rights as Two Sides of the Same Coin: Reply to OyoweAfrican Human Rights Law Journal 14 (2014)

Meaning as a Distinct and Fundamental Value: Reply to KershnarScience, Religion and Culture 1 (2014)

Questioning South Africa’s “Genetic Link” Requirement for SurrogacySouth African Journal of Bioethics and Law 7 (2014)

'Two Conceptions of African Ethics' Quest: An African Journal of Philosophy 25 (2013)

The Meaning of Life, rev. edn. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2013)

'How God Could Assign Us a Purpose without Disrespect: Reply to Salles' Quadranti – Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia Contemporanea 1 (2013)

Ethics in Aristotle and in Africa: Some Points of ContrastPhronimon 13 (2012)

Ubuntu as a Moral Theory and Human Rights in South AfricaAfrican Human Rights Law Journal 11 (2011)

Accountability in Higher Education: A Comprehensive Analytical FrameworkTheory and Research in Education 9 (2011)

The Final Ends of Higher Education in Light of an African Moral TheoryJournal of Philosophy of Education 43 (2009)

Happiness and Meaningfulness: Some Key Differences,’ in L Bortolotti (ed.) Philosophy and Happiness (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)

Censure Theory Still Best Accounts for Punishment of the Guilty: Reply to MontaguePhilosophia 37 (2009)

Toward an African Moral Theory' Journal of Political Philosophy 15 (2007)


Some Post-graduate and Post-doctoral Highlights

Kevin Behrens, former Doctoral student, Senior Lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand, and author of ‘An African Relational Environmentalism and Moral Considerability’ Environmental Ethics 36 (2014): 63-82.

Munamato Chemhuru, former Doctoral student, Lecturer at the Great Zimbabwe University, and author of ‘Using the African Teleological View of Existence to Interpret Environmental Ethics’ Philosophia Africana vol. 18, no. 1 (2016): forthcoming.

Reza Hosseini, former Doctoral student and author of Wittgenstein and the Meaning of Life (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).

Jessica Lerm, former Doctoral student, Lecturer at the University of the Western Cape, and author of ‘The Agent-Relative/Agent-Neutral Distinction’ South African Journal of Philosophy 32 (2013): 137-148.

Keolebogile Mbebe (Moaisi), former Master’s student, winner of the UJ Chancellor’s Medal for best Master’s research in the Humanities, and Lecturer at the University of Pretoria.

Motsamai Molefe, former Doctoral student, Lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and author of ‘A Rejection of Humanism in African Moral Tradition’ Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory vol. 62, no. 2 (2015): 59-77.

Olusegun Morakinyo, former Post-doctoral Fellow and author of ‘Integrating African Heritage Studies as a New Terrain of African Philosophy’ South African Journal of Philosophy 35 (2016): 70-81.

Asheel Singh, current Doctoral student, Associate Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, and author of ‘Furthering the Case for Anti-natalism’ South African Journal of Philosophy 31 (2012): 104-116.

Mpho Tshivhase, current Doctoral student, Lecturer at the University of Pretoria, and author of ‘Personhood: Social Approval or a Unique Identity?’ Quest: An African Journal of Philosophy 25 (2013): 119-140.

Conway Waddington, former Doctoral student and author of ‘Reconciling Just War Theory and Water-Related Conflict’ International Journal of Applied Philosophy 26 (2013): 197-212.

Christopher Wareham, former Post-doctoral Fellow, Lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand, and author of ‘Slowed Ageing, Welfare, and Population Problems’ Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 36 (2015): 321-340.