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Prof. T Metz

Prof. T Metz
Distinguished Professor

Contact Details
B Ring 706
+27 (0) 11 559 3997

Specialisation area
African philosophy (esp. moral/political); Cross-cultural philosophy; Legal/political philosophy; Philosophy of higher education; Value theory (esp. the meaning of life).



Prof Metz hails from the United States, where he received his PhD from Cornell University in 1997. He first visited South Africa in 1999 and relocated there 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 (UJ). 

Prof Metz has published about 250 books, chapters and articles (abstracts for which can be found here). Most of these works address one of six major topics: the meaning of life; the nature of mental health and the point of psychotherapy; the African ethic of ubuntu; comparative African, Confucian, Islamic, Latin American and Western philosophy; dignity-based approaches to justice; and the philosophy of higher education. 

Amongst Prof Metz's books are: God, Soul and the Meaning of Life (Cambridge University Press 2019); Jurisprudence in an African Context (with D Bilchitz & A Oyowe, Oxford University Press 2017); and Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study (Oxford University Press 2013). His next book will be A Relational Moral Theory: African Contributions to Global Ethics (under contract with Oxford University Press).

Recent awards for Prof Metz's research include: an 'A1' rating from the South African National Research Foundation (2019 – 2024); a Special Essay Competition Prize from the Association for the Philosophy of Judaism (2019); a Distinguished Professorship from UJ (2015 – 2019); and the 4th Distinguished Lecture in African Philosophy at the University of Calabar (2017).

Prof Metz is currently supervising three post-doctoral fellows, all of whom are doing work in African philosophy. In addition, he is currently supervising more than ten postgraduate students, including seven Doctoral students. 

Selected Recent Publications (from 2020)

'A Philosophical Theory of Relational Psychological Disorders' Synthesis Philosophica 70 (2020).

'Relational Economics: An African Theory of Distributive Justice' Ethical Perspectives 25 (2020).

'Must Land Reform Benefit the Victims of Colonialism?' Philosophia Africana 19 (2020).

'Popper's Politics in the Light of African Values' Filosofia Theoretica 9 (2020).

'Beyond Legislative Post-Secularism in the West: Custom and Constitution in an African Context' in U Okeja (ed.) Religion in the Era of Postsecularism (London: Routledge, 2020).

'An African Theory of Just Causes for War' in L Cordeiro-Rodrigues and D Singh (eds) Comparative Just War Theory (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).

'What Africa Can Bring to the World' in T Chenntouf (ed.) General History of Africa, Volume 9: Global Africa (Geneva: UNESCO, 2020).

'Why Reconciliation Requires Punishment but Not Forgiveness' in K Scheiter and P Satne (eds) Conflict and Resolution: The Ethics of Forgiveness, Revenge, and Punishment (Cham: Springer, 2020).

'Community, Individuality, and Reciprocity in Menkiti' in E Etieyibo and P Ikuenobe (eds) Menkiti on Community and Becoming a Person (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).

'African Communitarianism and Difference' in E Imafidon (ed.) Handbook of the African Philosophy of Difference (Cham: Springer, 2020).

'Humility and the African Philosophy of Ubuntu' in M Alfano, M Lynch and A Tanesini (eds) Handbook on the Philosophy of Humility (London: Routledge, 2020).

'The Concept of Life's Meaning' in I Landau (ed.) Oxford Handbook on Meaning in Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020).

'Meaning in Life in Spite of Death' in M Cholbi and T Timmerman (eds) Exploring the Philosophy of Death and Dying: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives (London: Routledge, 2020).

'The Meaning of Life' in E Mason (ed.) Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (London: Routledge, 2020).

'Life Worth Living' in F Maggino (ed.) Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research, 2nd edn (Cham: Springer, 2020; revised edition).

'Ubuntu: The Good Life' in F Maggino (ed.) Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research, 2nd edn (Cham: Springer, 2020; revised edition).

'Ends and Means of Transitional Justice' in E Palmer and K Watene (eds) Reconciliation, Transitional and Indigenous Justice (London: Routledge, 2020; reprinted).

'What Science Means for Postmodernist Epistemology and the Philosophy of Education' in M Peters et al. (eds) What Comes after Postmodernism in Educational Theory? (London: Routledge, 2020; reprinted).

'An African Theory of the Point of Higher Education: Communion as an Alternative to Autonomy, Truth, and Citizenship' in A Ndofirepi and E Gwaravanda (eds) African Higher Education in the 21st Century: Some Philosophical Dimensions (Rotterdam: Brill/Sense Publishers, 2020; reprinted).

Downloadable Publications

'What Is the Essence of an Essence? Comparing Afro-Relational and Western-Individualist Ontologies' Synthesis Philosophica 65 (2018).

'An African Theory of Good Leadership' African Journal of Business Ethics 12 (2018).

'Replacing Development: An Afro-communal Approach to Global Justice' Philosophical Papers 46 (2017).

'Neutrality, Partiality, and Meaning in Life' De Ethica 4 (2017).

'The Assumptions of Cross-cultural Philosophy: What Makes It Possible to Learn from Other Traditions' Journal of World Philosophies 2 (2017).

'Good Governance' with J Hirata, R Verma and E Zencey, in Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH (eds) Happiness: Transforming the Development Landscape (Thimphu: Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH, 2017).

'Climate Change in Africa and the Middle East in Light of Health, Ubuntu and IslamSouth African Journal of Bioethics and Law 9 (2016).

'African Ethics and Journalism Ethics: News and Opinion in Light of Ubuntu' Journal of Media Ethics 30 (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 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 EthicsQuest: An African Journal of Philosophy 25 (2013).

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

'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).

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

Some Post-graduate and Post-doctoral Highlights

Kevin Behrens, former Doctoral student, Associate Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, and author of 'An African Relational Environmentalism and Moral Considerability' Environmental Ethics (2014).

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 (2016).

Rainer Ebert, former Post-doctoral Fellow, Lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, and author of 'Mental-Threshold Egalitarianism: How Not to Ground Full Moral Status' Social Theory and Practice (2018).

Cornelius Ewuoso, current Post-doctoral Fellow, and author of 'Managing Ethical Challenges around Misattributed Parentage within the Clinical Context: Insights from an African Moral Theory' Developing World Bioethics (2019).

Ademola Fayemi, current Post-doctoral Fellow, Lecturer at the University of Lagos, and author of 'Racial Identity, Aesthetic Surgery and Yorùbá African Values' Developing World Bioethics (2018).

Reza Hosseini, former Doctoral student, Lecturer at IIE MSA, 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 (2013).

Erasmus Masitera, current Post-doctoral Fellow, Lecturer at the Great Zimbabwe University, and author of 'Economic Rights in African Communitarian Discourse' Theoria (2018).

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

Khali Mofuoa, former Doctoral student, and author of 'Applying Ubuntu-Botho African Ethics to Stakeholder Corporate Social Responsibility' Management Research (2014).

Motsamai Molefe, former Doctoral student, Lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand, and author of 'A Rejection of Humanism in African Moral Tradition' Theoria (2015).

Olusegun Morakinyo, former Post-doctoral Fellow, Researcher at the Mzala Nxumalo Centre for the Study of South African Society, and author of 'Integrating African Heritage Studies as a New Terrain of African Philosophy' South African Journal of Philosophy (2016).

Asheel Singh, former Doctoral student, Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg, and author of 'Furthering the Case for Anti-natalism' South African Journal of Philosophy (2012).

Mpho Tshivhase, former Doctoral student, Lecturer at the University of Pretoria, and author of 'Personhood: Social Approval or a Unique Identity?' Quest: An African Journal of Philosophy (2013).

Conway Waddington, former Doctoral student, and author of 'Reconciling Just War Theory and Water-Related Conflict' International Journal of Applied Philosophy (2013).

Christopher Wareham, former Post-doctoral Fellow, Senior Lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand, and author of 'Slowed Ageing, Welfare, and Population Problems' Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics (2015).