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Prof. T. Metz

Prof. T. Metz
Department of Philosophy Permanent Staff
Distinguished Professor

Contact Details
B Ring 706
+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 2019)

Religion and the Meaning of Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019).

'Precisely Why God Would Make Life More Meaningful' (tentative title) Human Affairs (Special issue on the Meaning of Life) 29 (2019).

'Pursuing Knowledge for Its Own Sake amidst a World of Poverty: Reconsidering Balogun on Philosophy's Relevance' Filosofia Theoretica 8 (2019).

'Reconciliation as the Aim of a Criminal Trial: Ubuntu's Implications for Sentencing' Constitutional Court Review 9 (2019).

'An African Theory of Just Causes for War' in L Cordeiro-Rodrigues et al (eds) Comparative Just War Theory (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019).

'Humility and the African Philosophy of Ubuntu' in M Alfano et al (eds) Handbook on the Philosophy of Humility (London: Routledge, 2019).

'What Africa Can Bring to the World' in T Chenntouf (ed) General History of Africa, Volume 9: Global Africa (Geneva: UNESCO, 2019).

'Relational African Values between Nations: Bringing Communion to the Global Order' in F Onditi et al (eds) Contemporary Africa in the New World Order (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2019).

'Beyond Statutory Post-Secularism in Europe: Custom and Constitution in an African Context' in U Okeja (ed) Postsecularism in a Global Context (London: Routledge, 2019).

'Must African Communitarianism Occlude Difference?' in E Imafidon (ed) Handbook of African Philosophy of Difference (Dordrecht: Springer, 2019).

'Communication Strategies in the Light of Indigenous African and Chinese Values: How to Harmonize' in P Tembe (ed) Africa-China Cross-cultural Communication (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2019).

'Distributive Justice as a Matter of Love: A Relational Approach to Liberty and Property' in I Dalferth (ed) Love and Justice (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2019).

'Meaning' in G Oppy (ed) Blackwell Companion to Atheism and Philosophy (Oxford: Blackwell, 2019).

'Meaning (Atheism)' in G Oppy et al (eds) Theism and Atheism: Opposing Viewpoints in Philosophy (Detroit: Macmillan Reference, 2019).

'Accounting for Similarities and Differences in Moral Belief (Atheism)' in G Oppy et al (eds) Theism and Atheism: Opposing Viewpoints in Philosophy (Detroit: Macmillan Reference, 2019).

'The Meaning of Life' in E Mason (ed) Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2019).

'Replacing Development: An Afro-communal Approach to Global Justice' in U Okeja (ed) African Philosophy and Global Justice (London: Routledge, 2019; reprinted).

'An Ubuntu-Based Evaluation of the South African State's Responses to Marikana: Where's the Reconciliation?' in M Swart (ed) Marikana (tentative title (Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, 2019; reprinted).

'An African Theory of Moral Status: A Relational Alternative to Individualism and Holism' in M Chemhuru (ed) African Environmental Ethics (Dordrecht: Springer, 2019; reprinted).

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, 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). 

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 Monash University (South Africa), 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).