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Prof. T. Metz

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Prof. T. Metz
Department of Philosophy Permanent Staff
Distiguished 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 2018)

'Ends and Means of Transitional Justice' Journal of Global Ethics 14 (2018).

'What Is the Essence of an Essence? Comparing Western-Individualist and Afro-Relational Ontologies' Synthesis Philosophica 33 (2018).

'What Science Means for Postmodernist Epistemology and the Philosophy of Education' Educational Philosophy and Theory 50 (2018).

'Medicine without Cure?: A Cluster Analysis of the Nature of Medicine' Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 43 (2018).

'Advancing the Philosophy of Medicine: Towards New Topics and Sources' with Chadwin Harris, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 43 (2018).

'What Ubuntu Entails for How to Conduct a Trial' Constitutional Court Review 9 (2018).

'How to Deal with Neglected Tropical Diseases in the Light of an African Ethic' Developing World Bioethics 18 (2018).

'God's Role in a Meaningful Life: New Reflections from Tim Mawson' European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 10 (2018).

'Koheleth and the Meaning of Life' in Stephen Leach and James Tartaglia (eds) The Meaning of Life and the Great Philosophers (London: Routledge, 2018).

'An African Theory of the Point of Higher Education: Communion as an Alternative to Autonomy, Truth, and Citizenship' in Aaron Stoller and Eli Kramer (eds) Contemporary Philosophical Proposals for the University (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).

'Ubuntu, Christianity and Two Kinds of Reconciliation' in Mohammed Girma (ed.) Healing the Memories (Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018).

'Making Sense of Survivor's Guilt: Why It Is Justified by an African Ethic' in Lungisile Ntsebeza and George Hull (eds) Philosophy in Africa, Africa in Philosophy (London: Routledge, 2018).

'A Bioethic of Communion: Beyond Care and the Four Principles with Regard to Reproduction' in Marta Soniewicka (ed.) The Ethics of Reproductive Genetics - Between Utility, Principles, and Virtues (Dordrecht: Springer, 2018).

'Distributive Justice as a Matter of Love: A Relational Approach to Liberty and Property' in Ingolf Dalferth (ed.) Love and Justice (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2018).

'Cultural Pluralism and Its Implications for Media Ethics' in Patrick Plaisance (ed.) Communication and Media Ethics (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2018).

'A Life of Struggle as Ubuntu' in Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni and Busani Ngcaweni (eds) Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2018).

'Relational African Values between Nations: Bringing Communion to the Global Order' in Francis Onditi and Gilad Ben-Nun (eds.) Contemporary Africa in the New World Order (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2018).

'Meaning (Atheism)' in Graham Oppy, Gregory Dawes and Evan Fales (eds) Theism and Atheism: Opposing Viewpoints in Philosophy (Detroit: Macmillan Reference, 2018).

'Accounting for Moral Similarities and Differences (Atheism)' in Graham Oppy, Gregory Dawes and Evan Fales (eds) Theism and Atheism: Opposing Viewpoints in Philosophy (Detroit: Macmillan Reference, 2018).

'Survivor's Guilt' in Hugh LaFollette (ed.) The International Encyclopedia of Ethics (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2018).

'An African Theory of Moral Status: A Relational Alternative to Individualism and Holism' in Munamato Chemhuru (ed.) African Environmental Ethics (Dordrecht: Springer, 2018; reprinted). 

'African Values and Capital Punishment' in David Morrow (ed.) Moral Reasoning: A Text and Reader on Ethics and Contemporary Moral Issues (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018; reprinted).

'A Theory of National Reconciliation: Some Insights from Africa' in Aleksandar Fatic, Klaus Bachmann and Igor Lyubashenko (eds) Transitional Justice in Troubled Societies (London: Rowman & Littlefield International, 2018; reprinted).

'Teaching African Philosophy alongside Western Philosophy: Some Advice about Topics and Texts' in Edwin Etieyibo (ed.) Decolonisation, Africanisation and the Philosophy Curriculum (London: Routledge, 2018; reprinted).

'How to Ground Animal Rights on African Values: A Constructive Approach' in Jonathan Chimakonam (ed.) African Philosophy and Environmental Conservation (London: Routledge, 2018; 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 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 18 (2016): 41-51.

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): forthcoming.

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): 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.

Khali Mofuoa, former Doctoral student, and author of 'Applying Ubuntu-Botho African Ethics to Stakeholder Corporate Social Responsibility' Management Research 12 (2014): 222-239.

Motsamai Molefe, former Doctoral student, Lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand, and author of 'A Rejection of Humanism in African Moral Tradition' Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory 62 (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, 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 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, Senior Lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand, and author of 'Slowed Ageing, Welfare, and Population Problems' Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 36 (2015): 321-340.