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SA’s first black PhD Philosopher graduate produced by UJ


SA’s first black PhD Philosopher graduate produced by UJ


This year, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) produced the first African (black) woman in South Africa to get a Doctorate in Philosophy. No other education institution has done this in the history of the country. Dr Mpho Tshivhase, who comes from Makwarela in Venda, Limpopo turned 32-years-old on 21 April 2018.

She completed her doctorate thesis titled “Towards a Normative Theory of Uniqueness of Persons”. In her thesis supervised by Prof Thaddeus Metz, Dr Tshivhase defends a unique identity as something that is valuable and can be manifested in a person’s life. She argues that a unique identity, though related to other values such as happiness and morality, is not identical with them.

The young Dr Tshivase champions the view that individuality is something worth having in its own right. She says that she constructed a novel account of what it means for a person to create an identity that is utterly distinct, and advances the idea that authenticity and autonomy are necessary, but not sufficient conditions for creating a unique identity. Since attaining her PhD, Dr Tshivhase seeks to acquire grants to help establish research projects that would fund Master’s and Doctoral students with a particular focus on developing female scholars.

Who is she? Where is she from and what inspired her?

Dr Tshivhase grew up in a township called Makwarela in Venda, Limpopo. She started school at Hilmary Primary School, completing her final childhood schooling at Bergvlam Primary School before graduating to Louis Trichardt High School.

“My dissertation topic was extremely fascinating to me, particularly because I think we live in a society that generally influences people to prioritise who (and perhaps even what) other people think they should become. Our societal interactions in general seem to prize group identities that seem to require one to give up their personal identities in order assimilate into a group identity, whether it is race, gender, class, political or religious assimilation, among other things.

“I think even in instances where people do create what they consider to be an original identity, they seem to still look to society for some form of affirmation from those who are around them,” she says.

She studied Philosophy because she is a curious individual. She enjoys talking about different topics relating to humanity. “I was inspired to study Philosophy at postgraduate level by Professors HPP Lötter, Emma Ruttkamp-Bloem, and Louise du Toit. They taught me in my undergraduate years and at the end of my second year of study to apply for a tutoring position.