But hans kelsen was not born in africa: A reply to thaddeus metz

M. B. Ramose*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


I argue that Metz’s undertaking, in seeking a ‘comprehensive basic norm’ to underpin African ethics, is similar to Hans Kelsen’s postulation of the Grundnorm in his Pure Theory of Law. But African ethics does not need to be underpinned by an approach such as Kelsen’s. In my view, Metz’s preference for seeking to develop a Grundnorm rests upon a failure to attend carefully to the distinctness of African ethical thinking from Western ethical thinking. This failure is manifest in a spurious distinction (on which Metz relies) between ‘moral anthropology’ /‘cultural studies’ and ‘normative theory’. It is also manifest in Metz’s failure to attend carefully to the work of Wiredu and Bujo, both of whom present systematic, critical analyses of African ethical thinking while implicitly rejecting the quest for a Grund norm as being unAfrican.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-355
Number of pages9
JournalSouth African Journal of Philosophy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007
Externally publishedYes


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