The Journal of Value Inquiry

, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 113–133 | Cite as

Ubuntu as a Metaphysical Concept

  • Symphorien NtibagirirwaEmail author

Introduction: The Matrix of the Issue

In this reflection, I undertake to present Ubuntu as a metaphysical concept. I have a double purpose: to locate Ubuntu in its geo-linguistic region (the Bantu region) and to save it from being defined the way it is used instead of being used the way it is fundamentally defined. This undertaking is not without problems. One possible objection is that, for the Bantu, there is no philosophy apart from ethics! Effectively, there is a tendency to present this “ethics” without its philosophical backing among certain scholars.1 Certain Africans, in general, and the Bantu in particular could feel comfortable with Levinas who argues that “ethics is first philosophy”: “my ethical response to my fellow human being is the lens through which all other philosophical questions must be addressed”.2However, one needs to enter in the structure the Bantu languages as they picture the universe to understand that the Bantu ethics is solidly built on ontology in the...



I thank Joanna Ciulla, Terry Price, Javier Hidalgo and Christopher R. von Rueden for their comments and suggestions on the first draft of this paper. I benefit a lot from valuable questions asked by students during the classes at Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond where I was invited as Zuzana Simoniova Cmelikova Visiting International Scholar in Leadership Ethics in 2013–2014. The earlier draft is enriched thanks to discussions with colleagues during the ISBEE congress in Shanghai in China (2016) and other forums where the concept is discussed. The insightful comments and observations by the peer reviewers are highly appreciated.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Development and Economic Ethics, International Leadership UniversityBujumburaBurundi

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