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“It” and personhood in African philosophy

Mutshidzi Maraganedzha


The question of the nature of “it” and the progression1 from “it” to an “it” in Ifeanyi Menkiti’s normative conception of a person has  created divisions amongst philosophers in African philosophy. In this article, I attempt to offer a charitable interpretation of Menkiti’s use  of an “it” to denote an individual’s life through the usage of epistemological and ontological tools to assess the individual’s  performance. In doing so, I argue that a better account of the progression is from an “it” to an “it+” rather than from an “it” to an “it-it”  as formulated by Edwin Etieyibo. This formulation of the nameless dead acknowledges that the latter “it” is significantly distinct from the  first “it” as it possesses a number of properties that are distinct from its former “it”, with the moral force as the significant factor in its  constitution. In this article, I seek to argue that accepting Etieyibo’s formulations of the latter “it” as an “it-it” risks complicating the  normative account of a person conceptually. 

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eISSN: 2788-7928