A comparative study of the character of Omolúàbí in an African moral system and Nietzsche’s nobleman theory in western ethics

  • Oyewole Oyebade
  • Godwin Azenabor
  • Ayodele Shotunde
Keywords: Character, African ethics, omolúàbí, morality and nobleman


This paper attempts to throw light on and show the fundamental similarities and dissimilarities between an African and Western ethical conceptions by examining the foundation of character ethics in the two systems, using the concept of Omolúàbí in an African moral system, and Nietzsche’s Nobleman in western ethics as tools of comparative analysis. Indigenous African moral system revolves around character and character traits much more as it aims to analyse actions, as well as, motives of a moral agent. Omolúàbí is generally accepted character model among the Yorùbá who are dominantly in the West African sub-region. The virtues of Omolúàbí manifested in (Ìwá) character are such that promote co-operation, solidarity and interdependence of all interests towards common goal and harmonious relationship. This concept favourably compares with Friedrich Nietzsche’s Nobleman character model, with the emphasis on the maximal use of instinct to achieve life ambitions. The idea of Nietzsche, we argue, compares with Omolúàbí. Both are rationalistic departure from supernaturalistic basis of morality but the limitation of Nietzsche is that morality and peaceful co-existence cannot be premised on self interest alone and the lure of nihilism. We contend that the pursuit of selfish interest and egoism may help in the achievement of goals but not sustainable outside of the general interest in human society. The failure to accord a place for general interest is precisely the limitation of Nietzsche’s character model, which makes it an inadequate foundation of morality in line with social order. Omolúàbí of an African ethics via Yoruba worldview,though not so watertight, is more humanistic and existentialist in orientation, thereby promoting collective interest, goodwill and peaceful coexistence. It is from this standpoint that we argue that the humanistic basis of Omolúàbímorality is more adequate for sustainable development in contemporary period.

Keywords: Character, African ethics, omolúàbí, morality and nobleman


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eISSN: 1813-2227