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But Hans Kelsen was not born in Africa: a reply to Thaddeus Metz

M B Ramrose


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.

South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 26 (4) 2007: pp. 347-355