Review

Core aspects of ubuntu: A systematic review

C Ewuoso, S Hall

Abstract


Background. Ubuntu has been proposed as a useful alternative to current (Western) ethical frameworks for evaluating global bioethical issues, contributing theoretical diversity to the clinical context. However, the literature regarding this philosophy is often described as confusing, and is characterised by a number of competing interpretations. 

Objective. To arrive, by way of a systematic review, at a definition of ubuntu that encompasses the common themes that appear in competing interpretations. 

Methods. Searches were done in PhilPaper, PubMed and Google Scholar using a variety of search strings, generating 1 207 hits. After screening for English language, as well as relevance of the article after reading the title, abstract and full text, 99 articles were included for review. Another 17 articles were identified through snowballing and additional searches, giving a total of 116 articles that were included in the review. 

Results. This review shows that ubuntu is an essentially relational ethics, which prizes relationships of interdependence, fellowship, reconciliation, relationality, community friendliness, harmonious relationships and other-regarding actions such as compassion and actions that are likely to be good for others, in which actions are morally right to the extent that they honour the capacity to relate communally, reduce discord or promote friendly relationships with others, and in which the physical world and the spiritual world are fundamentally united. 

Conclusion. Scholars, health professionals, policy makers and others should be aware that an alternative ethical theory exists in the global South that may be applied to address a variety of global (bio)ethical issues. Further research, however, is needed to evaluate how properly action-guiding this formulation is in particular contexts.


Authors' affiliations

C Ewuoso, Centre for Applied Ethics, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa

S Hall, Centre for Applied Ethics, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa

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Cite this article

South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2019;12(2):93-103. DOI:10.7196/SAJBL.2019.v12i2.679

Article History

Date submitted: 2019-12-17
Date published: 2019-12-17

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