Since its inception as a professional field in the 1960s or so, African ethics has yet to be given serious consideration by virtue ethicists and international scholars in value theory generally. This is unfortunate, since sub-Saharan perspectives on how to live are characteristically virtue-centred, and, furthermore, are both different from the most influential Western virtue-ethical philosophies and no less worthy of consideration than they. According to one major swathe of African ethical thought, community is the foundational value for virtue, while, for another, it is vitality. In this chapter, I spell out two theories of virtue grounded on these values salient in the sub-Saharan tradition and critically appraise them in comparison to some dominant Euro-American conceptions. The African approaches to virtue should be of interest to a wide readership in so far as they provide attractive alternatives to the most influential accounts in the West, which I take to be pluralist views that eschew the search for unity among the virtues, on the one hand, and theoretical conceptions of virtue grounded on the basic value of rationality (or sometimes divinity), on the other.
THE TRADITIONALLY AFRICAN AND THE CLASSICALLY GREEK
By “African” ethics, I mean ideas about the good life for human beings and which choices they should make that have been salient in the worldviews of pre-colonial black peoples below the Sahara desert and in contemporary philosophical writings grounded on them.