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Dr. Paul Hamilton
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  2. Utahns pay tribute to King | Deseret News
  3. Shattering the Myths with special guest Dr. Paul L. Hamilton
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Thus, the expression onipa bone means a bad person. A bad person is said to be a person with a bad character, suban bone. When a person is known to be honest or generous or compassionate, he would be judged by the Akan as a good person, by which they mean that he has a good character suban.

A person would be judged as having a bad character if he is considered dishonest, wicked, or cruel. In most moral evaluations reference is made to the character of a person; thus, character is basic—the crucial element—in Akan, as it is in African, ethics generally. African ethics is, thus, a character-based ethics that maintains that the quality of the individual's character is most fundamental in our moral life.

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Good character is the essence of the African moral system, the linchpin of the moral wheel. The justification for a character-based ethics is not far to seek. For, all that a society can do, regarding moral conduct, is to impart moral knowledge to its members, making them aware of the moral values and principles of that society.

In general, society satisfactorily fulfills this duty of imparting moral knowledge to its members through moral education of various forms, including, as in African societies, telling morally-freighted proverbs and folktales to its younger members. But, having moral knowledge—being made aware of the moral principles and rules of the society—is one thing; being able to lead a life consonant with the moral principles is quite another. An individual may know and may even accept a moral rule, such as, say, it is wrong to cheat the customs.

But he may fail to apply this rule to a particular situation; he is, thus, not able to effect the transition from knowledge to action, to carry out the implications of his moral belief. In the Akan and other African moral systems such a moral failure would be put down to the lack of a good character suban pa. In other words, the ability to act in accord with the moral principles and rules of the society requires the possession of a good character. Thus, in the context of the activities of the moral life—in our decisions to obey moral rules, in the struggle to do the right thing and to avoid the wrong conduct, in one's intention to carry out a moral duty, the quality of a person's character is of ultimate consequence.

It is from a person's character that all his or her actions—good or bad—radiate: the performance of good or bad acts depends on the state of one's character. Wrong-doing is put down to a person's bad character. African maxims are explicit about the formation of character: character is acquired. A person is therefore responsible for the state of his or her character, for character results from the habitual actions of a person. It would be worthless to embark on moral instruction through moral proverbs and folktales, as it is done in African societies, if our character or habits were inborn.

But the belief is that the moral narratives would help the young people to acquire and internalize the moral values of the society, including specific moral virtues, embedded in those ethical narratives. The appropriate responses to moral instruction are expected to lead to the acquisition of appropriate habits and their corresponding characters.

Tricksters: An Introduction: Crash Course World Mythology 20

And, because character is acquired through our actions, habits, and expected responses to moral instructions, it can, according to African moral systems, be changed or reformed. Persistent performance of a particular action will produce a certain habit and, thus, a corresponding character.

To acquire virtue, a person must perform good actions, that is, morally acceptable actions so that they become habitual. The action or deed that led to the acquisition of a newly good habit must be persistently performed in order to strengthen that habit; in this way,virtue or, good character is acquired. Over time such an acquired virtue becomes a habit.

Shattering the Myths with special guest Dr. Paul L. Hamilton

Thus, moral virtues excellences of character or vices arise through habituation. The logic of the acquisition of our character or habits is that the original nature of the human being was morally neutral, neither good nor bad. A person's original moral neutrality will in the course of his life come to be affected, in one direction the good or the other direction the bad by his actions and responses to moral instruction, advice and persuasion.

The original moral neutrality of a human being constitutes the foundation of our conception of the moral person, for it makes for—allows room for—choice, that is, moral choice. Consequently, what a person does or does not do is most crucial to the formation and development of his or her character, and, thus, to becoming moral or immoral. Let me start the analysis of moral personhood in African moral philosophy with a statement made by Ifeanyi Menkiti, an African philosopher from Nigeria:. Menkiti's statement adumbrates a conception of moral personhood, which will now be discussed in some detail.

The concept of a person in African thought embodies ethical presuppositions. Thus, the word onipa is an ambiguous word. In Yoruba language the word eniyan means a person. The Akan statement onnye onipa and the Yoruba statement Ki i se eniyan both underline a conception of moral personhood. The two statements are significant in two ways. The first is that, even though that individual is said not to be a person, he is nonetheless acknowledged as a human being , not a beast or fish. It is pretty clear that the statement implies a distinction between the concept of a human being and the concept of a person: an individual can be a human being without being a person.

The second significant thing the statements imply is the assumption that there are certain fundamental norms and ideals to which the conduct of a human being, if he is a person, ought to conform, that there are moral virtues that an individual has the capacity to display in his conduct and ought to display them, if he is a person.

The reason for the judgment that an individual is not a person if he behaves or does not behave in a certain way is that that individual's actions and behavior are considered as falling short of the ideals and standards of personhood.

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The position here is this: for any p , if p is person, then p ought to display in his behavior the moral norms and ideals of personhood. Thus, a descriptive use of that judgment would be obvious and easily understood. What I am concerned to point up in the present circumstance is the normative form of the judgment. A rider would be in place here: while children are actual human beings and are members of the human community, they are not actual persons yet; they are persons only potentially and will attain the status of personhood in the fullness of time when they are able to exercise their moral capacity and make moral judgments.

Now, the denial of personhood to a human being on the grounds that his actions are not in accord with certain fundamental norms and ideals of personhood or that that individual fails to display certain virtues in his behavior is morally significant and worth noting. It means that human nature is considered in Akan metaphysical and moral thought to be essentially good, not depraved or warped by some original sin; that the human being is capable of doing good.

It does not mean, however, that personhood, in this model of humanity, is innate but is earned in the ethical arena: it is the individual's moral achievement that earns him the status of a person. Every individual is capable of becoming a person inasmuch as he has capacity for virtue—for performing morally right actions—and should be treated at least potentially as a morally responsible agent. The view expressed in this proverb seems to be at variance with the notion of the moral-neutrality of the human being discussed earlier in connection with character section 3.

First, it may be taken as implying that God created the human being actually to do good, that is, to actually behave virtuously and to always make the appropriate moral choices. Second, it may be interpreted as meaning that God made the human being capable of moral choice, that is, that the human being was merely endowed by his creator with the moral sense to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong. The first interpretation implies that the human being has been determined to be good—to actually pursue virtue: thus, the human being's moral status is a settled matter.

If the human being were created or determined actually and always to do good, there would never have been a concept of evil or vice bone in Akan moral language, since no human being would, in that kind of moral context, commit a vicious or evil act. In light of the evil and unethical actions of individual human beings, the first interpretation which implies that the human being is resiliently good cannot be accepted as the correct meaning of the maxim, for it is plainly contradicted by our putative moral experience. The first interpretation also subverts moral-neutrality, a consequence that eliminates moral choice—basic to the notion of a moral person.

The second interpretation of the view that the human being was created good or, to be good , implies that the human being merely has the capacity for virtue: that is, could pursue good, but could also pursue evil. This means that the human being is endowed with moral sense and, so, has the capacity for both virtue and vice; his judgment on some moral issue could go either direction: direction of the good or direction of the evil. Thus, the notion of moral neutrality is preserved. The human being can then be held as a moral agent: not that his virtuous character is a settled matter, but that he is capable of virtue, and hence, of moral achievement, and can, thus, achieve personhood.

The correctness of the second interpretation of the view that the human being was created good, as argued in the foregoing paragraphs, can have an anchor also in the Akan notion of tiboa : conscience, moral sense—a sense of right or wrong. This is a conception of an inner urge relevant to moral practice. Tiboa is held, among other things, as creating a sense of guilt in the individual, convicting him or her of wrong deeds. Since response to a moral rule is ultimately an individual or private affair, the notion of tiboa conscience is of great importance to our moral life. It is by virtue of tiboa that the notion of self-sanctioning in moral conduct becomes intelligible.

Because of its power to induce a sense of guilt, tiboa is held to influence the individual's moral choice, decision, response, and attitude. The reality or phenomenon of moral choice is a rejection of the notion of a fixed or settled moral character of an individual that derives from the presupposition—albeit false—that the human being is born virtuous. The activity of tiboa is in line with the moral neutrality of the human being at birth.

The activity of tiboa assists moral achievement and, thus, moral personhood.

African Peoples' Contributions to World Civilizations: Shattering the Myths

Like the Akan people and others, the Rwanda or, Ruanda people also have the concept of conscience. Maquet in Forde, There indeed are external social sanctions which are useful as deterrents from prohibited behavior; but in moral motivation feelings of moral guilt and shame are traceable also to kamera or tiboa.

Observations have been made by a number of scholars that Africans are a very—even a notoriously—religious people, that religion so deeply permeates all spheres of their lives that it cannot be distinguished from nonreligious aspects of life, that in the African traditional life there are no atheists, and that the African cultural heritage is intensely and pervasively religious. That some connection may exist between religion and morality is conceivable in an environment that is widely alleged to be pervasively religious. But the nature of the connection needs to be fully clarified.

The connection has been taken by most scholars to mean that African moral values and principles derive from religion, implying that African morality is, thus, a religious morality Opoku, , Danquah 3 , Sarpong 41 , Busia 16 , Parrinder 28—9 , Idowu The claim implies in turn that the moral beliefs and principles of the African people derive from those of religion, that religion provides the necessary justification for moral values and beliefs, and that moral concepts, such as good, bad, right and wrong, are defined or, must be defined in terms of religious prescriptions or commands.

However, there are other scholars, such as Godfrey Wilson, Monica Wilson, Maquet, Wiredu, who deny the religious basis of the moral systems of the societies they studied. Odera Oruka and D. Masolo, These are unambiguous statements of the nonreligious foundation of the morality of at least some African societies. The claim, made by many scholars, that African morality is founded on, or derives from, religion cannot, in my opinion, be upheld, if by morality we are referring to social principles and norms that guide the conduct of people in a society.

One reason is that, unlike Islam or Christianity, the traditional, that is, indigenous, African religion is not a revealed religion whereby divine truth is revealed to a single individual who becomes the founder. It is true that African religious experience certainly features mystical or highly spiritual encounters between human beings that is, priests, priestesses, diviners, etc.