- Lecturer I
- Obafemi Awolowo University
Impartiality is seen as a fundamental requirement of morality, such that thinking morally implies thinking impartially. Contrary to this view, partialists are of the view that impartiality as a moral point of view is against the very nature of human personal relationships. This defines the problem of impartiality in ethics. Most works in this debate have focused on the disagreements between partialist and impartialist theories. However, it has not been adequately demonstrated that impartialist theories have partialist interpretations. This study argues that an interpretation of some partialist and impartialist theories will reveal that impartialist theories could be given partialist interpretation and vice versa. Hence, the gap between them is not as wide as ethicists contend. An impartialist could accept some partialist principles while a partialist could also endorse some impartialist principles. The conclusion is that the rivalry being claimed to exist between partialists and impartialists in ethics is not as forceful as generally believed.
Theoretical ethics grapples with the challenge of partiality and impartiality as a critical debate in African ethics. There is a polarity on how best this should be engaged. While scholars such as Wiredu, Gyekye, on the one hand, emphasized impartialist moral intuitions, Appiah, Metz, and Molefe, on the other, argue for a partialist reading of African ethics. Existing literature is replete with disagreements between the duo. However, it has not been adequately demonstrated that moral partiality and impartiality are universal moral elements, not restricted to particular culture. This study argues that a critical look at African ethics will reveal that partiality and impartiality are two sides of the same coin. Hence, partiality and impartiality are two aspects of African ethics, which are reconcilable. The gap between them is not as wide as ethicists contend. This study affirms that partiality and impartiality are universal moral elements, which are not peculiar to African ethics but also reconcilable.