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Elements of African Bioethics in a Western Frame

Godfrey B. Tangwa

Publication Year: 2010

For millennia, Africans have lived on the African continent, in close contact with the diversities of nature: floral, faunal and human; and in so doing they have developed cultures, values, attitudes and perspectives to the problems, ethical and otherwise, that have arisen from the existential pressures of their situation. The problem, however, is that such values and perspectives do not necessarily form coherent ethical theories. Theory-making is a second order activity requiring a certain amount of leisure and comfort which the existential conditions of life on the African continent have not easily permitted in the retrospect-able past. The elements of African bioethics are to be found in its cultural values, traditions, customs and practices. These are research-able, highlight-able and usable by those who would. The bioethical problems of our current global existential situation are such that all possible solutions, no matter their provenance, ought to be tried. Western culture†has far too loud a voice combined with deaf ears in contemporary ethical discourse. But it should never be forgotten that other cultures†have their own word to say and that alternative values, ways of thinking and practices exist, and attempt should always be made to bring these out and to highlight them, if they could possibly contribute to the satisfactory solution of a global problem. This book brings together various papers on bioethical issues and problems, written at different times, some previously published, each of which attempts to bring out some African†elements, perspective or concern. The African narrative style predominates through these essays but their framing conforms, more or less, to the Western paradigm for presenting academic issues.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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1. INTERVIEW WITH PROF. DR. G.B. TANGWA

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pp. 1-8

It is interesting to see how philosophers of different cultures and backgrounds challenge the same problems in a different way. Professor Dr. Tangwa lives in Cameroon and finds himself in a country which fights against famine, AIDS, exploitation by western countries and companies, to mention but a few...

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2. BIOETHICS: AN AFRICAN PERSPECTIVE

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pp. 9-28

In attempting to say something about an African perspective of Bioethics, one is haunted and daunted by the historically notorious question: “Is there such a thing as African philosophy?” on which western-trained African philosophers squandered nearly two decades in debates which often produced more heat...

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3. THE ABORTION DEBATE: ETHICS, CUSTOM AND LAW IN INTERACTION

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pp. 29-38

The last quarter of the 20th century witnessed a significant shift of emphasis in global philosophical trends from concern with overly theoretical issues to more practical matters. Bioethics, the study of the ethical, social and legal issues arising from existence, life and the biological sciences, is one of the fruits, among...

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4. AFRICAN BIOETHICS AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

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pp. 39-48

Biodiversity, by which I understand the great number and variety of biological species and forms in the world, and agriculture - the deliberate cultivation of any of these species or forms by human beings for human needs - can be said to be made for each other. Biodiversity is to agriculture what concepts are...

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5. AFRICAN PERSPECTIVES ON BIOMEDICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS

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pp. 49-69

The last quarter of the out-going century/millennium has witnessed two very important developments - one at the theoretical level and the other at the practical. At the theoretical level, there has been a significant shift of emphasis in the Western world (the dominant/dominating culture of the...

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6. RIGHTS AND RATIONING IN HEALTH CARE: SOME RANDOM CONSIDERATIONS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTEXT

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pp. 70-82

I have attempted to carry out my reflection on the subject of this chapter against the background of a relatively clean slate, though not a complete tabula rasa. I have not, for instance, depended on the assumption that health care is a ‘right’ which seems to be the favorite metaphor in Western discourse of such and...

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7. MORALITY AND CULTURE: ARE ETHICS CULTURE- DEPENDENT?

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pp. 83-91

In this chapter, it is my contention that cultural diversity is a value akin to biological diversity. As such, it is desirable or at least unobjectionable for a thousand and one cultural flowers to bloom. Moreover, no culture qua culture is either superior or inferior to any other culture. Moral diversity, however, is not a desirable value and...

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8. BIOETHICS, BIOTECHNOLOGY AND CULTURE: A VOICE FROM THE MARGINS

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pp. 92-105

One of the most remarkable things about the world in which we all live, localized here on planet Earth, is its biodiversity (the enormous variety of its living forms). Another is its cultural diversity (the enormous variety of its different human cultures). Equally remarkable is the variety, the different...

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9. CIRCUMCISION: AN AFRICAN POINT OF VIEW

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pp. 106-122

Circumcision, by which I mean any surgical intervention on the genitals of a human being for cultural, religious or purely secular and profane reasons, has recently become a highly controversial issue reminiscent of such other issues as the abortion debate. Pro-circumcisionists have marshalled as many arguments in its favor...

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10. FEMINISM AND FEMININITY: GENDER AND MOTHERHOOD IN AFRICA

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pp. 123-140

In this paper, it is my underlying claim that, although the Western feminist movement is largely responsible for the positive global shift in consciousness and attitudes towards women and the status of women, Africans do not need profession and/or practice of feminism to effect the emancipation and empowerment of...

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11. BIOETHICS, CUSTOMS AND LAWS IN THE PRESENT SITUATION OF AFRICA

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pp. 141-153

Positive law can be considered as a derivative or subset of ethics or morality¹⁶ in the sense that any particular law or even any entire legal system cannot be adequately justified without reference to morality. The justification of morality itself is not, of course, unproblematic and has sometimes led philosophers into circular...

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12. BIOETHICS AND INTERNATIONAL BIO-MEDICAL RESEARCH FROM THE POINT OF VIEW AND PERSPECTIVE OF AFRICAN CULTURE AND PHILOSOPHY

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pp. 154-185

One area in which the process of globalization has had an indisputable impact, for good or ill, is in the domain of bio-medicine. In recent years, there has been a great increase in the number of biomedical research studies in the developing world, especially in Africa. These researches are mostly carried out by researchers from...

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13. IS BIOETHICS LOVE OF LIFE? AN AFRICAN VIEW- POINT

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pp. 186-188

In his recent book, BIOETHICS IS LOVE OF LIFE: An Alternative Textbook, (Eubios Ethics Institute, 1998), Darryl Macer suggests that ‘love of life’ is ‘the simplest and most all encompassing definition of Bioethics’. Macer does make a very good case for his way of looking at things. But an African who thoroughly...

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14. GLOBALISATION OR WESTERNISATION? ETHICAL CONCERNS IN THE WHOLE BIO-BUSINESS

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pp. 189-198

Increasing awareness of the importance of the biodiversity of the whole global biosphere has led to further awareness that the problems which arise in connection with preservation and exploitation of our planet’s biodiversity are best tackled from a global perspective. The ‘Biodiversity Convention’ and the ‘Human Genome Project’ are some...

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15. LIVING IN A WORLD OF DIVERSITY AND VARIETY

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pp. 199-204

The world in which we live (planet Earth) is marked by great variety and diversity. This diversity and variety can be perceived from every point of view in the various different peoples, cultures and languages of the world; in the various biological forms, both floral and faunal, that populate the earth; in the different...

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9789956579853
Print-ISBN-13: 9789956578153

Page Count: 210
Publication Year: 2010