Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Concept, Principles and Research Methods of African Environmental Ethics

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Concept, Principles and Research Methods of African Environmental Ethics

Article excerpt


Researchers have produced a large body of research that has significantly affected our understanding of environmental ethics. The contributions have helped facilitate the evolution of environmental ethics for different contexts. The core objective underpinning these researches in environmental ethics is to help communities solve human needs without risking safety and integrity of the ecosphere, and posterity. However, there is a balance of opinions among ethics researchers that there is pressing need for researchers in environmental ethics to produce researches that are compliant to specific cultural contexts; since the different cultural contexts are not exactly responding to the same ethics (Ibanga, 2017a; Ekwealo, 2017; Ogbonnaya, 2016; Francis, 2016; Mangena, 2015; Ibanga, 2014; Bisong & Sunday, 2014; Tangwa, 2004; Ogungbemi, 1994). Different philosophical places have responded to this call differently, employing different methodologies traditional to their philosophical traditions.

Africa philosophers have also responded to the call; but many have done so without paying attention to the methodologies in African philosophy. The issue is not a lack of relevant methodologies, but the different methodologies have not been shown in how they can contribute to African environmental ethics research. Some African philosophers set out to use scientific methods and Western philosophical methodologies without realizing the negative impact that alien paradigms may have on facilitating environmental ethics research in Africa. This has merely led to a certain fallacy called "descriptive chauvinism", that is, thinking that African and Western concepts, meanings, and methodologies, construct questions and responses in a similar manner (Edet, 2015).

To address the problem, this paper discusses ten traditional and contemporary methodological paradigms in African philosophy and demonstrates how they can effectively be applied to African environmental ethics research, and helps facilitate the discovery of ecological values that are meaningful to African people. It also discusses the concept and principles of African environmental ethics in order to show the conceptual underpinnings of the methodologies, and facilitate an understanding of how the methodologies should be employed in research.

The Concept of African Environmental Ethics

African environmental ethics is still a developing area of African philosophy. Few scholars have written to establish the theoretical basis of the discipline in terms of determining its comprehensive philosophical aspects. Most scholars of African environmental ethics focus on the ethical, axiological, and metaphysical aspects; while neglecting the logical, epistemological, pedagogical, and gender aspects. Meanwhile, Ucheoma Osuji (2012) argues that the metaphysical aspect of African environmental ethics cannot be separated from its epistemological aspect. One may also say that the logical and epistemological aspects of African environmental ethics are not counter-intuitive.

However, Ibanga has attempted to map the logical aspect (see Francis, 2016). Davie Mutasa, Shumirai Nyota, and Jacob Mapara (2008) has attempted to discuss its pedagogical aspects. Also, Ekwealo and Ibanga have attempted to map its political aspects (see Ekwealo, 2017; Ibanga, 2017b).

In all these, the question that would linger is: what is African environmental ethics? So far, three scholars have defined African environmental ethics. First, Chigbo Ekwealo (2017) posits that "African environmental ethics deals with the fundamental principle that govern the relationship between man and the environment based on African worldview [by analyzing] the basic terms like man, environment, spirit, et cetera and examines the approaches by which [they are] known" (p.52). This means environmental ethics focuses on analyzing the basic concepts employed in understanding the environment. …

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