This thing called communitarianism: A critical review of Matolino's Personhood in African Philosophy
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The subject of personal identity has received substantial treatment in contemporary African philosophy. Importantly, the dominant approach to personal identity is communitarian. Bernard Matolino's new book Personhood in African Philosophy enters into this discussion by way of contesting some of the assumptions underlying communitarian approaches. His own critical assessment leads him to what I believe is an unprecedented objection in the literature; the conclusion that communitarian philosophers are involved in a category mistake when framing the question and articulating the notion of personhood. I intend to present a brief summary of the chapters of the book and reflect on some of the main philosophical issues that the book provokes, noting what I take to be refreshing insights that Matolino brings to the discussion while also engaging critically with the ones I find most contentious. In particular, I briefly assess Matolino's implicit suggestion that an Akan inspired quasi-physicalist account of mind avoids the mind-body interaction problem; I object to the category mistake charge on behalf of communitarians; and lastly, I raise questions about, and propose ways Matolino can refine, his proposal concerning a new way of thinking about personhood, which goes under the rubric of Limited Communitarianism.