A comparison between medicine from an African (Ubuntu) and Western philosophy

Curationis. 2001 Mar;24(1):58-65. doi: 10.4102/curationis.v24i1.802.


I consider the Ubuntu way of caring for the sick in terms of the Ubuntu world-view by systematizing the scattered views. I argue that this world-view is underpinned by the regulative concept of sharing and that caring in Ubuntu-thinking can only be understood correctly in terms of sharing. I substantiate my exposition in terms of what Africans themselves claim Ubuntu is and relate its meaning to African thinking in general. I consider the uniqueness of this world-view by showing how an African thinker compares it to Western World-views on causality and critically consider these comparisons. I apply this world-view to African medicine and evaluate the Ubuntu idea of causes in medicine in comparison with causality in Western thinking by considering the two frameworks of medical care in terms of their viability respectively. I conclude that causal patterns in medicine are controversial in both thinkings but argue that it sets the framework for intercultural communication that can lead both to a better understanding of each other and to some positive developments in medicine. These ways of dealing with the topic represents the significance of this article as an addition to existing knowledge.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Causality
  • Humans
  • Medicine, African Traditional*
  • Philosophy, Medical