Message from the Director

The Centre for Ethics and Philosophy of Health Sciences brings together and mobilises scholars and postgraduate students at UP across various departments and faculties and in collaboration with international counterparts.


We at CEPHS espouse a key orientation of being person- and people-centred in the sense of the African ethic ubuntu, which principally refers to an interconnectedness of people. This orientation guides the operations of the Centre as an expression of commitment to people in their individual and communitarian capacities. This batho pele orientation is particularly important considering technological and scientific advances that may easily displace a commitment to people with a narrower interest in diseases, disease processes, bodily features, or the diagnostic and treatment offerings of technology. This orientation, furthermore, underscores the African locality of the Centre and resonates well with the professional and scientific developments internationally to make health practice and services more person- and people-centred.

A diverse approach to health ethics

CEPHS is guided by the need and affordances of conceptual work and philosophy in approaching health ethics. Accordingly, an inclusive and theoretically diverse approach to health ethics is advocated rather the narrower and popular focus on bioethics as expressed in the principles of respect for personal autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and distributive justice – important as these principles are nonetheless. A diverse approach to health ethics draws on the substantive theories of ethics more generally than health ethics including deontology, utilitarianism, communitarianism, liberal individualism and virtue (including care-based) ethics. From health ethics specifically, it draws on principlism, casuistry, perspectivism and values-based practice. Conceptual analysis is recognised for the clarity that it may bring to ethical issues.

Furthermore, health ethics is recognised in the full scope of health, thus inclusive of clinical ethics, research ethics, professional ethics and relevant to all areas of health including clinical assessment and diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, teaching and training, organisational and institutional management, and policy making.

Conceptual work towards scholarly clarity in health sciences, health practice and health education

CEPHS is furthermore guided by the need and affordances of conceptual work and philosophy in approaching health practice, health science and health education. Much scholarly sophistication in the field of health is gained from ongoing quantitative and qualitative research, but the reach of these methods is limited in addressing conceptual relations and the soundness of reasoning. Conceptual work by the CEPHS seeks to bring clarity regarding the strengths and limitations of various health research methodologies, as well as the values aspect of decision-making in clinical, research and educational contexts. CEPHS draws on the discipline of philosophy, particularly philosophy of science, axiology, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and phenomenology. 

Published by Samantha Hodgson

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