Wiredu uses the term ‘empiricalism’ to characterize a mode of thinking that is essentially empirical in orientation but admits non-transcendental metaphysical categories and existents into its systems of thought. Wiredu finds evidence of this mode of thinking in the Akan language. The central question I engage with in this paper is this: what makes empiricalism a plausible system of thought that has universal validity and intelligibility? I argue that the plausibility and universality of empiricalism is evident in Wiredu’s logical and (...) semantic thinking that underpins the theses of empiricalism. Rather than it being an isolated doctrine of Wiredu, the central theses of empiricalism are rooted in, and cast in terms of, his logical and semantic analysis of distinctions such as signification and reference, concept and object, and of his analysis of terms such as ‘existence’. These analyses show that the attractiveness of empiricalism is dependent on theoretical principles other than, and in addition to, the linguistic evidence that Akan provides. (shrink)
Abstract:A previously overlooked letter written by David Hume to the Comtesse de Boufflers in 1766, read alongside an unpublished letter to Hume from the British official John Roberts, sheds important new light on Hume’s views on race. The letters concern a famous episode in eighteenth-century history, the enslavement and redemption of the “African Prince,” William Ansah Sessarakoo, and his subsequent time as a celebrity in London in 1749–50. Hume’s account of these events, based on Roberts’s letter but re-shaped through a (...) pattern of strategic omissions, additions, and prejudicial commentary, conveys an unmistakable attitude of contempt toward Africans. Hume’s letter, which is his longest piece of writing on any African topic, shows that the racist views stated in the notorious footnote on human “species” or “kinds,” added to the essay “Of National Characters” in 1753–54, were not isolated or incidental, but rather the expression of a settled attitude. Hume’s letter likely also represents his critical response to a lost play by Boufflers, based on a story in The Spectator that attributed qualities of nobility to slaves in the New World. (shrink)
This essay explores various ethical dimensions of the important concept of fihavanana and its role in Malagasy ethics. As a first pass, we can say that fihavanana is a state of peace or harmony that people can achieve with others within their communities; it is modeled on the peace, harmony, solidarity, love, and closeness that is often seen in family ties. Understanding the role that fihavanana plays in the traditional ethics of the people of Madagascar does not come close to (...) providing a complete picture of Malagasy ethics, but fihavanana is arguably the most crucial ethical concept for Malagasy. After using Malagasy proverbs (ohabolana) to sketch various ethical dimensions of fihavanana, these dimensions are compared to certain themes from Western ethics. The essay also comments on the state of fihavanana today in Madagascar and draws some lessons to be learned from this important ethical ideal. Directions for further research are sketched throughout the essay. (shrink)
This paper will contend that we, in the first quarter of the 21st century, need an enhanced Age of Reason based on global epistemology. One reason to legitimize such a call for more intellectual enlightenment is the lack of required information on non-European philosophy in today’s reading lists at European and North American universities. Hence, the present-day Academy contributes to the scarcity of knowledge about the world’s global history of ideas outside one’s ethnocentric sphere. The question is whether we genuinely (...) want to rethink parts of the “Colonial Canon” and its main narratives of the past. This article argues that we, if we truly desire, might create “a better Enlightenment.” Firstly, by raising the general knowledge level concerning the philosophies of the Global South. Thus, this text includes examples from the global enlightenments in China, Mughal India, Arabic-writing countries, and Indigenous North America—all preceding and influencing the European Enlightenment. Secondly, we can rebuild by rediscovering the Enlightenment ideals within the historiography of the “hidden enlightenment” of Europe’s and North America’s past. In Part I, of two parts of this paper, a comparative methodology will be outlined. In addition, examples will be given from the history of ideas in India and China to argue that we need to study how these regions influenced the European history of ideas in the 16th and 17th centuries. Finally, towards the end of this text, a re-reading of the contributions from Egypt and Greece aspires to give a more global and complex context for Western Europe’s so-called Age of Reason. (shrink)
This article examines the Australian ‘Continental Philosophy’ community through the lens of the Azanian philosophical tradition. Specifically, it interrogates the series of conversations around race and methodology that arose from the 2017 Australasian Society for Continental Philosophy conference. At the heart of these were questions of place, race, Indigeneity, and the very meaning of ‘Continental Philosophy’ in Australia. The pages that follow pursue those questions, grappling with the relationship between the articulation of disciplinary bounds and the exercise of colonial power. (...) Having struggled with the political and existential cost of participation in the epistemic community that is the ASCP, I argue for disengagement and the exploration of alternative intellectual communities. This is ultimately a call to intellectual work grounded on ethical relations rather than on the furtherance of the status quo. It is a call to take seriously the claim, ‘the land is ours’. (shrink)
The essay explicates Aimé Césaire’s contribution to the discipline of African philosophy, which ironically, is unknown to many scholars within African philosophy, especially in Anglophone Africa. In his Return to my Native Land, Césaire introduced two new concepts: “négritude” and “return”. These would later turn out to be crucial to the discourse on African identity and African philosophy. In his Discourse on Colonialism, Césaire raised two very closely related objections against Placide Tempels’ Bantu Philosophy. His first dissatisfaction was that Tempels (...) merely followed Lévy-Bruhl and his adherents by proposing another point of view in support of the misguided theory of the prelogical. Secondly, in so doing, his aim was nothing more than to make a presentation of an argument insupport of European imperialism and colonialism. His Discourse on Colonialism, therefore, set the ground for later criticisms that were levelled against ethnophilosophy as an approach to African philosophy. Keywords: Négritude, Return, Thingification, Ethnophilosophy, Philosophic sagacity. (shrink)
A un certo momento della Storia, l’essere umano ha iniziato a domandarsi perché i fenomeni esistevano e come funzionavano senza ricorrere a spiegazioni mitico-religiose, ma osservandoli e descrivendoli. Per molti storici questo metodo è divenuto sistematico nelle colonie greche del VI sec. A. C. e così sarebbe nata la filosofia. L’articolo indaga lo sviluppo storico di questo metodo razionale e sistematico in Africa e tra gli intellettuali africani, cercando di testimoniare la millenaria storia della filosofia africana. Nel ‘900 il dibattito (...) sorto tra filosofi intorno alla natura e allo statuto di una filosofia nel continente risulta, in effetti, un nuovo fondamentale capitolo della disciplina africana contemporanea. (shrink)
This paper argues that the relative stability of ancient Egyptian society during the Middle Kingdom (c.2055 – 1650 BC) can in part be explained by referring to the phenomenon of hermeneutical injustice, i.e., the manner in which imbalances in socio‐economic power are causally correlated with imbalances in the conceptual scheme through which people attempt to interpret their social reality and assert their interests in light of their interpretations. The court literature of the Middle Kingdom is analyzed using the concepts of (...) hermeneutical injustice and ideology. It is argued that while it is true that there was room for maneuver and for internal critique, the efficacy of internal critique was hindered by the structure of the intellectual discourse of Middle Kingdom Egypt. This intellectual discourse was suitable for the interpretation of social reality in a way that allowed the elites to assert their interests, but it was not suitable for the interpretation of social reality in a way that accorded with the interests of the exploited peasantry. (shrink)
For four decades Ifeanyi Menkiti has addressed the question of which sort of community constitutes personhood from a characteristically African perspective. In this chapter, I critically discuss the conceptions of how one acquires personhood through community that Menkiti has advanced, in search of the one that would most enable him to avoid prominent moral objections made to his views over the years. In particular, his account of personhood has been criticized for insufficiently accommodating individual difference, most recently in respect of (...) gender and sexuality. I draw on the resources in Menkiti’s work for rebutting this line of criticism, but contend that, even if he can avoid that one, another, new objection looms large: because of Menkiti’s claim that reciprocity is central to community, he is committed to the view that human infants and mentally incapacitated adults lack moral standing, in the way he explicitly believes animals lack it. After showing that, according to Menkiti’s strongest conception of personhood, one counterintuitively cannot acquire it in the course of interacting with any non-persons, I articulate an alternative conception of how to understand the role of community in acquiring personhood that avoids this problem as well as the other ones discussed. (shrink)
Spirit possession is a common phenomenon around the world in which a non-corporeal agent is involved with a human host. This manifests in a range of maladies or in displacement of the host's agency and identity. Prompted by engagement with the phenomenon in Egypt, this paper draws connections between spirit possession, and the concepts of personhood and intentionality. It employs these concepts to articulate spirit possession, while also developing the intentional stance as formulated by Daniel Dennett. It argues for an (...) understanding of spirit possession as the spirit stance: an intentional strategy that aims at predicting and explaining behaviour by ascribing to an agent beliefs and desires, but is only deployed once the mental states and activity of the subject fail specific normative distinctions. Applied to behaviours which are generally taken to signal mental disorder, the spirit stance preserves a peculiar form of intentionality where behaviour would otherwise be explained as a consequence of a malfunctioning physical mechanism. Centuries before the modern disciplines of psychoanalysis and phenomenological-psychopathology endeavoured to restore meaning to 'madness', the social institution of spirit possession had been preserving the intentionality of socially deviant behaviour. (shrink)
A journey through The Mind of Africa offers one a breath-taking scenery of the cultural traditions, practices, and conceptions of African societies. Interlacing his exposition with proverbs and sayings, Abraham offers unique perspectives and interpretations of the Akan culture and conceptual scheme – Akan cultural values, social and political institutions, metaphysical conceptions of man and society – as paradigmatic of the culture and conceptual schemes of African societies. But crucially, Abraham reveals, examines, and rejects, a plethora of unfounded notions about (...) Africans and their cultures – some of these erroneous ideas are often repackaged and recited even in present times. In reading the book, one will come to understand and appreciate the theoretical underpinnings and the practical significance of the African experience. (shrink)
The demand of philosophizing in Africa has faced a history of criticism that has been particularly Eurocentric and strongly biased. However, that trend is changing with the emergence of core philosophical thinking in Africa. This paper is an attempt to articulate a singular issue in this evolution— the originality of African philosophy, through ancient Egypt and its influence on Greek philosophy. The paper sets about this task by first exposing the historical debate on the early beginnings of the philosophical enterprise, (...) with a view to establishing the possibility of philosophical influences in Africa.It then goes ahead to posit the three hypotheses that link Greek philosophy to have developed from the cultural materiality of Ancient Egypt, and the Eurocentric travesty of history in recognizing influences of philosophy as from Europe alone, apart from Egypt. (shrink)
History of African Philosophy This article traces the history of systematic African philosophy from the early 1920s to date. In Plato’s Theaetetus, Socrates suggests that philosophy begins with wonder. Aristotle agreed. However, recent research shows that wonder may have different subsets. If that is the case, which specific subset of wonder inspired the beginning of … Continue reading History of African Philosophy →.
Ethnophilosophy, although glorified by some African philosophers, remains a problem in our undertakings in African philosophy. In its infancy, the problem revolved around the call for a total decolonization of African thought and philosophy, which eventually led to the proliferation of a vast array of mostly descriptive literature about the cultural views and practices of the African, sold to us as not only philosophy but genuine African philosophy. In more recent times, due to the growing development of African philosophy, this (...) drive towards description is gradually waning and from its dying flames, a new and more subtle problem has arisen. This problem lays in the call by most African philosophers, to make philosophy done in Africa to be more African in nature, the methodology and/or logic of African philosophy becomes a narrow discourse which is based on the dogma of descriptive story telling of ethnophilosophy. This is the problem which this essay seeks to address. Thus I shall in this essay, expose the myth of ethnophilosophy and thereafter suggest that African philosophy builds its foundation on criticality rather than ethnophilosophy. As an addendum to this, it is also suggested here that the narrow nature of the false descriptive methodology of mainstream African philosophy be at the very least, de-emphasised. I shall employ conversationalism as the method of my inquiry. Keywords : Ethnophilosophy, myth, African philosophy, conversationalism, conversational school. (shrink)
Nowadays, Paulin Hountondji is considered as a great critic of a certain type of philosophy that occurred in Africa during the ’60s and which was called ethnophilosophy by him and Marcien Towa. However, a precise look at Hountondji’s arguments against the idea of an “African philosophy” reveals a worry, especially concerning his use of Writing. This article tries to reexamine this argument in order to draw the headlines of a critical approach to his major book: African Philosophy: Myth or Reality? (...) We intend to show that because of his skimpy vision of African culture, Hountondji could only attain to a skimpy vision of African philosophy. (shrink)
RESUMENDesde la teoría postcolonial se han cuestionado los modelos de historia de las ideas impuestos por el africanismo y el orientalismo. Diferentes teóricos africanos –Bachir Diagne, Mundimbe, Wiredu o Kete Asante– han formulado diversas soluciones para superar las dificultades. Este trabajo explora las principales dificultades y las propuestas para elaborar una historia de la Filosofía africana. -/- The postcolonial theory was questioning the patterns of History of Ideas imposed by Orientalism and Africanism. Different African theorists –Bachir Diagne, Mundimbe, Kete Asante (...) or Wiredu– developed various solutions to overcome the dificulties. This paper explores the principal challenges and proposals so as to build a History of African philosophy. (shrink)
"Based on extensive research in primary and secondary sources and on field research in Ghana, including more than 40 interviews, and applying her formidable expertise in African history, philosophy, historical anthropology and religious studies, Dr Louise Müller has produced a superb analysis of the history and transformation of the roles of chieftaincy in the religious institutions, rituals and ideas among the Asante." David E. Skinner, Professor of History - African and Islamic Studies. (Santa Clara University, USA .
This article highlights the long accomplishments of Claude Sumner, S.J. in the field of African philosophy. During his lifetime he published over 33 books and 184 articles. He lived and worked in Ethiopia for 44 years. He translated into English and analysed several key historical works in Ethiopian philosophy, written originally in Ge’ez. He argued that modern rationalist philosophy began in Africa with Zera Yacob at the same time that it began in France with Descartes. He then set to work (...) recording and analyzing oral philosophical sources found in proverbs and songs. He theorized on the definitions of philosophy and the methods to explore philosophy found in different sources. (shrink)
Much of the literature on the African philosophy of education juxtaposes two philosophical strands as mutually exclusive entities; traditional ethnophilosophy on the one hand, and ‘scientific’ African philosophy on the other. While traditional ethnophilosophy is associated with the cultural artefacts, narratives, folklore and music of Africa’s people, ‘scientific’ African philosophy is primarily concerned with the explanations, interpretations and justifications of African thought and practice along the lines of critical and transformative reasoning. These two alternative strands of African philosophy invariably impact (...) understandings of education in different ways: education constituted by cultural action is perceived to be mutually independent from education constituted by reasoned action. Yusef Waghid argues for an African philosophy of education guided by communitarian, reasonable and culture dependent action in order to bridge the conceptual and practical divide between African ethnophilosophy and ‘scientific’ African philosophy. Unlike those who argue that African philosophy of education cannot exist because it does not invoke reason, or that reasoned African philosophy of education is just not possible, Waghid suggests an African philosophy of education constituted by reasoned, culture-dependent action. This book provides an African philosophy aimed at developing a conception of education that can contribute towards imagination, deliberation, and responsibility - actions that can help to enhance justice in educative relations, both in Africa and throughout the world. This book will be essential reading for researchers and academics in the field of the philosophy of education, especially those wanting to learn from the African tradition. (shrink)
In this article, I demonstrate that the term ‘ ubuntu ’ has frequently appeared in writing since at least 1846. I also analyse changes in how ubuntu has been defined in written sources in the period 1846 to 2011. The analysis shows that in written sources published prior to 1950, it appears that ubuntu is always defined as a human quality. At different stages during the second half of the 1900s, some authors began to define ubuntu more broadly: definitions included (...) ubuntu as African humanism, a philosophy, an ethic, and as a worldview. Furthermore, my findings indicate that it was during the period from 1993 to 1995 that the Nguni proverb ‘ umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu ’ (often translated as ‘a person is a person through other persons’) was used for the first time to describe what ubuntu is. Most authors today refer to the proverb when describing ubuntu , irrespective of whether they consider ubuntu to be a human quality, African humanism, a philosophy, an ethic, or a worldview. (shrink)
Mythology about Africa still persists. It served colonial interests to portray African natives as "savages" with no history and their indigenous institutions as "backward and primitive." Therefore, colonialism was "good" for them as it "civilized" them and freed them from their "terrible and despotic" traditional rulers. Of course, much of this mythology has been tossed into the trash bin. African natives not only had history but also viable traditional institutions which enabled them to survive through the centuries. Ghana, Mali, Songhai (...) and Great Zimbabwe were empires they built that lasted for centuries. Nor were their rulers terrible and despotic. Chiefs and kings were held accountable at all times and removed from office for dereliction of duty-not after every four or so years. However, mythology about Africa still persists-this time among Africa's own post colonial leaders! Believing that African natives had no history, no viable institutions, and no knowledge of such concepts as "democracy," "accountability" and "rule of law," the post colonial leadership imposed on their people alien systems and ideologies that have led to the ruination of Africa. The continent is littered with the putrid carcasses of these imported systems. Sankofa is the only route to take for Africa's salvation. The solutions needed to extricate Africa from its current economic malaise and political miasma are already embedded in its own traditional institutions and heritage. And the leadership should just "go back and get them.". (shrink)
This paper examines the implications and challenges of Odera Oruka’s conversation approach to the study of contemporary African philosophy as enunciated in his “Philosophic sagacity”. In Oruka’s method, African philosophy is conceived as a joint venture and product of both the ancient and modern Africanphilosophers. Consequently, it utilizes interview, discussion and dialogue.
This paper argues that the distinctive feature of African philosophising is a communitarian outlook expressed through various forms of narrative. The paper firstillustrates the close relationship between narrative and community in the African cultural milieu. It then goes on to examine the way in which African academics invarious fields have employed the narrative technique in their works. Next, the paper urges that through migration to European and American institutions of higherlearning, African philosophers have had a significant impact on Western philosophy. (...) Thereafter, the paper argues that while a communalistic outlook is part and parcel of African philosophising, it does not imply an insular approach to identity, but rather accommodates the fact of the dynamism of the sources of identity. Finally, the paper points out that one implication of the communalistic and narrativistic approach of African philosophy is that the dichotomy between “analytic” and “continental” philosophy, so common in the West, is not applicable to it. (shrink)
This piece is one of among a handful that seek in the first instance to reveal the origin of African philosophy as an academic discipline, the source of its unity and distinctiveness. The discipline of African philosophy originates in tragedy, out of pain, confusion and rage stemming from colonial destruction; destruction that is responsible for what Fanon calls the ‘negro neurosis' caused by what Biko would describe as the unbearable fusion of colonised and coloniser. I argue that the birth of (...) African philosophy as an academic discipline is largely responsible for its character and, crucially, for its distinctive creative possibilities. South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 27 2008: pp. 285-295. (shrink)
This essay discusses how ontological commitments within modern Western culture are no less problematic than those within traditional African cultures. Each posits unobservable entities to explain the experiential world, and neither has ready access to those posits held as grounding or as otherwise determining what is experienced. It looks at the conceptions of persons in Western and African traditions and suggests that each tradition can learn from the other.
This paper will put forward to new audiences the core of Claude Sumner's thesis regarding philosophy in the "broad" and "narrow" senses, the former referring to wisdom and the sapiential tradition. It will look at Sumner's role in popularizing early Ethiopian texts in a project meant to debunk preconceptions that Africa has no written history of philosophy. Nevertheless Sumner does not limit himself to written texts in the Ethiopian tradition, but has branched out into collecting and analyzing the oral traditions (...) as well. He has argued that the written texts of Zera Yacob are examples of "religious rationality" in some ways similar to Descartes' scientific rationality. He argues that proverbs possess "figurative logic," which while different than conceptual logic is still indeed logic. Both written and oral sources of Ethiopian philosophy stretch well beyond the last fifty years, Sumner asserts, and thus African philosophy becomes known as being older than Hountondji, Okolo and others have thought. The paper argues that Sumner's contributions to the growth of the field of African philosophy should not be overlooked. (shrink)
In the past, African philosophy did not really form part of the philosophical scene in South Africa. It had no place on the programmes of the South African Philosophical Society and no articles on it were published in the South African Journal of Philosophy. However, it became clear to Prof. Prinsloo and the members of his Department of Philosophy at the University of South Africa that this situation was untenable. The department accepted the task as a departmental research project of (...) finding out about African philosophy. This ultimately led to the establishment of the Research Unit for African Philosophy. The essays in this book are in honour of Prof. E D Prinsloo, whose contribution to the development of the discipline possibly makes him the doyen of African Philosophy in South Africa. (shrink)
It is worth exploring the longstanding preoccupation with the future that can be found throughout H. Odera Oruka's writings, especially the writings to be found in a retrospective collection of his essays on which he was working at the time of his death, Practical Philosophy: In Search of An Ethical Minimum. This practice of tracing the future results of actions of which people are presently engaged, in order to determine whether a change of course is needed, is not something that (...) Odera Oruka had to go to a university to learn. When Odera Oruka takes up Futures Studies, it is not to embrace a foreign way of thinking, but to find the international complement to the local approach well known and practiced by Africans. (shrink)
Divided into eight sections, each with introductory essays, the selections offer rich and detailed insights into a diverse multinational philosophical landscape. Revealed in this pathbreaking work is the way in which traditional philosophical issues related to ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology, for instance, take on specific forms in Africa's postcolonial struggles. Much of its moral, political, and social philosophy is concerned with the turbulent processes of embracing modern identities while protecting ancient cultures.
Contrary to popular views the Afrocentric paradigm of thinking as a vehicle for social change is not a twentieth century phenomenon. In fact, the first practical conceptualization of the possibilities of Afrocentric thought can be traced back to the nineteenth century writings of Edward Wilmot Blyden. It is within the corpus of Blydenic philosophy that we find the first holistic attempt to analyze and address the issues facing the African race from an Afrocentric perspective. ;Blyden's life and activities are examples (...) of the African's resistance not only to physical enslavement, but to intellectual enslavement as well. Eurocentric historiography has consistently marginalized Blyden's significance in African history by focusing on his failures rather than his successes. On the other hand, Afrocentric historians have greatly neglected Blyden's place in African history and his significant contribution to the advancement to Afrocentric discourse. ;Between 1850 and 1912, Edward Wilmot Blyden was the best known African personality in the world. It was during these years that Blyden responded to the Europeanization of the African consciousness and destruction of African cultural institutions based on the primacy and centrality of African history and culture. Prior to the rise of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Blyden's philosophy was the first attempt to redefine the African political, social, educational, economic, and religious universe from the Afrocentric perspective. (shrink)