Innocent Onyewuenyi’s “Philosophical re-appraisal of the African belief in reincarnation”: A conversational study

Filosofia Theoretica: Journal of African Philosophy, Culture and Religions 5 (1):76-99 (2016)
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Abstract

Reincarnation has received substantial treatment in African philosophy. The dominant view of African scholars and researchers on the subject is that it is a belief that prevails in African culture. The task of this paper is to revisit Innocent Onyewuenyi’s “philosophical reappraisal” of this African belief. Onyewuenyi’s position is that the African communion with ancestors and their influence on their living descendant’s has been incorrectly labeled “reincarnation” by Western anthropologists. But whereas Onyewuenyi portrays the problem as being one of semantics, I shall in this paper argue that the challenge of explaining African cultural phenomenon is one of hermeneutics. The question is a question of hermeneutics, because its focus is not on whether ancestors are metaphysical entities, but rather on what they mean within African existence. The paper adopts the conversational method of African philosophy endorsed by the Conversational School of Philosophy. It aims to show how conversationalism as a procedure of philosophical discourse plays out within the context of its specific canons. In the final analysis the paper promotes the thesis that there is not a belief in reincarnation in African culture strictly speaking, but a belief in the regeneration of life. For the African, life is not cyclical, it is rather eternal. Keywords: Innocent Onyewuenyi, reincarnation, conversationalism, hermeneutics, African metaphysics, living-dead, regeneration of life.

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