Dialogs and Solidarity Among the Sages: Bimal Krishna Matilal and Henry Odera Oruka’s Advocacy for the Philosophical Rationality of Non-Western Cultures

Journal of Dharma Studies 2 (2):153-162 (2020)


Our paper builds on earlier research to show how Bimal Krishna Matilal and Henry Odera Oruka challenge dominant narratives of the West-centered progress of philosophical and other forms of critical rationality. On the basis of persisting “enlightenment” and colonialist prejudices, a majority of Western philosophers have ignored philosophical inquiry in non-Western cultures. Both philosophical decolonizers had much of their upbringing and education while their countries were British colonies, earned their Ph.D.s in the West, and became renowned philosophers at Oxford and the University of Nairobi. Oruka advocated mainly oral but increasingly written philosophical reflections in various ethnic traditions of Kenya and East Africa, though his ideas have also been applied to other cultures of the continent. Matilal focused on South Asian, Sanskrit philosophical traditions, which though comprising a large written literature are also often oral in their origins and ongoing pedagogical and hermeneutic culture. Beyond just demonstrating that Africans, Indians, and others can think for themselves, the two thinkers have laid the groundwork for, and initiated a number of more substantive philosophical engagements. The perhaps initially slow but exponentially increasing exchanges among non-Western peoples are well exemplified by the dialogs being organized in the present issue, as well as other efforts throughout the global academy.

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David Lawrence
London School of Economics

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Ways in Which Oral Philosophy is Superior to Written Philosophy: A Look at Odera Oruka’s Rural Sages.Gail Presbey - 1996 - APA Newsletter on Philosophy and the Black Experience 1996 (Fall):6-10.

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