Unable to get out to visit my old college roommate and certainly one of my dearest friends in Brooklyn because of the blizzard, now’s a good time to get back to some blogging in between finishing up grading. I’ll post soon another call for Internet Encyclopedia entries related to African philosophy (the first round of articles from some really eminent people in the field is due in the next month or so), but for now here’s a couple of good articles someone sent me:
1. Barry Hallen’s article here on ethnophilosophy:
The meaning of the term “ethnophilosophy” has evolved in both a significant and controversial variety of ways since it was first introduced by Paulin Hountondji in 1970. It was first challenged by the Kenyan philosopher, H. Odera Oruka, as based upon Hountondji’s unfair appreciation of Africa’s indigenous cultural heritage. Barry Hallen and J. Olubi Sodipo, using a form of analytic philosophy as foundational, thereafter argued that Yoruba ordinary language discourse also served to undermine Hountondji’s critique. The later work of the Ghanaian philosopher, Kwame Gyekye, and the Kenyan D. A. Masolo have further legitimized the epistemological status of elements of African culture that once would have been labeled as of no genuine philosophical significance because they were ‘ethnophilosophical’ in character. The end result of this debate seems to be that both the form and content of philosophy in culture generally must be relativized. The most significant consequence of this would be that African and non-Western
philosophy generally would finally be culturally liberated from the oppressive influence, indeed dominance, of what has conventionally come to be known as ‘mainstream’ (Western) philosophy.
2. Jennifer L. Vest’s article on the “perverse” relation of African philosophy to Western thought:
This article examines the concerns and debates that have arisen in African philosophy over the last few decades, and asks whether it continues to be necessary for African philosophy
to take on what the author calls “perverse questions” or “perverse preoccupations” with the West. The author argues that to engage and respond to questions about the intellectual capabilities of African thinkers or the possible existence of philosophical resources in African cultures is to respond to perverse questions. To engage in academic dialogues implicitly or
explicitly guided by a request or a felt need to justify and defend the very possibility of African philosophy or African rationality is to engage in perverse and unnecessary dialogues.
Because these perverse debates often precede, prevent, or condition the formulation of what count as necessary debates, it is important that they be identified and critically assessed, and when possible, dispensed with. Only then can African philosophy pursue necessary and fruitful debates.