What is it? Does it exist? Do Africans have a philosophy? Can Africans philosophise? •Because of a legacy of denigration that portrays Africans as incapable of abstract thought, the question, ‘What is African Philosophy? ’ is the first that occurs to those outside the field of philosophy. •There has been extensive undermining or negative thinking about abstract thought among the Africans. •Hegel and Kant (Western philosophers) have massive negative statements about Africans.
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•The legacy is reinforced by the assumption that requires a tradition of written communication which is foreign to Africans. •According to Coetzee and Roux (Eds) (2002) African philosophy can be identified as constitutive as a post-colonial question for African identity for a uniquely African identity which has been lost amid the brutality of the European rape of the African continent. Basic Tenets/Philosophical Principles of African Philosophy African Philosophy has its own philosophical foundations namely, African holism, communalism, essentialism, instrumentalism (functionalism) and humanism (humanness).
1. African Holism •Is based on the African philosophic thought of community living. •The term is derived from the African metaphysic that states that reality is whole and there are no parts to it. •Atkinson (1991) further alludes that African holism is a belief that the collective influence of social movements and social groups is more important than that of the individuals within them. •I. e. African holism is a belief in the interconnectedness of social, religious, political and economic aspects of life.
•Thus, reality is whole, a unitary entity and not fragmented and the African view of education was of a unitary entity rather than a compartmentalised curriculum. •The same view is shared by Western Philosophy where the Gestalt Theorists propound that, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” (Weiken, 1992). 2. Communalism •Emphasises on group solidarity, collectivism and cohesion. •Sefa-Dei (1994) argues that African Philosophy holds the view that an individual should have a context by identifying himself with both a family and a community.
•Deep kinship ties were maintained and the upbringing of a child was the responsibility of the community in a collective
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manner. •The society had primacy over the individual. •That individual identity emerges from communion with others, i. e. ‘the concept of self only makes sense within the concept of community’. •Mbiti (1970:14) expresses, “I am because we are, since we are, therefore I am. ” •Thus, ‘To be human is to affirm one’s humanity by recognising the humanity of others in its infinite variety of content and form’. •This implies that, ‘the person is because of the significant others’.
•A child is born into the community and belongs to the community i. e. communalism is collateral and is underlined by a sense of belongingness. •Gyekye (1987) postulates that the community takes precedence over the individual because the individual is only existing and recognised as long as s/he fulfils the communal goals of struggle and survival. •So the totality is more important than the individual. •The communal spirit was reinforced by the collective way tasks were done through ‘Nhimbe’. Communalism and African Religion •Africans are typically a religious people.
•Tempels (1959) in Gyekye (1987:71-2) notes that, •For the Bantu, man never appears, in fact, as an isolated individual, as an independent entity. Every man, every individual, forms a link in the chain of vital forces, a living link, active and passive, joined from above to the ascending line of his ancestry and sustaining below him the line of his descendants … the Bantu is quite unable to conceive an individual apart from his relationship …. ?This implies that the community is both physical and metaphysical – i. e. a community of visible and invisible beings (ancestral spirits).
Leonard (1968:409) says, ?They are in the strict and natural sense of the word, a truly and deeply religious people, … they eat religiously, dress religiously, or sing religiously. In a few words, the religion of these natives … is their existence, and their existence is their religion. ?i. e. religion permeates and transcends all that Africans do. ?Banana (1991:23) argues, ?Within the African traditional life, the individual is immersed in religious environment, religion permeates the whole of life. To almost every African, the whole life journey is religious drama.
Human kind lives in a religious universe, practically, every aspect in the cosmos, every activity, space and time is experienced and expressed religiously. The African person is ontologically linked to nature, fellow men, the ancestors and to God at all times. ?Thus, communalism of Africans is only understandable if viewed in the auspice of African religious beliefs and practices. 3. Humanness (Humanism) ?Considers human values and regard for human dignity to occupy the central and highest place in the universe. ?The human being by virtue of being human, occupies a place of higher priority over materialistic flora and fauna values.