African philosophy

8 August 2016

Among Southern African communities ubuntu is associated with the maxim umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu, which, loosely translated into English, may be construed to mean that to be a human being is to affirm one? s humanity by recognising the humanity of others and, on that basis, establish humane relations with them (Ramose, 2002; Ramphele, 2001): a point which Sindane (1994:8-9) underscores, saying that “ubuntu inspires us to expose ourselves to others, to encounter the difference of their humanness so as to inform and enrich our own”.

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Letseka (2000), one of the philosophers who have written on ubuntu argues that this concept illuminates the communal embeddedness and connectedness of a person to other persons and also highlights the importance attached to people and to human relationships (Letseka, 2000:183). It is essential to understand that ubuntu does not wholly reject material wealth acquired through individual effort, as is evidenced by this saying among the Sotho communities: „U tla phela ka mofufutso oa phatla ea hau?

which loosely translated means „you will live by the sweat of your brow? (Letseka, 2000:183). Ubuntu rejects competition and arrogance arising from being rich, as these can be detrimental to cooperative living within the community. Individual effort is good as long as it generates resources for the maintenance and sustenance of human life. The main concern of ubuntu is the welfare of others.

This is why when two Africans meet in the street, it is likely they will enquire about the health and welfare of family members rather than the weather as most Westerners would do (Letseka, 2000:183-184).

For Venter (2004:159), ubuntu/botho/menslikheid/humaneness is a philosophy that promotes the common good of society. It contains the potential to enable South Africans to succeed in their quest for reconciliation and nation building

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