Dominic swizart sigfried omega haule Table of Contents Abstract Universals and Particulars of Wiredu Significances of African Philosophy in Africa Choice of a Social and Political System
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References and Further Reading 1. In order to appreciate the conceptual and historical contexts of his work, it is necessary to possess some familiarity with relevant discourses in African studies and history, anthropology, literature and postcolonial theory, particularly those advanced by Edward W.
Wiredu, for many decades, was involved with a project he termed conceptual decolonization in contemporary African systems of thought. This term entailed, for Wiredu, a re-examination of current African epistemic foundations in order to accomplish two main objectives. First, he intended to undermine counter-productive facets of tribal cultures embedded in modern African, thought so as to make this body of thought both more sustainable and more rational.
Second, he intended to deconstruct the unnecessary Western epistemologies which may be found in African philosophical practices. A broad spectrum of academic disciplines took up the conceptual challenges of decolonization in a variety of ways.
In particular, the disciplines of anthropology, history, political science, literature and philosophy all grappled with the practical and academic challenges inherent to decolonization. It is usually profitable to examine the contributions and limitations of African philosophers comparatively along with other African thinkers who are not professional philosophers in relation to the history of the debate on decolonization.
In addition to the scholars noted above, the discourse of decolonialization has benefitted from many valuable contributions made by intellectuals such as Frantz Fanon, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Cheikh Anta Diop, and Ngugi wa Thiongo. In this light, it would appear that African philosophy has been, at certain moments, limited in defining the horizons of the debate when compared with the achievements of academic specialties such as literature, postcolonial theory and cultural studies.
Thus, decolonization, as Ngugi wa Thiongo, the Kenyan cultural theorist and novelist, notes, must be conceived as a broad, transcontinental, and multidisciplinary venture. Within the Anglophone contingent of African philosophy, the analytic tradition of British philosophy continues to be dominant.
This discursive hegemony had led an evident degree of parochialism. This in turn has led to the neglect of many other important intellectual traditions. For instance, within this Anglophonic sphere, there is not always a systematic interrogation of the limits, excesses and uses of colonialist anthropology in formulating the problematic of identity. In this regard, the problematic of identity does not only refer to the question of personal agency but more broadly, the challenges of discursive identity.
This shortcoming is not as evident in Francophone traditions of African philosophy, which usually highlight the foundational discursive interactions between anthropology and modern African thought.
Thus, in this instance, there is an opening to other discursive formations necessary for the nurturing a vibrant philosophical practice. Also, within Anglophone African philosophy, a stringent critique of imperialism and contemporary globalization does not always figure is not always significantly in the substance of the discourse, thereby further underlining the drawbacks of parochialism.
Accordingly, such critiques ought not merely be a celebration of post-structuralist discourses to the detriment of African intellectual traditions. Instead, they should be, among other things, an exploration of the discursive intimacies between the Anglophone and Francophone traditions of African philosophy.
In addition, an interrogation of other borders of philosophy is required to observe the gains that might accrue to the Anglophone movement of contemporary African philosophy, which, in many ways, has reached a discursive dead-end due to its inability to surmount the intractable problematic of identity, and its endless preoccupation with the question of its origins. Early Beginnings Kwasi Wiredu was born in in Ghana and had his first exposure to philosophy quite early in life.
He read his first couple of books of philosophy in school around in Kumasi, the capital of Ashanti. Logic, as a branch of philosophy attracted Wiredu because of its affinities to grammar, which he enjoyed.
He was also fond of practical psychology during the formative years of his life. In , whilst vacationing with his aunt in Accra, the capital of Ghana, he came across another philosophical text which influenced him tremendously. These dialogues were to influence, in a significant way, the final chapter of his first groundbreaking philosophical text, Philosophy and an African Culture which is also dialogic in structure. He was admitted into the University of Ghana, Legon in , to read philosophy, but before attending he started to study the thought of John Dewey on his own.
However, mention must be made of the fact that C. Indeed, he employed the name J. Joad as his pen-name for a series of political articles he wrote for a national newspaper, The Ashanti Sentinel between and At the University of Ghana, he was instructed mainly in Western philosophy and he came to find out about African traditions of thought more or less through his own individual efforts.
He was later to admit that the character of his undergraduate education was to leave his mind a virtual tabula rasa, as far as African philosophy was concerned. In other words, he had to develop and maintain his interests in African philosophy on his own.
One of the first texts of African philosophy that he read was J. Undoubtedly, his best friend William Abraham, who went a year before him to Oxford University, must have also influenced the direction of his philosophical research towards African thought. A passage from an interview explains the issue of his institutional relation to African philosophy: Prior to , when I was in Africa, I devoted most of my time in almost equal proportions to research in African philosophy and in other areas of philosophy, such as the philosophy of logic, in which not much has, or is generally known to have, been done in African philosophy.
I did not have always to be teaching African philosophy or giving public lectures in African philosophy. There were others who were also competent to teach the subject and give talks in our Department of Philosophy. But since I came to the United States, I have often been called upon to teach or talk about African philosophy. I have therefore spent much more time than before researching in that area. This does not mean that I have altogether ignored my earlier interests, for indeed, I continue to teach subjects like Western logic and epistemology Wiredu in Oladiop Wiredu began publishing relatively late, but has been exceedingly prolific ever since he started.
During the early to mid s, he often published as many as six major papers per year on topics ranging from logic, to epistemology, to African systems of thought, in reputable international journals. His first major book, Philosophy and an African Culture is truly remarkable for its eclectic range of interests. Hountondji ; in those times of extreme ideologizing, never avoided the required measure of socialist posturing.
Wiredu, on the other hand, not only avoided the lure of socialism but went on to denounce it as an unfit ideology. Within the context of the socio-political moment of that era, it seemed a reactionary—even injurious—posture to adopt.
By conceptual decolonization, Wiredu advocates a re-examination of current African epistemic formations in order to accomplish two objectives. First, he wishes to subvert unsavoury aspects of indigenous traditions embedded in modern African thought so as to make it more viable. Second, he intends to undermine the unhelpful Western epistemologies to be found in African philosophical traditions. On this important formulation of his he states: By this I mean the purging of African philosophical thinking of all uncritical assimilation of Western ways of thinking.
That, of course, would be only part of the battle won. The other desiderata are the careful study of our own traditional philosophies and the synthesising of any insights obtained from that source with any other insights that might be gained from the intellectual resources of the modern world. In my opinion, it is only by such a reflective integration of the traditional and the modern that contemporary African philosophers can contribute to the flourishing of our peoples and, ultimately, all other peoples.
Due to the hybridity of the postcolonial condition, projects seeking to retrieve the precolonial heritage are bound to be marred at several levels. It would be an error for Wiredu or advocates of his project of conceptual decolonization to attempt to universalize his theory since, as Ngugi wa Thiongo argues, decolonization is a vast, global enterprise.
Ngugi wa Thiongo advocates cultural and linguistic decolonization on a global scale and his theory has undergone very little transformation since its formulation in the s. Diop advances a similar set of ideas to Wiredu on the subject of vibrant modern African identities. But what distinguishes the particular complexion of his theory is its links with the Anglo-Saxon analytic tradition.
This dimension is important in differentiating his project from those of his equally illustrious contemporaries such as V. Mudimbe and Paulin Hountondji. Decolonization as Epistemological Practice In all previously colonized regions of the world, decolonization remains a topic of considerable academic interest.
Also it is an insight that is inflected by years of immersion into British analytic philosophy. Wiredu began his reflections of the nature, legitimate aims, and possible orientations in contemporary African thought not as a result of any particular awareness of the trauma or violence of colonialism or imperialism but by a confrontation with the dilemma of modernity by the reflective post colonial African consciousness.
This dialectic origin can be contrasted with those of his contemporaries such as Paulin Hountondji and V. He has also been very consistent in his output and the quality of his reflections regardless of some of their more obvious limitations. As noted earlier, Wiredu was trained in a particular tradition of Western philosophy: the analytic tradition. This fact is reflected in his corpus. A major charge held against him is that his contributions could be made even richer if he had grappled with other relevant discourses: postcolonial theory, African feminisms, contemporary Afrocentric discourses and the global dimensions of projects and discourses of decolonization.
He has offered some useful insights on Marxism, mysticism, metaphysics, and the general nature of the philosophical enterprise itself. Although his latter text, Cultural Universals and Particulars has a more Africa-centred orientation, his first book, Philosophy and an African Culture presents a wider range of discursive interests: a vigorous critique of Marxism, reflections on the phenomenon of ideology, analyses of truth and the philosophy of language, among other preoccupations.
It is interesting to see how Wiredu weaves together these different preoccupations and also to observe how some of them have endured while others have not. The intention at this juncture is to examine some of the ways in which Wiredu has been involved in the daunting task of conceptual decolonization.
Secondly, it usually entails an attempt at the retrieval of a more or less fragmented historical heritage. This understanding is purely political and has therefore, a practical import. This is not to say that Fanon had no plan for the project of decolonization in the intellectual sphere. Also associated with this project as it was then conceived was a struggle for the mental liberation of the colonized African peoples. It was indeed a program of violence in more senses than one.
Obviously, Fanon was the most astute theoretician of decolonization of the lot. In addition, for Fanon and the so-called philosopher-kings, decolonization was invested with a pan-African mandate and political appeal. This crucial difference should be noted alongside what shall soon be demonstrated to be the Wiredu conception of decolonization.
Africans, generally, will have to continue to ponder the entire issue of decolonization as long as unsolved questions of identity remain and the challenges of collective development linger. This type of challenge was foreseen by Fanon. The end of colonialism in Africa and other Third World countries did not entail the end of imperialism and the dominance of the metropolitan countries.
Instead, the dynamics of dominance assumed a more complex, if subtle, form. African economic systems floundered alongside African political institutions, and, as a result, various crises have compounded the seemingly perennial issue of underdevelopment. A significant portion of post-colonial theory involves the entry of Third World scholars into the Western archive, as it were, with the intention of dislodging the erroneous epistemological assumptions and structures regarding their peoples.
This, arguably, is another variant of decolonization. Wiredu partakes of this type of activity, but sometimes he carries the program even further. Accordingly, he affirms: Until Africa can have a lingua franca, we will have to communicate suitable parts of our work in our multifarious vernaculars, and in other forms of popular discourse, while using the metropolitan languages for international communication.
Wiredu, This conviction has been a guiding principle with Wiredu for several years. In fact, it is not merely a conviction; there are several instances within the broad spectrum of his philosophical corpus where he tries to put it into practice.
The entire approach seems to be irrevocably restrictive. This is the distinction that lies between an oral culture and a textual one. Most African intellectuals usually gloss over this difference, even though they may acknowledge it. The difference is indeed very significant, because of the numerous imponderables that come into play.
Kwasi Wiredu (1931— )
Menschen lernen in einem sozialen Prozess die Welt verstehen und werden dabei von ihrer Kultur, bzw. Aus diesem Grund sind laut Wiredu die Menschen durch eine in der eigenen Kultur vorherrschende Weltansicht verbunden. In dieser Weltansicht liegt das Besondere einer Kultur, ein Ziel ist jedoch allen gemeinsam: die Verwirklichung des Menschseins. Wiredu verdeutlicht dies am Beispiel der Sprache, indem er hervorhebt, dass Sprache kulturelle Denkformen transportiert. Gerade philosophische Konzeptionen sollen immer auch in der eigenen Sprache durchdacht werden, da aktuelle Vertreter afrikanischer Philosophien zumeist stark westlich beeinflusst sind. Konsensbegriff[ Bearbeiten Quelltext bearbeiten ] Laut Wiredu existiert eine grundlegende Interessengemeinschaft, die alle Menschen verbindet. Konsens — im Sine Wiredus — wird als Zustimmung betrachtet.
Philosophy and an African Culture
Like all generalisations about complex subjects, it may be legitimate to take this with a pinch of prudence. But there is considerable evidence that decision by consensus was often the order of the day in African deliberations, and on principle. Of this I will have more to say below. But for now, let us note an important fact about the role of consensus in African life.
He was a member of the Committee of Directors of the International Federation of Philosophical Societies from to Wiredu proposes that the African philosopher has a unique opportunity to re-examine many of the assumptions of Western philosophers by subjecting them to an interrogation based on African languages. Their thoughts and philosophy will be biased to the culture of the language. Not only will they naturally philosophise in that language, but also shape their life around that language.