Question by Wiz King: What are the various schools of thought in african philosophy?
Answer by M O R P H E U S
Philosophy in Africa has a rich and varied history, dating from pre-dynastic Egypt, continuing through the birth of Christianity and Islam. Arguably central to the ancients was the conception of “ma’at”, which roughly translated refers to “justice”, “truth”, or simply “that which is right”.
Pre-modern African philosophy
Joseph I. Omoregbe’s broad definition of a philosopher is, “one who devotes a good deal of his time reflecting on fundamental questions about human life or the physical universe and who frequently and habitually does this” and though no clearly articulated and documented philosophy exists, there is still a philosophical tradition. Put simply, even if there were no known African philosophers, there was African philosophy. This may be supported by observing from The Iliad and other Greek literature that philosophic concepts such as hubris, heroism, and the superiority of Greek culture were extant prior to the Late Classical period of Greek Antiquity. Thus, a form of natural philosophy, has been present in Africa since very ancient times.
If we take a philosophy to be a coherent set of beliefs, but not a system explaining the unity of its understanding of all the world’s phenomena, the nature of the world and the place of human beings in that world, then few if any cultures lack a philosophy.
In the Hellenistic tradition, the influential philosophical school of Neoplatonism was founded by the Egyptian philosopher Plotinus in the 3rd century CE.
In the Christian tradition, Augustine of Hippo was a cornerstone of Christian philosophy and theology. He lived from 354 to 430 CE, and wrote his best known work, The City of God, in Hippo Regius, (now Annaba, Algeria). He challenged a number of ideas of his age including Arianism, and established the notions of original sin and divine grace in Christian philosophy and theology.
In the Islamic tradition, Ibn Bajjah philosophized along neo-Platonist lines in the 12th century C.E. The purpose of human life, according to Bajja, was to gain true happiness, and true happiness is attained by grasping the universals through reason and philosophy, often outside the framework of organized religion.
Modern African philosophy
Kenyan philosopher Henry Odera Oruka has distinguished what he calls four trends in modern African philosophy: ethnophilosophy, philosophical sagacity, nationalistic–ideological philosophy, and professional philosophy. In fact it would be more realistic to call them candidates for the position of African philosophy, with the understanding that more than one of them might fit the bill. (Oruka later added two additional categories: literary/artistic philosophy, the work of literary figures such as Ngugi wa Thiongo, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Okot p’Bitek, and Taban Lo Liyong, and hermeneutic philosophy the analysis of African languages in order to find philosophical content.) Maulana Karenga is one of the key philosophers in African-American circles, he produced a 803 page book titled Maat, The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt.
Ethnophilosophy & philosophical sagacity
Ethnophilosophy has been used to record the beliefs found in African cultures. Such an approach treats African philosophy as consisting in a set of shared beliefs, values, categories, and assumptions that are implicit in the language, practices, and beliefs of African cultures; in short, the uniquely African world view. As such, it is seen as an item of communal property rather than an activity for the individual.
One proponent of this form, Placide Tempels, argued in Bantu Philosophy that the metaphysical categories of the Bantu people are reflected in their linguistic categories. According to this view, African philosophy can be best understood as springing from the fundamental assumptions about reality reflected in the languages of Africa.
Professional philosophy is the view that philosophy is a particularly European way of thinking, reflecting, and reasoning, that such a way is relatively new to (most of) Africa, and that African philosophy must grow in terms of the philosophical work carried out by Africans and applied to (perhaps not exclusively) African concerns. This view would be the most common answer of most Western philosophers (whether of continental or analytic persuasion) to the question ‘what is African philosophy?’
Created by Maulana Karenga the philosophy of Kwanza is an ongoing synthesis of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.
Nationalist–ideological philosophy might be seen as a special case of philosophic sagacity, in which not sages but ideologues are the subjects. Alternatively, we might see it as a case of professional political philosophy.
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