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Beginning African Philosophy

The Case for African Philosophy- Past to Present

Elliott Wreh-Wilson

Beginning African Philosophy explores the nature and central features of African philosophy from the perspective of African philosophers, analyzing and assessing the importance of African philosophy, its subject matter, its major themes and concerns, and how those themes and concerns compare to those of Western philosophy. Beginning African Philosophy surveys the best-known responses to the questions: What is African philosophy? What are its central themes and concerns? What does it have in common with Western philosophy?
This book is ideal for philosophy students and those who care about the social, moral, religious, and philosophical implications of African wisdom traditions, particularly those of the sub-Saharan region.


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Preface xi


PrefaCe Perhaps the single most important description of African thought known under the label of ‘African philosophy’ is one contained in Placide Tempels’ Bantu Philosophy. Here, Tempels presents African cultures as centered on a unique out- look which, takes for granted the existence of locally ordered communities that are representative of a world that is a total organic community and is pervaded by living forces. For Tempels, this outlook is hidden in African oral traditions and all philosophers need to do is to recover and assert it. Even today, it is impossible to think of African philosophy without consider- ing what Tempels had to say about the cultures in which it arose. Yet, apart from the indigenous cultures, Africa also has a long history that is rooted in European colonialism. Does this mean there is a causal connection between these cultures and philosophy or that culture is simply the bridge by which Africans convey their philosophical ideas? Throughout this book, I show how various African philoso- phers were able to rely on various accounts of culture to explain what their people say about the nature of reality, society, morality, the human person and the exis- tence of God. Appropriately, I provide, in chapters one through five, a critical review of African wisdom using Tempels’ account of the Bantu worldview as a point of ref- erence. I show in chapter six the extent to which Africans have gone to articulate their knowledge of the nature of the human person. I do...

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