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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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3 Tempels’ Project of Analyzing Bantu Wisdom 45

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 3  temPels’ ProjeCt of analyzIng Bantu wIsdom This chapter is a reflection on the relation between the categories of Muntu, found in Tempels’ Bantu Philosophy, and Western categories. The aim is to help stu- dents/readers appreciate the complexity of the ideas Tempels sought to explore. Tempels relied on Western (Thomistic) philosophy to make the case for African philosophy. He viewed Bantu categories as the building blocks of Bantu folk thought. Ethnographers and cultural historians do the same when they collect and interpret data to extract from them basic notions that form the infrastructure of a people’s beliefs or way of life. This chapter invites students/readers to reflect on the significance of Tempels’s effort to view Bantu categories as the infrastruc- ture of Bantu philosophy and by extension African philosophy. What to look for: 1. The role ‘force’ plays in Tempels’ account of Bantu thought 2. God in Tempels’ account of the hierarchy of being 3. Kagame’s challenge to Tempels’ account of Bantu categories 4. Traditional/folk beliefs in the socio-economic and political life of Africans interior_WrehWilson 45 1/30/12 9:43 PM 46 Beginning African Philosophy: The Case for African Philosophy Past to Present 3.1 Introduction On arriving in the Congo, Tempels seemed surprised to learn that the Bantu not only developed a culture but also what one might legitimately describe as customs or civilization. He further learned that they actually based their lives on those customs. This was quite a revelation for a man who thought of Africa as a...

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