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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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5 Demythologizing African Folk Thought 73


 5  demythologIzIng afrICan folk thought “The function of the myth is to render intellectually and socially tolerable what would otherwise be experienced as incoherence. The myth is a form in which society both understands and misunderstands its own structure.”1 Inspired by this quote, I try in this chapter to breathe life into key aspects of African folk mythol- ogy through the analysis of the meaning of the very complex notion of the “real” as found in philosophy. What to look for: 1. Defining mythology 2. Various considerations of mythology 3. Mythology as a form of history 4. Relation of mythology to metaphysics 5.1 Introduction Before the timepiece was invented, people in Africa relied principally on the rhythm of the celestial bodies and the environment to regulate their lives. Like the sun and the moon, something about the rivers, lakes, and oceans made them interior_WrehWilson 73 1/30/12 9:43 PM 74 Beginning African Philosophy: The Case for African Philosophy Past to Present convenient instruments for telling time. Even the presence or absence of certain insects meant something to the people; so too did the coming and going of domes- ticated animals. Farmers, hunters, and fishermen could tell whether it would rain or shine by the presence or absence of dew on the morning leaves. The dog wail- ing before dawn or lighting that struck in clear daylight gave them something to worry about. Even today, African village folk still refer to the natural world as a reliable indicator of...

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