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African philosophy


Subject Literature, Philosophy

Place Africa

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631207535.1997.x


The qualification of philosophy as “African” is consistent with the custom of naming philosophical traditions and practices according to their cultural, ethnic, national, or merely geographic origins, thus we have “American philosophy,” “Jewish philosophy” “British philosophy,” “German philosophy,” or “French philosophy.” Following Vincent Descombes (1980) who defines “contemporary French philosophy” as “coincident with the sum of the discourses elaborated in France and considered by the public of today as philosophical,” African philosophy may be said to consist of all intellectual and discursive productions elaborated in Africa and considered “philosophical” by today's public. But this imitative definition fails to capture the historical, political, and cultural contradictions and complexities which animate the historical dynamics of “African philosophy” as an academic and professional tradition. For example, when one attempts to extend the meaning of the qualifier “African” beyond the scope of its geographical meaning, it becomes notoriously difficult to define what kind of philosophical production is “African” or not. If the designation “African philosophy” is meant to highlight the ethnic/cultural origin of the philosophy in question, then should one not speak of African philosophies rather than philosophy in the singular, since Africa is made up of markedly diverse ethnic/cultural ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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