Explorations in African Political Thought: Identity, Community, Ethics

Article excerpt

SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY Teodros Kiros, ed. Explorations in African Political Thought: Identity, Community, Ethics. New York: Routledge, 2001. x + 214 pp. Diagrams. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $22.95. Paper.

Explorations in African Political Thought is unquestionably topical. It promises to provide ideas to guide Africa through its most challenging moment-the postcolonial dispensation. In the introduction to the work, the editor says, "The human condition in Africa yearns for the attention of philosophers from all over the world. Philosophers are called upon to engage in thought with care, imagination, and critical commitment. These trying times require intervention by African philosophers" (1). The anthology demonstrates that African philosophy has indeed come of age. It no longer grieves about the colonial past but is raring to confront the present challenges, gleaning alternatives and harnessing opportunities in order to propel the continent into the future. To underscore the relevance of this agenda, Kiros adds:

African philosophers should not shy away from taking positions on urgent moral and political matters that go beyond addressing the internal needs of the body (food, shelter, and clothing).... Ethnic cleansing in Rwanda, superfluous and expensive wars in Ethiopia and Eritrea, the menacing spread of AIDS throughout Africa-all should be severely critiqued by philosophers. Money is being squandered on unneeded commodities, pretentious skyscrapers are sprouting up in African capitals for the rising middle class, while millions of Africans are wasting away in huts and tin houses along unpaved, rocky streets. (1)

Kiros emphasizes that the scholars whose work he has included have shown an interest in confronting the problems outlined with a critical eye. It appears, however, that he did not find a sufficient pool of articles focusing entirely on contemporary Africa and consequently had to include some essays that do not deal with Africa's current issues. Thus the first, second, fourth, fifth, and sixth essays do not quite mesh with the program of the anthology: the first and second deal with particular conceptualizations of African philosophy, while the fourth, fifth, and sixth papers fall under the rubric of the history of African philosophy. Since the editor does not justify his selection of essays, one is left wondering whether the anthology is a compilation of the proceedings of a conference or symposium, in which case the editor would have been accommodating all those who took part. If this is not the case, the criteria for selection appear arbitrary and the result is a book that falls far short of achieving thematic unity. Further, a more representative picture of the African philosophical reaction to contemporary problems would have required a sampling that covered the entire continent.

That said, the essays that do address the problems affecting contemporary Africa offer exciting insights. …