A Critique of Cultural Universals and Particulars in Kwasi Wiredu's Philosophy

By Fayemi, Ademola Kazeem | Trames, September 2011 | Go to article overview

A Critique of Cultural Universals and Particulars in Kwasi Wiredu's Philosophy


Fayemi, Ademola Kazeem, Trames


1. Introduction

A prominent issue that has dominated the enterprise of African philosophy since its inception in the written form is the question of how to define African identity (Owolabi 1999:22). Most intellectual discussions in African philosophy are reactions to this problem of identity. Two things are largely responsible for this search for African identity. One is the negative impact of the colonial experience of domination and exploitation in Africa. The second is the ethnocentric assertion of Western scholarship to the denigration of anything that is African. At the base of that Western intellectual discourse is the Hegelian claim that:

Africa "is no historical part of the World; it has no movement or development to exhibit. Historical movements in it--that is in its northern part--belong to the

Asiatic or European World.... Africa is the Unhistorical, Undeveloped Spirit, still involved in the conditions of mere nature, and which had to be presented here only as on the threshold of the World's History (Hegel 1956:99).

Hegel is not alone in this epistemic ethnocentrism (Mudimpe 1988); the anthropological claims of Durkheim (1912), Frazer (1922), Levy-Bruhl (1949) and Horton (1981) also support the ethnocentric, racist and imperialist claim that rationality is prerogative of Western civilization while the Africans are mentally primitive. The significant role played by Western scholarship and erstwhile Western imperial lords in presenting and treating the African people as inferior and deserving of external control, necessitates that African scholarship in postcolonial era, should be active in the deconstruction of this negative and battered identity (Balogun 2007:1).

In this quest for African self-identity and self-definition, two orientations are dominant. The first affirms the cultural pluralism of Western scholarship, but denies the hierarchy of cultures (Owolabi 1999:24). This first orientation is preoccupied with the discovery of authentic and unique African identity by insisting on particulars--their own previously un-respected and neglected particularities. Scholars like Abraham (1966), Mbiti (1969), Sodipo (1975), Anyanwu (1983), Tempels (1959) and Senghor (1991) who are in this category have sympathy for the orientation in African philosophy, which emphasizes the peculiarities of African culture. To these scholars, all philosophies are cultural philosophies and no philosophical datum of any given culture is applicable to other cultures. Within this orientation, the ethno philosophers, the defenders of negritude and other cultural nationalists can be categorized.

The second reaction to the crisis of self-identity within African scholarship denies cultural relativism and ethnocentrism maintained by Western anthropological scholarship. The argument is that though certain aspects of societal cultures are different, human cultures still share certain fundamental traits that allow for cross-cultural comparisons and interactions (Owolabi 1999:24). Hence, Bodunrin (1985), Hountondji (1983), Appiah (1992), Towa (1991) and Wiredu (1980) who are members of this orientation insist on cultural universalism.

From the above dominant orientations in the quest for African self-identity, the general deducible impression is that there is a dichotomy and incompatibility between the perspectives of African scholars on cultural universalism and particularism as related to the quest for an identity. This paper aims at philosophically discussing, the issues of universalism and particularism in human culture, especially in relation to African's search for self-definition. In doing this, however, an attempt is made to examine critically Wiredu's perspectives and contributions to the discourse.

The following questions shall guide our discussions in the paper: Are there cultural universals? Is there any scheme of concepts, which can be shared by all the cultures of humankind? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Critique of Cultural Universals and Particulars in Kwasi Wiredu's Philosophy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.