African Philosophy: Traditional Yoruba Philosophy and Contemporary African Realities

By Segun Gbadegesin | Go to book overview

PREFACE

My position in this book has been greatly influenced by two central beliefs, derived from my own experience of the social, economic and cultural dimensions of life in Africa, and reinforced by years of active teaching and research in philosophy. First, I am convinced of the reasonableness of the belief that, if philosophy as an academic discipline is to mean anything to Africa in the present situation of its existence, it has to be made relevant to the realities that confront Africans. Though I have not argued directly for this view here, it represents, for me, a foundation upon which a lasting structure of an African philosophical tradition can be built. Second, from the vantage point of research in the areas of social and political philosophy and ethics, it has become clear to me that no one can ignore the importance of the cultural dimensions of philosophical reflections. Indeed, the relationship between the two is one of mutual influence. Culture influences philosophy by providing it with the basic materials for reflection, while philosophy influences culture by posing a critique, in various ways, of its foundation. This connection between philosophy and culture is not confined to modern philosophizing alone. I am convinced that if we look well enough, we will find it in all ages and all contexts. The denial of philosophical reflection to traditional Africans therefore appears to me to be a "modernist" bias without an adequate justification.

From this perspective, therefore, I believe that we may approach African philosophy rewardingly by looking at the presuppositions and foundations of traditional philosophy as well as posing a critique of the foundations of our contemporary realities. This accounts for the two parts into which this study is divided. Part I deals with the foundations of traditional Yoruba philosophy by an examination of its conceptual scheme. I also attempt a comparison of some of the

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