African Philosophy: Traditional Yoruba Philosophy and Contemporary African Realities

By Segun Gbadegesin | Go to book overview
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Part I Traditional Yoruba Philosophy

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ON THE IDEA OF AFRICAN PHILOSOPHY

Definitions of African philosophy

There are at least four schools of thought regarding the question of the nature of African philosophy. For one group, it is the philosophical thought of traditional Africans as could be sifted from their various world-views, myths, proverbs, etc. In this sense, it is the philosophy indigenous to Africans, untainted by foreign ideas. To attain a deep understanding of this philosophy, then, one needs to go to its roots in the traditions of the people without the mediating influence of the westernized folks. For another group, African philosophy is the philosophical reflection on, and analysis of, African conceptual systems and social realities as undertaken by contemporary professional philosophers. The basic idea here is that African traditional thought, like any traditional thought, raises issues of great philosophical interest, and that this makes it fit for philosophical investigation. Such investigations may be rewardingly carried out by professionally trained philosophers with the collaboration of those traditional thinkers with good knowledge of traditional beliefs, values and conceptual systems. For yet a third group, African philosophy refers to a combination of these two approaches, without suppressing or looking down on any. The point of this is the presupposition that philosophical thought cannot be ruled out of court wherever the existence of a community of rational beings is conceded or acknowledged. Thus, traditional societies must have had their own share of philosophers and philosophical reflections. Such reflections take on the form of beliefs and values, concerning life and its meaning which later

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