Africa's Quest for a Philosophy of Decolonization

Africa's Quest for a Philosophy of Decolonization

Africa's Quest for a Philosophy of Decolonization

Africa's Quest for a Philosophy of Decolonization


"This book discovers freedom in the colonial idea of African primitiveness. As human transcendence, freedom escapes the drawbacks of otherness, as defended by ethnophilosophy, while exposing the idiosyncratic inspiration of Eurocentric universalism. Decolonization calls for the reconnection with freedom, that is, with myth-making understood as the inaugural act of cultural pluralism. The cultural condition of modernization emerges when the return to the past deploys the future." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


If you have time to read only one book to learn about the intricacies of African philosophy, then read Africa's Quest for a Philosophy of Decolonization. The author, Messay Kebede, was raised in Ethiopia, and received his Ph.D. at the University of Grenoble (France). Returning to Ethiopia he chaired the Department of Philosophy at the University of Addis Ababa; he is currently teaching in the United States as associate professor of philosophy at the University of Dayton. He writes and lectures knowledgeably about the status of philosophy in Africa.

The beauty of this volume is Kebede's clear presentation and thoughtful evaluation of each of the main schools in African philosophy. The book begins with a criticism of traditional Western views on Africa. In these treatises the presumption is that Western philosophy alone is rational, and since African sages do not match Western standards of rationality, African thinking is inferior to Western thought. Kebede studies the arguments of this racist approach and by using dissident trends of Western philosophy respectfully disagrees about Africans being less rational than the "white man."

The first scholar Kebede treats is Placide Tempels, who shows that the Bantu's rationality serves a different function than Western rationality. Though pursuing different goals, the philosophy of the Bantu tribe has a rational underpinning. Accordingly, African philosophy is not in a prelogical, primitive stage that will eventually mirror what modern and contemporary Western philosophers have been expounding. Instead of irrationality, difference from established European philosophy correctly defines Bantu thinking.

A major stand on African otherness is negritude. Negritude is a race-based philosophy that differs from tribal grounded views. Negritude presupposes a core African philosophy exists that has its essence in being black, which philosophy is necessarily distinct from white philosophies. For instance, precolonial negritude is community based and has its own epistemological orientation that depicts the world by means of emotional antennae. The gist of these views is that philosophy is pluralistic, and that African thinkers, while different from Eurocentric thinkers, are not backward.

Other African philosophies exist that reject negritude and propound a more European philosophy, such as Marxism. There are also those of postmodernist inspiration that accept the African difference but reject the definition of negritude. Kebede attempts another approach. He follows Henri Bergson in giving myth a prominent place in the generation of rational thinking. His basic argument is that the antagonism between myth and rationality on account of which Africans are stigmatized as primitive is anything but true. Western thought has had a mystical period in the Middle Ages that set the stage for Cartesian and other modern philosophies; similar claims have been made for the origins of Greek . . .

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