Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Ori in Yoruba Thought System: A Humean Critique

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Ori in Yoruba Thought System: A Humean Critique

Article excerpt


I will argue, utilizing David Hume's epistemology in this research that the notion of Ori in traditional Yoruba thought is flawed. To realize this feat, this essay has five parts, the first being this introduction. The second divide gives a terse exposition of the meaning and substance of Ori. The third split of this essay exposes the important aspects of David Hume's philosophic thoughts. In the section that follows, I employ David Hume's epistemology to show that the notion of Ori fails to be mustered as the basis for human actions and aspirations. The fifth part concludes this essay.

It would be prudent nonetheless, to commence with random comments about some agents and circumstances that instigated contemporaneous research on African themes. Scholars researching within what has come to be termed 'African philosophy' had to react mostly to the claims of Eurocentrism. Some Western scholars passed disparaging comments on the rational abilities of "the man of colour" (Fanon, 2008). Homer, Thomas Hobbes, Baron de Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Jefferson, to name a few (see Oluwole, 2006:10-1), are some of the Western intellectual giants in question. In this connection, Obenga (2004:32), reacting against Hegel, opines: "As we know, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), who was not a historian, but a great philosopher, stated in his lectures delivered in the winter of 18301 on the philosophical history of the world: "Africa is no historical part of the world; it has no movement or development to exhibit.... Egypt ... does not belong to the African Spirit" (Hegel, 1956: 99)". Theophile Obenga continues: "This view of the Hegelian philosophy of history has become almost a common opinion and an academic paradigm in Western historiography. It has been regarded as canon that a great culture or civilization cannot be produced by African (Black) people. This also implies that Africans have never made any kind of contribution to world history" (Obenga, 2004:33).

Torrent of scholars, both of African and non-African roots have, in my opinion successful argued that Eurocentrism is an error in reasoning. I shall not concern with their arguments here due to space-time limitation. However, it should be stated that toward the end of the 20th century, late Kenyan erudite scholar Henry Oruka (1990) identified some trends under what has come to be labeled as 'African Philosophy'. By the early periods of the 21st century, Barry Hallen announces: "African philosophy, as an autochthonous and important area of research in its own right, definitely has arrived, and it deserves far more attention from the international academy than it is presently receiving" (Hallen, 2002:48). Ethnophilosophy is one of the trends cited by Oruka (1990). To my mind, it accommodates the Yoruba thought system, which this essay concerns with as a form of African Philosophy. Taking the challenge of Barry Hallen as axiomatic, I engage the theme of Ori in traditional Yoruba thought system.

The Concepts of Ori in Traditional Yoruba Thought

There are several concepts of Ori in traditional Yoruba thought system. I shall attempt to give an account of the aggregate canonical account of all. Literally, Ori in the Yoruba language means head, the physical head upon which hair grows. However, when the Yoruba s speak metaphysically, the concept enters the fray as one of the entities that make up a human person. Erudite scholar Segun Gbadegesin, the doyen of the Ori discourse expatiates:

It refers to the physical head, which is considered vital to the physical status of a person. It is, for instance, the seat of the brain. But when a typical Yoruba talks about ori, she is, more often than not, referring to a non-physical component of her person. For there is a widely received conception of an Ori as the bearer of a person's destiny as well as the determinant of one's personality (Gbadegesin, 2004:314). …

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