Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Ludwig Wittgenstein's Critique of Metaphysics: Implication and Relevance for African Philosophy

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Ludwig Wittgenstein's Critique of Metaphysics: Implication and Relevance for African Philosophy

Article excerpt


Metaphysics, being one of the core areas of philosophy is highly indispensable in the quest towards realizing ourselves as humans as well as our relation to the world at large. Right from antiquity, this branch of philosophy, has always been concerned with the quest for the ultimate reality. It is therefore not a booboo that the stab to eliminate the enterprise by some members of the Vienna Circle met with an intellectual gridlock. Erroneously, Ludwig Wittgenstein has been touted as one of those seeking the demise of the metaphysical enterprise [see Okoro (2012); Unah (2004); and Omolafe (2000)]. It is a consequence of the foregoing that a deeper appreciation of the ideas of Wittgenstein in relation to Metaphysics and the conceptual decolonization of African philosophies, religions and languages has remained elusive.

Conversely, this essay purports to retrieve Wittgenstein from this erroneous gridlock. The paper argues that both the Early and Later Wittgenstein did not construe metaphysics as a candidate for intellectual annihilation. Rather (and as it would be argued herein), Wittgenstein criticized Metaphysics in the constructive way Jim Unah (2004) is willing to grant Martin Heidegger (2000; 1967) and Immanuel Kant (1964), albeit at a different degree.

Through the method of analysis and interpretation, this essay will argue that Wittgenstein's reflection on language has a far reaching relevance for African philosophy as opposed to the view promulgated by the afore-mentioned scholars of African pedigree. To realize this feat, this essay has five parts, the first being this introduction. The second part of this study focuses on the meaning, nature as well as disparagements within Metaphysics. The section reveals the belligerent warrants leveled against Metaphysics by prominent members of the Vienna Circle. Furthermore, it also reveals the grouses of J.I. Unah, C. Okoro and J.A. Omolafe against Wittgenstein as they erroneously portray the later, not only as a member of the Vienna Circle, but also as sympathetic to the cause aiming at the extinction of Metaphysics. In the third rift, we defend Wittgenstein against their objections. The part also exposes the thoughts of Wittgenstein to endorse the study's position that his assessment of Philosophy and Metaphysics is not nihilistic, but a quest for authentic Metaphysics, Religion and Philosophy freed from the shackles of the limitations beset by the use of language. Afterwards, the paper, in the fourth section, evinces the relevance of Wittgenstein, in the aspect of birthing an authentic African philosophy. In mind here is the exposition of how some 'foreign concepts' have made philosophizing in Africa digress to purely Western philosophico-intellectual contribution, leaving African problems almost unscathed. Concepts such as 'God' and 'Satan', would be employed to substantiate from a Wittgensteinian perspective. This part clearly reveals the place of Wittgenstein and his relevance in the persistent making of an African philosophy. The last part concludes this inquiry.

Metaphysics: Meaning, Nature and Criticisms

Etymologically, the term 'metaphysics' is derived from the utterance of Andronicus of Rhodes (Okoro, 2011:113) (Iroegbu, 1995:21-2) who while ordering the works of Aristotle encountered those that deal with First Philosophy, but to label them as the 'books after the books of Physics'. This implies that Aristotle had construed Metaphysics as First Philosophy but generally, Metaphysics has often been construed as the study of the origin and nature of reality. In a similar disposition, Cayne (1992:628) construes Metaphysics as "the branch of philosophy dealing the first principles of things. It includes ontology and cosmology". For Pantaleon Iroegbu:

Metaphysics is thinking, reflection, critique, into the inner depths of
things. You need a mind to do that, and only individuals have minds to
think. Only individuals can do metaphysics. … 
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