Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Eurocentrism and the Separability-Inseparability Debate: Challenges from African Cultural Jurisprudence

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Eurocentrism and the Separability-Inseparability Debate: Challenges from African Cultural Jurisprudence

Article excerpt

Abstract

African jurisprudence, in contemporary times, seems to be faced with two difficult tasks: one, the challenge of the possibility of a worthy cerebral contribution to jurisprudence and the history of ideas in general, and, two, the disturbing reality of what is known as the Eurocentric foundation of choice concepts, persistent questions and controversial issues in Western jurisprudence, which passed itself as the standard definition of universal jurisprudence. This paper observes that the first task is defined by and a direct response to the second task. In transcending this myopic understanding of African contribution to the history of ideas, Western jurisprudence and jurisprudence in general, this paper takes issues on the controversy between naturalists and positivists on the relation between law and morality in the light of African legal theory. Examining three African cultures, the paper discovers that the more forceful and popular positivists', the separability thesis is not easily and commonly entertained. The paper also equally discovers that law, in those cultures, not only has an ontological moral foundation, but that the impossibility of separating law from morals which derives not just because morality is one of the sources, but also from the argument that no legal concept or rule exists without an ethical implication or dimension.

Introduction

Conceptually, what can Africa contribute to the world, and the history of ideas? More specifically, what has Africa contributed to the world? Some, like Hugh Trevor-Roper and Andrew Foote, would say, respectively, that it is pure darkness1 or earth's catalogue of crimes.2 The irony of this perception about Africa is obvious: Africa's light was tampered with, and deliberately distorted by those who cast it into the immediacy of eternal loss. Incidentally, this perception has become a pervading and phenomenal characterisation of Africa whose historical past bears the primacy of true human civilisation.3

This perception, in its entire ramification, is a grand historical distortion. Thus, the debate over the primacy of Occidentalism and Orientalism in the entire history of thought and thus a classical demonstration of the Eurocentric nature of social history in general, and particularly, how cultural distortions are often sponsored into the substance of intellectual history.

The project of Africa renaissance is an attempt to correct this distasteful perception about Africa. In precise terms, African philosophy, though a latecomer to the scene of philosophical interrogations of history and ideologies of African people is engulfed in the burden of a thematic and cultural search for self definition. The essential task of African philosophy in its half-century existence is the quest for pertinence in what can be called a search for the significance of its hidden history. The thematic and cultural preoccupation of the African philosophy project can be undertaken in the important, though neglected, discipline of jurisprudence. Thus, the implication of an African cultural jurisprudence cannot be overemphasised. What then is jurisprudence? What is its significance for the African philosophical project, and what are the contributions of Africa to jurisprudential controversies?

Generally characterised, it seems evident that jurisprudence and the discussion of its problems has a Eurocentric bias, often couched in the form of a denial. And thus, via Western canonical works, a great denial of the possibility of African jurisprudence often grounded in what I call the 'myth of meritocracy' which is the view that whatever is considered to be African does not have anything intellectually profound and thoughtprovoking to contribute to investigate aching and puzzling questions and problems in philosophy, generally, and jurisprudence, particularly. What this means is that there exists a fundamental lacuna in relation to the general treatment of fundamental jurisprudential problems within the canons of African jurisprudence; although, the cultural basis for jurisprudence is perceived as a misnomer when, in actual fact, philosophy itself is a cultural inquiry. …

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