Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

The Question of African Philosophy: Methodological or Philosophical Skepticism?

Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

The Question of African Philosophy: Methodological or Philosophical Skepticism?

Article excerpt

Introduction

Several questions have been raised about the existence and preoccupation of African philosophy (Wiredu 1980:x). Scholars have been concerned about the nature and justification of African philosophy. The pertinent question among others, has been the justification of African philosophy; should it exists on one hand, while attempts have also been made to show that African philosophy rather than being conceived as an established discipline, if it exists at all, is still at its infancy on the other hand. This paper attempts to explore the dominant trends on the question of African philosophy, to discover from the arguments advanced by scholars, whether on the question of African philosophy the accurate picture depicted by the debates represent the view of a philosophical sceptic or a methodological sceptic. In the process, the paper shall look at scepticism in general, and philosophical and methodological scepticism in particular. It shall consider the works of eminent African scholars like Makinde, Bodunrin, Gbadegesin, among others, and conclude that contrary to the view that some of them believe that there is no African philosophy, a critical look at their views show that nearly all of them are methodological sceptics on the question of African philosophy. The paper is divided into four sections. They are; Scepticism in general, philosophical and methodological skepticism in particular, Makinde's position on African philosophy, Bodunrin on the question of African philosophy, the problem with world view as all there is to African philosophy and the conclusion.

What is scepticism?

Scepticism has been understood in different senses in philosophical discourse. These myriads of interpretations have been grouped under two major headings, namely philosophical and methodological scepticism. Pyrrhonean School defended an epistemological position referred to as philosophical scepticism. Wholesale or philosophical scepticism is an epistemological position which maintains that nothing can be known for certain. How did the Pyrrhonean defend this position? They offered ten modes showing that arguments can be given for or against a position with equal cogency. For the purpose of this paper, two of the ten modes will be discussed to convey the sceptical positions by the Pyrrhoneas. Pyrrhoneans argued that living things react to their environment in different ways. For instance, what is pleasurable to an individual may be strongly abhorred by another individual especially when it fails to satisfy him or her. Given the relative nature of the judgments of our senses which influence what is pleasurable and the contrary, Pyrrhoneans maintained that it is saver to maintain a value-neutral position on objects of knowledge. On the second mode, Pyrroneans argued that there are differences in the behaviour and natural composition of man. Some men are disposed to commercial activities while others are not. On the basis of this, they argued that it is better to maintain a value-neutral position on objects of knowledge. Although this kind of scepticism has been castigated to be self defeating, with numerous examples in epistemological literature, it depicts the Pyrroneans as philosophical sceptics. For instance, Hamlyn reporting Ryle gave the examples of polar concepts and paradigm cases as a rebuttal against philosophical scepticism (Hamlyn, 1970: 16)

In another attempt to understand scepticism, Gralying argues that scepticism for him cannot be understood as "an attitude of doubt". This is because, scepticism conceived as a doubting venture raises a fundamental problem which implies that there are some epistemological issues, which do not meet up with expected standard. While this position may be considered better than the view expressed by the global agniologist, it puts itself at a disadvantage with particular reference to whatever it wants to defend. In another sense, scepticism has been understood colloquially as someone who is always difficult to convince on any issue, even when there are obvious evidences in support of the issue on which he or she is being persuaded. …

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