Existence and Consolation: Reinventing Ontology, Gnosis, and Values in African Philosophy

By Royster, Michael D. | International Journal on World Peace, March 2016 | Go to article overview

Existence and Consolation: Reinventing Ontology, Gnosis, and Values in African Philosophy


Royster, Michael D., International Journal on World Peace


EXISTENCE AND CONSOLATION: REINVENTING ONTOLOGY, GNOSIS, AND VALUES IN AFRICAN PHILOSOPHY Agada, Ada St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2015 Paperback, Pp. xxi + 368, $24.95

Existence and Consolation functions as a primer to "consolation philosophy" while demonstrating how African wisdom provides contemporary relevance for addressing the manifold perils of the human experience beyond mere empiricism. The book addresses life's riddles with regards to the meaning and purpose of existence, the relationship between faith and intellect, and the role of skepticism and nihilism in terms of the human creature's responses to life's mysteries. With respect to Leopold Segar Senghor, the "father of African philosophy," the author adheres to the idea that the universe has a non-dualistic state of existence.

Western philosophy has traditionally functioned as ad-hoc standard bearers of the discipline. As a result, African philosophy exists in a continuous struggle to become equal and supplemental members of the philosophical cannon. However, the author focuses on African contributions to the field of inquiry through addressing themes such as existentialism, nihilism, skepticism, and the melancholy being with respect to consolation philosophy. Several African countries as a whole have endured prolonged dictatorships disguised as democracies, with oligarchic economic systems which transfer significant portions of the wealth from Africa to European financial havens, which result in mass levels of devastation for the numerical majority. "There is tragedy enough in the African predicament, no doubt, but there is a far greater tragedy in the existential predicament of humanity as a whole" (p. 32).

Early in the text, the author wrestles with existentialism's relationship with the postmodern problem of ambivalence with its manifestations of both a joy-component and sadness within the context of the human experience. The book's unique feature entails the author's ability to provide a glimpse of the optimism which exists and is well entrenched within the African spirit. However, the Western sense of optimism from modernity never resonated in Africa. Yet, Africa bypassed the disappointment and nihilistic tendencies that derives from the demystification of the world. Collectively, the African way of life has retained its creative imagination. Although the intellect functions as a critical faculty among human creatures as a means of cognitive reasoning and solving life's problems, it easily becomes a source of pessimism and tragedy if devoid of the emotive faculties which protect society from the evil of human capabilities. "The intellect denies life in its nihilistic extremity" (p. 103). The effects of nihilistic intellectualism have resulted in the radicalization of social movements, terrorism, and rigid political regimes rooted in despair. …

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