Prospects for Recovery and Sustainable Development in Africa

By Aguibou Y. Yansané | Go to book overview

12
Is 'Development' a Purely Empirical Concept or also Teleological?: A Perspective from 'We the Underdeveloped'

SYLVIA WYNTER

"What you do not see does not exist. The moment, like a raft, carries you on the luminous surface of its round disc, and you deny the abyss that lies about you. The future citadel, thanks to my son, will open its wide windows on the abyss, from which will come great gusts of shadow upon our shriveled bodies, our haggard brows. With all my soul, I wish for this opening. In the city which is being born such should be our work -- all of us, Hindus, Chinese, South Americans, Negroes, Arabs, all of us, awkward and pitiful, we the underdeveloped, who feel ourselves to be clumsy in a world of perfect mechanical adjustment." -- Hamidou Kane, Ambiguous Adventure, 1963

"And if Africa, in spite of the powerful chains which still immobilize her, should only dare (on setting out to restructure, recreate, and if needs be suppress aspects of the university system which now remain, and pervasively so, as the most subtle instruments of our present domination), to debaptize our present departments and institutes of Philosophy and to rename them purely and simply, Departments and Institutes of the Sciences of Thought, I, for my part, would see this as a first step: an insignificant first step, perhaps, yet a first step whose implications are immense." -- Issiaka Prosper Laleye , Philosophy? Why in Africa?, 1975

The major proposal that I shall put forward in this chapter is that if Black Africa is to reinvent itself as a dynamic twenty-first-century civilization, it might very well have to get rid of the concept of "development" altogether. For the point of the title of my paper is to suggest that the "development," rather than functioning only as a purely denotative, and therefore transculturally "true" and objective term, should be recognized as a culture-specific one. It serves, in this context (to use the terms of the artificial intelligence (AI) theorist, Carbonnell), as a supraordinate goal. 1 It is a culture-systemic telos that orients the collective ensemble of behaviors, by means of which our present single and westernized

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