The exclusion of the African contribution to the conceptual development of reality, appearance and knowledge in the history of philosophy
Chimuka, Andrea T
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Few histories of philosophy have probed the contributions of Africans or people of African descent. A significant section of modern and contemporary intellectual historians, unlike their classical counterparts, regards civilization to have been transmitted only by white privileged males (Keita 1994, p. 147). This is what Cornell West coins “malestream” history (West 1990, p.94). The problem lies squarely on Eurocentrism, according to which the “Eurocentric west is trapped, even in its best intentions, by its concentration on itself, its selfishness, its inability to draw a wider picture” (Asante quoted in Akafor 1991, p. 253). Undoubtedly, this has relegated significant other participants to the sidelines. Thus, the contribution of non- Europeans, of women, and children to global history has neither been fully scrutinized nor appreciated. Furthermore, the issue of race came to be used as an index of civility, much to the detriment on Africans who occupied the least place in the racial taxonomy. The net result, according to Keita, is that, "the voice of civilization elaborated over millennia has been stilled" (Keita 1994, p.147). The work is a commitment to pluralism. Pluralism is the view that there are many possible mature human ways of thinking about the world, not just one privileged one. Pluralism allows several intellectual perspectives to feed into some kind of global history. In science, pluralistic methodology is the integration of the various methods and insights into the investigation of scientific phenomena (Barnes 1998, p. 31). Also when it comes to speaking about the knowledge of reality, numerous possibilities abound (Jackson 1999, 12.) The pluralistic vision encapsulated here is generally integrationist. It is the view that in the writing of history in general and history of v philosophy in particular other voices matter. As such, the work challenges the notion that “human reason best expresses itself within terms of Western male gender norms” (Sherry Turkle and Seymour Papert 1990, p.141) The work pads through these less frequently chartered frontiers of knowledge. Does it mean that Africans are intellectually sterile to a point that they have made no intellectual achievements – no science, no technological innovation, no discoveries, no meaningful philosophy? While there are seemingly unending debates about whether or not African philosophy exists (Oyeshile 2008; Taiwo 1998), the present work focuses on how the records of African philosophy have been produced. This thesis argues that this is not the case. A substantial amount of intellectual resources that belong to the Africa continent either went unnoticed appropriated without acknowledgement or simply discarded. This scenario was largely a result of the politics of knowledge. Powerful communities, with dominant ideologies, technologies and philosophies have ensured that the African and other voices either remained unheard or expropriated, but with no due recognition given to the authors of such knowledge. The net result was the existence of African philosophy under ‘erasure’. Thus, there is need to unlock this hegemonic intellectualism. A prospective interpretation of world history does not thrive on polarization and binary opposition. An integrative approach to human history allows for the celebration of the achievements of Africans, Europeans and other players in the processes of history making. This is what this thesis seeks to demonstrate from Chapter 1 through to Chapter 7. vi The thesis also seeks to argue that Africans have some untapped worldviews, which when appropriated and utilized enrich our understanding of the world would provide alternative solutions to some of the world’s burning problems. Western philosophy does not encompass universal knowledge (Taiwo 1998, p.4). There is need to glean through the cultural resources of various other communities of the world. This ensures a rich mosaic of perspectives of worldviews and sensibilities. In this way, the world is enriched with diverse perspectives and solutions to some of the fundamental problems of human history. Thus it would be risky and unprofitable to reject wholesale, the cultural resources of other communities, as their contributions will not be brought to bear in combating global challenges. The best that the history of philosophy can do is to mine from the global cultural ore and work out how all these resources may be utilized in solving the problems of the contemporary world. This, in the end is the moral benefit of history – the promotion of human wellbeing.
history of philosophy
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