What to expect when you're expecting Africana philosophy

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Very soon, on April 1 to be exact (no fooling), we will be kicking off the series on Africana Philosophy, co-authored by Chike Jeffers! Here is a sneak preview. These are the planned episodes, not including interviews, for the first part of the series. Comments, of course, more than welcome!

Part One: Locating and Debating Precolonial African Philosophy

Introducing Africana Philosophy

Prehistoric Africa

Philosophy in Ancient Mesopotamia [as context for Egypt]

Philosophy in Ancient Egypt

Moral and Political Philosophy in Egyptian “Instructions”

Philosophy in Egyptian Narratives and Dialogues

Early Philosophy in Ethiopia

Zera Yacob and Walda Heywat

Islamic Philosophy in Sub-Saharan Africa

Philosophy in African Oral Traditions

African Philosophy of Time

God in African Philosophy

African Philosophy of the Person

Communalism in African Ethics and Politics

Gender in African Tradition

Knowledge and Destiny in African Philosophy

African Philosophy’s Emergence in Academia

The Reaction Against Ethnophilosophy

Sage Philosophy

Beyond the Reaction


Part Two will cover “Slavery and the Creation of Diasporic African Philosophy”

Part Three will cover “Africana Philosophical Thought in the 20th Century and Beyond”

Robert Vitt on 17 March 2018

Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes

Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes!!!!!!

That annoying guy on 23 March 2018

I’m intrigued as to what

I’m intrigued as to what exactly is meant by ‘African Philosophy’. Subsahran Africa as a cohesive space with some sense of shared identity is, by en large, a product of the European colonialism. It’s impossible to say that there existed a single regime of ideas that thinkers and philosophers across the African content drew on nor a set of shared language or technical vocabulary  in which philosophy was done. A thinker in Kongo probably had little to do with a scholar in West Africa. While even labels like Western philosophy or Islamic philosophy can at times serve to muddy the waters, we can at least say that literate elites  in the ‘Islamic world’ would have been at least passingly familiar with a set of canonical figures, Avicenna for example, and would have generally relied on a shared philosophical vocabulary regardless of which literary language they chose to express themselves in. Instead of African philosophy, it might be more useful to speak in terms of African philosophies, separate heterogeneous traditions of intellectual thinking going on often with little contact with each other in various parts of the continent. I’m not an expert so I have no say here, but I’m wondering exactly what you mean by African philosophy and for that matter how you deal with the issue that a considerable amount of Islamic and ‘Greek’ philosophy was done in North Africa, the Maghreb and West Africa. And how will you deal with the religion-philosophy distinction? Though I personally find this separation pointless and less practical that it initially seems, it often leads to a lot of philosophical material being rejected out of hand as in fact religion and not within the scope of the historian of philosophy. This can have serious repercussions in the study of non-western philosophical cultures, as we’ve seen with the rejection of Sufism as silly mysticism and not real philosophy, and is especially problematic in an area as understudied as subsaharan Africa. 

In reply to by That annoying guy

Peter Adamson on 23 March 2018

Right, that's a very good

Right, that's a very good point. I think Chike watches these comments and may add more but my answer would be: yes, to some extent we're going to be covering multiple philosophical traditions here. Ancient Egyptian philosophy is more connected to ancient Greek philosophy than to subsaharan Islamic philosophy for example. However, I don't really see that as a problematic issue, rather it is par for the course. I mean, you can draw some kind of line between Proclus and Hume, but it's might indirect and basically late antique Neoplatonism and early modern Empiricism are also two "philosophies." So, what we are going to be doing here is no less justifiable than studying European philosophy, which is what people usually do of course.

A caveat to that: once we get into the modern period and the diaspora, there is going to be a very unified story to tell because the effects of colonialism and the slave trade set a context for most of what we'll be covering (I believe) - which doesn't eliminate the diversity of Africa or people of African heritage of course. So your point is well taken but really, I suppose, only applicable to this first of the three sub-series.

Ken on 13 April 2018

In any other person's hands I

In any other person's hands I would be nervous, but Dr. Adamson's previous work speaks for itself. So excited for this series!

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