Caja PDF

Comparta fácilmente sus documentos PDF con sus contactos, la web y las redes sociales.

Compartir un archivo PDF Gestor de archivos Caja de instrumento Buscar PDF Ayuda Contáctenos



Yusef Waghid African Philosophy of Education Reconsidered On being human Routledge .pdf



Nombre del archivo original: Yusef Waghid African Philosophy of Education Reconsidered On being human Routledge.pdf
Título: African Philosophy of Education Reconsidered: On Being Human
Autor: Waghid, Yusef

Este documento en formato PDF 1.6 fue generado por Adobe InDesign CS6 (Macintosh) / Acrobat Distiller 9.2.0 (Windows), y fue enviado en caja-pdf.es el 10/09/2017 a las 00:54, desde la dirección IP 189.236.x.x. La página de descarga de documentos ha sido vista 1581 veces.
Tamaño del archivo: 1.4 MB (158 páginas).
Privacidad: archivo público




Descargar el documento PDF









Vista previa del documento


African Philosophy of
Education Reconsidered

Much of the literature on the African philosophy of education juxtaposes two
philosophical strands as mutually exclusive entities; traditional ethnophilosophy on the one hand, and scientific African philosophy on the other. While
traditional ethnophilosophy is associated with the cultural artefacts, narratives,
folklore and music of Africa’s people, scientific African philosophy is primarily
concerned with the explanations, interpretations and justifications of African
thought and practice along the lines of critical and transformative reasoning.
These two alternative strands of African philosophy invariably impact understandings of education in different ways: education constituted by cultural
action is perceived to be mutually independent from education constituted by
reasoned action.
Yusef Waghid argues for an African philosophy of education guided by
communitarian, reasonable and culture-dependent action in order to bridge
the conceptual and practical divide between African ethnophilosophy and scientific African philosophy. Unlike those who argue that African philosophy
of education cannot exist because it does not invoke reason, or that reasoned
African philosophy of education is just not possible, Waghid suggests an African
philosophy of education constituted by reasoned, culture-dependent action.
This book provides an African philosophy aimed at developing a conception of education that can contribute towards imagination, deliberation and
responsibility – actions that can help to enhance justice in educative relations,
both in Africa and throughout the world. This book will be essential reading
for researchers and academics in the field of the philosophy of education, especially those wanting to learn from the African tradition.
Yusef Waghid is Professor of Philosophy of Education in the Faculty of
Education at Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

New Directions in the Philosophy of Education Series
Series Editors
Michael A. Peters, University of Waikato, New Zealand;
University of Illinois, USA
Gert Biesta, University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg

This book series is devoted to the exploration of new directions in the philosophy of education. After the linguistic turn, the cultural turn, and the historical
turn, where might we go? Does the future promise a digital turn with a greater
return to connectionism, biology, and biopolitics based on new understandings
of system theory and knowledge ecologies? Does it foreshadow a genuinely
alternative radical global turn based on a new openness and interconnectedness? Does it leave humanism behind or will it reengage with the question
of the human in new and unprecedented ways? How should philosophy of
education reflect new forces of globalization? How can it become less Anglocentric and develop a greater sensitivity to other traditions, languages, and
forms of thinking and writing, including those that are not routed in the canon
of Western philosophy but in other traditions that share the ‘love of wisdom’
that characterizes the wide diversity within Western philosophy itself? Can this
be done through a turn to intercultural philosophy? To indigenous forms of
philosophy and philosophizing? Does it need a post-Wittgensteinian philosophy of education? A postpostmodern philosophy? Or should it perhaps leave
the whole construction of ‘post’-positions behind?
In addition to the question of the intellectual resources for the future of
philosophy of education, what are the issues and concerns that philosophers of
education should engage with? How should they position themselves? What
is their specific contribution? What kind of intellectual and strategic alliances
should they pursue? Should philosophy of education become more global, and
if so, what would the shape of that be? Should it become more cosmopolitan
or perhaps more decentred? Perhaps most importantly in the digital age, the
time of the global knowledge economy that reprofiles education as privatized
human capital and simultaneously in terms of an historic openness, is there a
philosophy of education that grows out of education itself, out of the concerns
for new forms of teaching, studying, learning, and speaking that can provide
comment on ethical and epistemological configurations of economics and politics of knowledge? Can and should this imply a reconnection with questions
of democracy and justice?

This series comprises texts that explore, identify, and articulate new
directions in the philosophy of education. It aims to build bridges, both geographically and temporally: bridges across different traditions and practices and
bridges towards a different future for philosophy of education.

In this series
On Study
Giorgio Agamben and Educational Potentiality
Tyson E. Lewis
Education, Experience and Existence
Engaging Dewey, Peirce and Heidegger
John Quay
African Philosophy of Education Reconsidered
On being human
Yusef Waghid

This page intentionally left blank

African Philosophy of
Education Reconsidered
On being human

Yusef Waghid

First published 2014
by Routledge
2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN
Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada
by Routledge
711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017
Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business
© 2014 Y. Waghid
The right of Y. Waghid to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by
him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents
Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or
utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now
known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any
information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the
publishers.
Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered
trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to
infringe.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Waghid, Yusef.
African philosophy of education reconsidered : on being human / Yusef Waghid.
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Education--Africa--Philosophy. I. Title.
LA1501.W34 2013
370.96--dc23
2013006472
ISBN: 978-0-415-82584-9 (hbk)
ISBN: 978-0-203-53816-6 (ebk)
Typeset in Bembo
by GreenGate Publishing Services, Tonbridge, Kent

Contents

Series editors’ preface
Acknowledgements

ix
xi

Introduction: African philosophy of education as a practice

1

1 In defence of a communitarian view of African philosophy
of education

15

2 Towards a different understanding of African metaphysics
and epistemology

33

3 Religion, ethics and aesthetics in African cultures:
rethinking African philosophy of education

42

4 Towards a different understanding of African
education: reconstituting the place of ubuntu

55

5 On enacting ubuntu, democratic citizenship education
and the enlargement of moral imagination:
learning and teaching in South Africa

70

6 On education and human rights in Africa:
restating the claims of cosmopolitan justice

90

7 On educational change and the illusion of inclusion:
against exclusion on the African continent

105

viii

Contents

Postscript: Terrorism and the challenges to African
philosophy of education: on the possibility of an
African Renaissance

117

References
Index

131
139

Series editors’ preface

In African Philosophy of Education Reconsidered: On Being Human Yusef Waghid,
professor of philosophy of education at Stellenbosch and the ex-Dean of
Faculty, embarks on the task of outlining a philosophy of practice that views
African philosophy of education (APOE) in terms of a defence of communitarian thought (Chapter 1) moving on to consider successively understandings
of African metaphysics and epistemology (Chapter 2) and the role of religion,
ethics and aesthetics in African cultures (Chapter 3). One of his goals is to
reinvent the place of Ubuntu in African Education (Chapter 4) and its relations
to democratic citizenship education (Chapter 5), human rights and cosmopolitan justice (Chapter 6). He ends with a plea against exclusion (Chapter 7)
and a postscript on terrorism. It is a consistent, coherent and timely vision.
Professor Waghid himself is no latecomer to this discourse. He is the author
of five books and co-editor of two collections including Education, democracy
and citizenship reconsidered: Pedagogical encounters (2010), and Conceptions of Islamic
education: Pedagogical framings (2011). His recent work is featured on YouTube1
where one gets a sense of his presence and also sees him in action, so to speak.2
He was honoured with the National Research Foundation (NRF) Special
Recognition Award for Champion of Research Capacity Development at South
African Higher Education Institutions for 2011 reported in the Mail & Guardian
where the following summary statement appears:
His objective has been to defend both the notion of deliberative democratic
theory in education—particularly arguing for the centrality of practical
reasoning in education—and to show how ‘compassionate imagining’,
friendship and deliberative (communitarian) democratic theory complement one another in addressing issues of inclusion and/ or exclusion in
education with the possibility that students take risks when they engage in
deliberation with peers and supervisors.3
His book in our new series then is something of an event and the result of
a lifetime’s intellectual work in this vital area. African Philosophy of Education
Reconsidered: On Being Human provides a very persuasive argument concerning a ‘reasoned, culture-dependent action’ conception that transcends (perhaps

x Series editors’ preface
even bridges) the standoff between ethnophilosophy and its scientific counterpart. In putting forward this distinctive account Waghid makes central the
notion of ubuntu that he translates as ‘African humaneness and interdependence’ that as he argues can lead to transformative political action. The notion
of ‘Africanization’ of knowledge and education looms large and he parses this
notion in terms of community of inquiry based on the values, actions and
institutions of specific cultures. This account of a tradition of inquiry robust
enough to serve as a philosophy of education then is at once ‘reasonable, deliberative and moral’. Through these moves Waghid makes the cases for other
traditions: Islamic, Chinese and tribal. And he argues that reasonableness (not
rationality), moral maturity and deliberative discourse become the overriding
values of classroom teaching and learning.
We are very pleased to have Professor Waghid’s book in our series as it
indicates the future of philosophy of education in specific cultural contexts and
provides us with a practical and workable model for teaching and learning. We
think it will become the standard in the field.
Michael A. Peters and Gert Biesta

Notes
1 See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lo1iMUblHWg
2 See also his posts on http://khutbahbank.org.uk/tag/prof-yusef-waghid/
3 See http://mg.co.za/article/2011-09-02-mainstays-of-research

Acknowledgements

I gratefully acknowledge my institution, Stellenbosch University, for having
granted me a research sabbatical to produce this book.
I recognise the National Research Foundation of South Africa for being
gracious in funding two of my research projects in relation to re-imagining
citizenship education and the cultivation of cosmopolitanism in higher education, which had an impact on my reconsideration of African philosophy of
education.
I am thankful to Michael A. Peters and Tina Besley, who offered me an
opportunity to spend some of my time thinking and writing this book at the
Centre for Global Studies in Education, Faculty of Education, University of
Waikato, Hamilton (New Zealand). I remain indebted to Michael for encouraging me to author this book as part of the series: New Directions in the
Philosophy of Education.

This page intentionally left blank

Introduction
African philosophy of education as
a practice

Introduction
Much of the literature about an African philosophy of education seems to juxtapose two strands of African philosophy as mutually exclusive entities, namely
traditional ethnophilosophy on the one hand, and scientific African philosophy on the other. Whereas traditional ethnophilosophy is associated with the
cultural artefacts, narratives, folklore and music of Africa’s peoples, scientific
African philosophy is concerned primarily with the explanations, interpretations and justifications of African thought and practice along the lines of critical
and transformative reasoning. These two different strands of African philosophy invariably have a different impact on understandings of education: that is
education as constituted by cultural action as mutually independent from education constituted by reasoned action. The position I argue for in this text is for
an African philosophy of education guided by communitarian, reasonable and
culture-dependent action in order to bridge the conceptual and practical divide
between African ethnophilosophy and scientific African philosophy. Unlike
those who argue that African philosophy of education cannot exist because it
does not invoke reason, or that reasoned African philosophy of education is
just not possible, I argue instead for an African philosophy of education constituted by reasoned, culture-dependent action. Hopefully my argument will
take care of criticisms such as claims that African philosophy of education is
too constrained by oral traditions and cultural experiences; that it is too culture
dependent and cannot be responsive to human problems on the African continent; or that it is anti-scientific and primitive.1
In the main, my argument in defence of an African philosophy of education is aimed at developing a conception of education that can contribute
towards imagination, deliberation and responsibility – actions that can help
towards enhancing justice in educative relations, specifically in relation to
African education. By provoking students towards imaginative action and a
renewed consciousness of possibility, they learn to acknowledge humanity in
themselves and others; by encouraging students to work cooperatively through
sharing, engagement and remaining open to the new and unexpected, they
contribute towards cultivating learning communities; and by learning to show

2 Introduction
outrage at injustices and human violations, students learn to attend to those
on the margins (women, children and those who suffer from dictatorships and
displacements on the African continent, and elsewhere).
Thus, in my attempt to offer a defence for a plausible conception of African
philosophy of education, that is one constituted by both reasoned and culturedependent action, I draw on a communitarian understanding of the notion
of ubuntu (African humaneness and interdependence) in order to justify
African philosophy of education. In the first place, ubuntu offers a medium or
vehicle through which African philosophy of education can be enacted and,
equally important, through which ubuntu can contribute towards achieving
democratic justice on the African continent. In other words, ubuntu can play
a dualistic role, of, on the one hand, contributing towards healing ethnic–
political conflict, and on the other, undermining corruption and chauvinistic
governance on the African continent. As a humanistic concept, ubuntu can
engender cooperative and harmonious human relations; as a philosophical
concept, ubuntu can contribute towards cultivating the respect and care
that are required to produce a morally worthwhile African society; and as a
politico–ideological concept, ubuntu can engender human interdependence
for transformed socio-political action.
Sceptics of African philosophy of education have often disagreed with its
proponents for re-inventing something that has very little, if any, role to play
in contemporary African society. I hold a different view, and proffer arguments in defence of an African philosophy of education that can be enacted
through the notion of ubuntu. Since the 1960s, African philosophy as an
instance of Africanisation has emerged as a ‘gathering’ notion for philosophical endeavours practised by professional philosophers and intellectuals, either
of African descent, including those living in the diaspora, or those of nonAfrican descent but who are devoted to matters pertaining to African and
African-descended individuals and communities (Outlaw, 2002: 139). These
philosophical endeavours mostly relate to a ‘critical analysis and reflective
evaluation of the evidence and reasoning’ that constitute the beliefs, customs,
values, traditions, oral literature (parables, proverbs, poetry, songs and myth),
languages and histories of African and African-descended peoples (Hallen,
2004: 105). In this book I analytically explore ideas and practices central to
African philosophy, their underlying rationales, and how these forms of philosophical inquiry can potentially engender defensible educative relationships
in relation to cosmopolitan justice, non-discriminatory and humane practices
that can be inclusive and responsive to the challenges faced by people on the
African continent.
African, like most (if not all) communities, are not homogeneous. Africa’s
people have different and often conflicting traditions – different languages, cultures, customs, ethnicities and religions. Thus, to speak about thee Africanisation
of education and knowledge would be implausible, because so many differences, divisions and conflicts occur among Africans. An Africanisation of
education cannot simply be about invoking ‘the African voice and identity’

Introduction 3
(Odora Hoppers, 2000: 9), because that would imply that there exists a single,
homogeneous, monolithic African culture and identity – as correctly pointed
out by Horsthemke (2004: 580). However, whereas Horsthemke seems to
deplore ‘Africanisation’ as evoking a ‘superficial sense of belonging’ which may
entail ‘further marginalisation and derogation’ (Horsthemke, 2004: 571), my
argument in defence of Africanisation is linked, first, to the potential contribution Africanisation can make to intellectual inquiry, more specifically African
philosophy of education and, second, to the achievement of justice, respect
for human rights and reconciliation after years of struggle and conflict on the
African continent.
So, what constitutes an Africanisation of education and knowledge? I take
my cue from two prominent scholars whose work Horsthemke has seemingly not taken into account. First, Kwasi Wiredu (2005) makes a case for
the Africanisation of knowledge. For Wiredu (2005: 20), Africanisation means
domesticating knowledge (including science and technology) in African
culture – what he refers to as the harmonisation of technological industrialisation with African traditional communalism. In other words, for Wiredu,
if knowledge originates from the investigations of, say, some Europeans and
is taken up by Africans and used in the interests of Africa, we can speak of
the Africanisation of the use of that knowledge. In his words, ‘If there is an
important truth in the Buddha or Kant or Dewey or Heidegger or Quine,
you can take it and add it to the truths that you have obtained from your
own African tradition of thought.’ What Wiredu argues for is a construction
of knowledge that takes into account the traditions of thought of Africans
combined with those originating from elsewhere in an effort to Africanise
knowledge – in other words, to domesticate knowledge. In agreement with
Horsthemke, I disagree with Sipho Seepe (2000: 19) that the Africanisation of
knowledge involves ‘a process of placing the African world-view at the centre
of analysis … [and] the need to foreground African indigenous knowledge
systems to address problems and challenges’. What needs to be foregrounded is
knowledge that harmonises the universal (say, what comes from Europe) and
the particular (traditional thoughts and practices and not, as Seepe suggests, a
single African worldview). For instance, finding a medical cure for the HIV
and AIDS pandemic cannot be done by relying solely on traditional herbs and
plants prescribed by local sages (wise persons). Rather, scientific contributions
from other sources on finding a cure for HIV and AIDS should be synthesised
with traditional remedies. Similarly, African countries cannot ignore knowledge of how democracies work in the Western world, simply because they
prescribe to indigenous ways of governance. Instead of polarising Western
and African conceptions of democratic governance, these two notions should
be considered as perhaps complementary to the advancement of governance
in African states. In this way, Africanisation cannot mean the foregrounding
of indigenous knowledge systems, at the cost of marginalising other systems,
because this approach would ignore rich contributions from knowledge (say
about democratic governance) developed elsewhere.

4 Introduction
This brings me to a discussion of traditions of inquiry. The beliefs, images,
texts and ‘stock of reasons’ associated with a socially embodied and historically
contingent practice, constitute a tradition (MacIntyre, 1990: 350). Traditions
differ from each other on the basis of what reasons are offered to justify their
beliefs, practices and established institutions. For example, based on the reasons
offered to justify or give an account of a tradition, an Islamic tradition may
differ from a Chinese one. So, when reasons are offered to justify why one
tradition is what it is, such a practice can be called an inquiry. Thus, one can
talk about an Islamic tradition of inquiry as being different from a Western tradition of inquiry – a matter of what justifications (reasons) are given in defence
of a particular tradition. And, what makes an Islamic tradition of inquiry different from a Western one is that the practices, beliefs and institutions of the
former are socially embodied and historically located in the lives of its people.
In a similar way, an African tradition of inquiry involves the beliefs, practices
and institutions of a particular African community. Thus, by looking at the
beliefs as expressed through customs, rituals, modes of dress, village layout and
course of actions of the Zulu community in South Africa, one would get a
sense of such an African tradition of inquiry – a matter of how knowledge is
constructed and enacted within an African tradition.
Moreover, specifically in the case of Africa, an attempt to Africanise, say, an
Islamic tradition of inquiry would be to bring its rational justifications (what
people offer as reasons for their beliefs, practices and institutions – their modes
of inquiry) into conversation, cooperation and conflict with rival traditions of
inquiry of what is considered to be Western, for example. Different traditions
of inquiry have their own reasons for claiming why they should be recognised
and acknowledged. Muslims in South Africa claim that their mode of inquiry
depends on their interpretation of their primary sources (revealed knowledge,
that is Qur`an and Prophetic life experiences). So, living a ‘morally worthwhile’ life would depend on how a Muslim, for instance, implements the
teachings of her primary sources. But, adhering to the tenets of her faith based
on how she understands what moral action involves often may conflict with
the laws of her country – laws contrived by a judiciary. Muslims, for example,
might believe in the death penalty as due punishment for murder, which might
run contrary to the laws of the state. Similarly, many Africans might be more
inclined towards seeking traditional forms of justice, such as the payment of
‘blood money’ rather than turning to the courts of the state. This is what a
practice entails – even if that practice appears to be irreconcilable with the laws
of the state.
Following the aforementioned view on Africanisation as a tradition of
inquiry (what I would refer to as African philosophy of education), it comes as
no surprise that N’Dri Assié-Lumumba (2005) argues for the formation of a new
African philosophy of higher education through a process of fusion – combining African educational traditions and practices with various elements of Asian
(specifically Japanese) and European thought and practice. Her argument for a
redefinition of an African philosophy of education is a significant move towards

Introduction 5
Africanising education along the lines of an African ethos, culture and mode
of knowledge construction – what can be referred to as an African life-world.
Whereas Wiredu and Assié-Lumumba argue for a ‘recovery’ and construction of an African philosophy of education through ‘fusion’ with Western and
other ideas respectively, Horsthemke and Enslin (2005) bring into question
whether the idea of a distinctly and uniquely (South) African philosophy of
education can be salvaged. They do this through identifying (philosophically)
some major deficiencies in proposals of ubuntu, and ideas like communalism
and the common good as the purported basis or philosophical foundation of
African philosophy. For them, the idea that ‘the African viewpoint espouses
harmony and collectivity, whilst the Eurocentric point of view emphasises a
more individualistic orientation towards life’, is a misconception, thus questioning the calls of Wiredu and Assié-Lumumba for a recognition of African
communalism. Horsthemke and Enslin argue that an individualistic orientation
need not be ‘selfish’ or ‘egoistic’, and is ‘perfectly compatible with compassion
and empathy, a concern with other individuals as individuals’ (Horsthemke
and Enslin, 2005: 55). While I concur with Horsthemke and Enslin that an
individualistic orientation is compatible with compassion, I differ with them
on their understanding that African philosophy is about renouncing the individual in favour of community. Instead, as I would consistently argue for in
this book, African philosophy of education as a communitarian practice does
not dismiss the individual per se. In other words, the favouring of community
should not necessarily be understood as being at the expense of the individual.
Rather, it invokes an understanding of education that considers an individual’s
aspirations and actions as constitutive, as an extension of the community, and
not in conflict with the latter.
In focusing on the main argument of the book that an African philosophy
of education as a practice has three constitutive aspects: first, to be reasonable
in one’s articulations; second, to demonstrate moral maturity; and third, to be
attuned to deliberation, I will, in the next section, argue that the efficacy of
teaching and learning could be enhanced if framed according to these three
aspects of an African philosophy of education.

The philosophical practice of African philosophy
of education
The position I wish to explore in this section is that, if one hopes to understand the experiences and conditions of African communities, one first needs
to practise a philosophy of education. Philosophy of education is an activity of inquiry (that is, practice) that enables one to understand the situations
of communities, albeit Africans’ ‘lived experiences’. Hence, I argue that it
is not implausible to refer to an African philosophy of education, because a
philosophy or philosophies of education are activities of methodical inquiry
that enable one to understand, explain, explore, question or deconstruct the
lived experiences of people. Simply put, an African philosophy of education

6 Introduction
explores the lives of African communities and their situations in the same way
that an Islamic philosophy of education examines the lived experiences and
conditions of Muslim communities. The point I am making is that philosophic
activity is not a ‘thing’ or body of knowledge that is neutral and objective, but
rather a mode of intellectual inquiry – reasonable, deliberative and moral.
Any philosophy of education is in some way related to modes of thought
and action that make education what it is. In the Aristotelian sense, to educate
is a human action that tells us something about how people become knowledgeable – how they develop their capacities to understand, reflect on and
attend to achieving ‘the good life’. In this way, through (Western) philosophy of education, human beings attempt to make sense of, and strive towards
achieving, ‘the good life’ – they cooperate with one another and find common ways to interact with their environment. Similarly, Islamic philosophy of
education involves cultivating in Muslims a sense of cooperativeness in terms
of which they relate to one another in the quest to achieve worthwhile ends
– most Muslims want to live peacefully and harmoniously with others in their
surroundings. Since different philosophies of education aim to nurture in people a sense of cooperativeness in terms of which they interact and share with
one another, it would not be unreasonable to assume that an African philosophy of education ought to reflect on, and attend to, what it means for Africans
to live a way of life compatible with their experiences on the African continent. In this regard, to avoid talking of an African philosophy of education
seems to be undesirable and incongruent with the existence of a multiplicity
of philosophies of education that do exist – philosophies of education do take
into account the experiences of people relevant to their contexts. In the same
way that the Chinese might have a preference for a Chinese philosophy of
education, Africans share an African philosophy of education. This brings me
to a discussion of some of the features of an African philosophy of education.
First, Wiredu (2004) claims in a paper entitled ‘Prolegomena to an African
philosophy of education’ that an African philosophy of education cannot be
spoken of without considering what it means for a person to be educated.
This makes sense, because any philosophy of education needs to frame human
action in a way that is commensurate with its underlying meanings. Wiredu
(2004) argues that an educated person is one who possesses reasonable knowledge of her culture and environment, and demonstrates an ability to construct
and articulate defensible arguments. Drawing on his Akan (Ghanaian tribe)
experience, Wiredu (2004) points out that an educated person (referred to as
wapo in the Akan language) is one who is refined, polished, lucid and articulate. Such an educated person is reasonable by virtue of the fact that she
demonstrates linguistic understanding, knows how to use appropriate proverbs
and demonstrates a willingness to listen carefully to what others have to say.
If being reasonable is understood to encompass virtues of articulation and a
willingness to listen to the other, then an African philosophy of education
accentuates the importance of being reasonable – the ability of people to articulate clear and defensible arguments, on the one hand, and to demonstrate a

Introduction 7
willingness to listen carefully to others, on the other. This constitutive view of
an African philosophy of education is shared by Hountondji (2002: 139), who
acknowledges the importance of criticising the views of others, in the sense
that ‘higher-level formulation’ requires that one does not passively accept the
viewpoints of others or ‘the questions that others ask themselves or ask us from
their own preoccupations’ – a practice he refers to as conscious rationality or
reasonableness (Hountondji, 2002: 255). In contending that rationality is not
given in advance, but needs to be developed ‘in a spirit of solidarity and sharing
… so that the germs of ignorance and poverty will be eliminated forever from
planet earth’ (Hountondji, 2002: 258), he asserts that an African philosophy
of education is concerned with the quest to achieve reasonableness so that the
predicament of the African experience – with reference to ignorance and poverty – can be resolved.
Of course, my potential critic might claim that African philosophy of education also allows scope for an analysis and explanation of myth, folklore and
supernaturalism – all aspects of African life that do not always seem to be
commensurate with what is reasonable and logical. For instance, some African
communities might recount their belief in supernatural spirits, which, in the
absence of tangible empirical evidence, might be deemed as irrational by those
outside of these communities. In this sense, it might be argued that an African
philosophy of education seems to be attracted and framed by what can be
perceived to be as unreasonable. While the validity of supernaturalism can be
disputed, it does not negate the fact that sometimes African communities offer
narratives of their beliefs that make their belief fall prey to the unreasonable,
even if this is not true of the evidence they put forward and the arguments
they offer to justify its apparent existence. The point I am making is that,
although the belief itself might be questionable, this does not detract from the
validity of the procedure (lucidity and clarity perhaps) in which the belief can
be recounted, or the narrative, which has given formation to the belief itself.
An African philosophy of education is not concerned mainly with the validity
of the belief or story, but with the procedure according to which the story is
narrated – with lucidity and argumentation that will present reasons for one’s
views. While these reasons might not always appeal to the understanding of
those who listen, or listeners might contest the logic of the narrations, the
existence and proliferation of these beliefs must be understood within the context of a particular life-world.
As far as reasonableness is concerned, Gyekye (1997: 29) makes the point
that African philosophical discourse is embedded in two interrelated processes: rational discourse and the application of a minimalist logic in ordinary
conversations without being conversant with its formal rules. Although
Gyekye recognises the importance of rationality and logic, he does not go far
in explaining what these processes entail, besides claiming that rationality is
a culture-dependent concept and that less formal rules are required if people
want to engage in conversation (Gyekye 1997: 29). By claiming that rationality is a culture-dependent concept, Gyekye avers that the way rationality

8 Introduction
is understood in Western culture, for instance, may not necessarily apply to
African cultures. In other words, it would be quite possible, he contends, to
find within the African past itself a rational ethos – such as in African traditional folktales – which embody critical thought that might be understood
differently to the notion of rationality in Western culture (Gyekye 1997: 236).
Gyekye’s notion of a culture-dependent rationality can be related to a critical re-evaluation of received ideas and an intellectual pursuit related to the
practical problems and concerns of African society. In other words, African
rationality is a critical, re-evaluative response to the basic human problems
that arise in any African society (Gyekye 1997: 19). By critical re-evaluation,
Gyekye (1997: 19, 24) refers to the offering of insights, arguments and conclusions relevant to the African experience by suggesting new or alternative
ways of thought and action. If I understand Gyekye correctly, then he also
relates the articulation of insights, arguments and conclusions to being critical
of political authority and to cultivating self-reflection and an innovative spirit
(1997: 25–27). If I consider criticism, self-reflection and innovation (creativity
and imagination) as touchstones of rationality, then it follows that the insights,
arguments and conclusions one offers cannot be unrelated to being critical,
creative and self-reflexive. In essence, then, I would argue that an African philosophy of education advocates a high degree of reasonableness.
Second, an educated person is one who has attained moral maturity and
refinement (Wiredu, 2004). Such a person has acquired the virtues of honesty, faithfulness and duty to, and empathy for the well-being of others in her
community. This implies that an educated person has developed a sense of
responsibility towards her kin and community. Wiredu (2004) makes the claim
that an individual who has not achieved a sense of morality – responsibility and
empathy towards others – has not achieved personhood or the status of an educated person. This makes an African philosophy of education a highly moral
discourse aimed at cultivating honesty, sincerity, responsibility and empathy
towards others. Such a view of philosophy of education finds expression in the
ideas of Dewey, who argues that the achievement of moral maturity is important in the making of an educated person. What follows from this is that an
African philosophy of education demonstrates the potential to promote justice,
courage and truthfulness in individuals (that is goods or excellences internal
to achieving moral maturity and refinement). In other words, an African philosophy of education aims to contribute to the transformation of educational
discourse in Africa, in particular by empowering communities to participate
in their own educational development, since the empowerment of communities, as well as their educational development, could be achieved through the
use of whatever intellectual skills (rationality) they possess to eliminate the
various dimensions of the African predicament (that is the amelioration of the
human condition that is a consequence of poverty, hunger, famine, unemployment, political oppression, civil wars, colonialism (imperialism) and economic
exploitation) (Oladipo 1992: 24) – a matter of achieving moral goods internal
to the life experiences of Africans.

Introduction 9
Third, an educated person is given to dialogue (Wiredu, 2004). Hountondji
relates an understanding of African philosophy of education to progressive
‘structures of dialogue and argument without which no science [that is, African
philosophy of education] is possible’ (Hountondji, 2002: 73). In my view,
these ‘structures of dialogue and argument’ are constitutive of what an African
philosophy of education as a social practice is about. Any discussion that does
not address these ‘structures of dialogue and argumentation’ does not do justice
to what constitutes an African philosophy of education. But, before I explore
some of the goods internal to consensual dialogue, I first need to take issue
with Hountondji, whose call for African philosophy to be connected to ‘structures of dialogue and argument’ seems to have a paradoxical relationship to his
critique of ethnophilosophy.
If one considers that ethnophilosophy (which takes into account the narratives and life experiences of Africans) and ‘structures of dialogue and
argumentation’ invariably involve listening to the voices of others (no matter
how ill-informed), then it follows that ‘structures of dialogue and argumentation’ cannot simply dismiss oral tradition and cultural narratives – unless,
of course, Hountondji assumes that ‘structures of dialogue and argumentation’ refer only to offering persuasive arguments through a rational articulation
of points of view. But then, rational argumentation and persuasion are not
necessarily related to eloquence and philosophical justification alone. To my
mind, listening to what the other has to say, even though this expression may
be unimportant or inarticulate justification, allows the voices of people who
would otherwise have been muted or marginalised to come to the fore. For
instance, listening to the view of an African sage (ondudu in the language of the
Ovambu, a tribe in Namibia) or of his followers in conversation should not
necessarily imply that, because such a view is perhaps not eloquently expressed,
it ought to be dismissed as irrelevant to the dialogue. What makes dialogue a
conversation is that people are willing to listen to what they have to say to one
another without putting any participants down or dismissing their subjective
views as not worthy of consideration. A dialogue becomes a legitimate conversation when points of view are expressed in a way that allows the other to offer
his or her rejoinder, no matter how ill-informed. The focus and importance
of dialogue, therefore, should be on its content and message, rather than on
its eloquence or expression. To this end, Hountondji’s critique of ethnophilosophy is problematic in that it reflects the moral standpoints and cultural
justifications of people whose exclusion from dialogue would nullify legitimate
conversation among people. Hountondji himself values the importance of listening to others as an ‘advantage of facilitating dialogue and moderating, on
occasion, the excessive passion of the most aggressive opponents’ (Hountondji,
2002: 81). This is perhaps why he claims that his critique of ethnophilosophy
and rejection of collective thought through dialogue were ‘a bit excessive’
(Hountondji, 2002: 128).
If one assumes that ethnophilosophy is considered by many African communities as comprising a body of knowledge (myths, folklores, customs,

10

Introduction

culture and tradition) that determines how philosophy ought to be practised
(which I suspect Hountondji might be doing), then I agree with his rejection of it as African philosophy. This is because ethnophilosophy is treated as
some objective, neutral truth that cannot be questioned and undermined, thus
making ethnophilosophy some universal ‘thing’ that should be valorised as scientific inquiry. However, any philosophy of education refers to an activity that
uses methods of inquiry such as analysis, synthesis, deconstruction, questioning, examination, exploration and exegeses to investigate a phenomenon – in
this case, educational issues related to the African ‘lived experiences’ on the
African continent. This makes African philosophy of education, methodically
speaking, a mode of scientific inquiry and not an objective body of truth, as
ethnophilosophy seems to be depicted.
In this regard, Higgs (2003) does not depict an African philosophy of education as an activity which involves intellectual inquiry that can contribute to
the transformation of educational discourse in South Africa. He claims that an
African philosophy of education ought to empower communities to participate
in their own educational development, since it ‘respects diversity, acknowledges
lived experience and challenges the hegemony of Western Eurocentric forms
of universal knowledge’ (Higgs 2003: 16–17). But his articulation of an African
philosophy of education seems to ignore the sentiments of Oladipo (1992: 24),
on whom he draws largely for his ideas on an African philosophy of education. Oladipo (1992: 24) suggests that the empowerment of communities, as
well as their educational development, could be achieved through the use of
‘whatever intellectual skills they possess to eliminate the various dimensions of
the African predicament (that is, the amelioration of the human condition as
a consequence of poverty, hunger, famine, unemployment, political oppression, civil wars, colonialism (imperialism) and economic exploitation)’. The
point I am making is that Oladipo views an African philosophy of education as
‘intellectual skills’ that have to be used methodically in addressing the African
predicament – philosophy of education is an activity and not some objective
truth that needs to be achieved. Central to Higgs’s argument in defence of a
form of human activism that could ameliorate the disempowered African condition is the notion of ubuntu or humaneness. Ubuntu is a form of humanism that
could engender ‘communal embeddedness and connectedness of a person to
other persons’ (Higgs 2003: 13). Such an understanding of ubuntu could orientate an African philosophy of education towards the cultivation of ‘virtues such
as kindness, generosity, compassion, benevolence, courtesy and respect and
concern for others’ (Higgs 2003: 14). What worries me about Higgs’s view of
an African philosophy of education is his inadequate treatment of philosophy of
education as an activity, specifically in his omission of references in his ideas to
what constitutes an African philosophy of education which explain the activity
as another way of scientific inquiry. While ubuntu is certainly an African ‘lived
experience’ which can be analysed and explained or deconstructed methodically
– that is using the methods of philosophy of education – it cannot, however, be
valorised to the level of philosophic activity – an idea Higgs seems to overlook.

Introduction

11

African philosophy of education as a pedagogical practice
African philosophy of education, with its emphasis on achieving reasonableness, would be inclined towards an approach to teaching and learning whereby
students, for instance, abandon the expectation that prescribed texts and course
readings be considered as master texts – students are regarded instead as reasonable people, which means they become more open to interpreting, analysing
and looking beyond texts. They become less likely to insist on final and certain
conclusions and are more able to deliberate with other students and teachers.
This, of course, requires, first, that teachers develop a well-attuned ear for the
responsive capabilities of students – they become reasonable themselves, and
second, that they refine their range of communicative capabilities in order
to elicit student responses and to nurture them to become self-critical and
deliberative. Moreover, when teachers and students reason together, they give
to one another an intelligible account of their reasoning, show their ability
and their willingness to evaluate the reasons for action advanced to one by
others, so that they make themselves accountable for their endorsements of
the practical conclusions of others as well as for their own conclusions. As far
as teaching educational theory to university students is concerned, university
teachers may cultivate in postgraduate education students an understanding of
critical pedagogy and reflexivity so that they, in turn, can critically and selfreflectively evaluate such concepts. Students can evaluate university teachers’
explication of education concepts by recognising the logical soundness, clarity
and coherence of the arguments produced in justification of these concepts and
may decide to relate these concepts to their educative practices. The point is
that socialising students in education concepts no longer revolves around the
decisions that individual university teachers make, but also around the evaluation of teachers by students, who may decide to use concepts such as critical
pedagogy and reflexivity in their educative practices. In other words, students
may decide to do something with these concepts. These students might decide
to experience what it would mean if these concepts were to be used in action.
For instance, some students might want to experience how other students
would engage with them if they questioned and challenged one another’s
views on, for instance, educational transformation. Dewey (1925: 11) refers to
this kind of pedagogical activity as students and teachers engaging in a transaction. Consequently, the action performed by an individual university teacher
constitutes part of some whole, so that by their performance the whole is
brought into being. University teachers act in the classroom, while at the same
time opportunities are created for students to experience the transaction – they
are not excluded from pedagogical activity. Dewey explains experience as a
(university classroom) practice that leads to ‘patterns of action … [which constitute] the basis of organic learning’ (Dewey 1938: 38).
Second, as teachers we act together with our students to the extent that we
expect to learn with and from them, and we feel less threatened by occasions
on which we sometimes need to admit that we do not know or understand

12

Introduction

everything. In this way, teaching itself is a form of learning anew with others (students), during which the teacher acts as listener, questioner, instructor,
guide and responsible and caring leader – teachers show a sense of moral
maturity and refinement. Only then will our students not be hesitant to make
mistakes or to offer reasons which might at times appear muddled or confusing.
Through our actions we accept as conditional that our classroom practices are
meant to explore and construct, and make allowance for erring. In this regard
I agree with Burbules (1997: 73), who makes the point that our attitudes as
teachers should include accepting as a condition of exploration and discovery
the occasional state of being lost, confused and unsettled. Moreover, when
students and teachers care, they respect one another. Why is respect a condition for deliberative pedagogical activity? In seeking to achieve respect, for
instance in the face of disagreement, we need to attend to the way people hold
or express positions. For example, the way in which university teachers should
treat each other with regard to policy issues – even when the policy debate
ends in legislation and the university takes a position favouring one side of the
dispute – needs to be grounded in principles constituting mutual respect. In
other words, respect is a form of agreeing to disagree, which of course requires
a favourable attitude towards, and constructive interaction with, the persons
with whom one disagrees. The point I am making is that respect should not
merely be an unconditional acceptance of everything people say or propose –
people should agree to disagree. University teachers do not show respect for
students by simply accepting everything they say; students do not show respect
for university teachers merely by imitating them; and they do not show disrespect when they disagree with their teachers. Respect demands that we hold
others to the intellectual and moral standards we apply to ourselves. Excusing
others from the demands of intellectual rigour and honesty or moral sensitivity
and wisdom on the grounds that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion,
no matter how ill-informed or ungrounded, is to treat them with contempt.
We honour others by challenging them when we think they are wrong, and
by thoughtfully taking into consideration their justifiable criticisms of us. To
do so is to take them seriously; to do any less is to dismiss them as unworthy
of serious consideration, which is to say, to treat them with disrespect (Fay
1996: 234). Thus, if university teachers, for example, prevent students from
exercising critical reflection and imagination regarding educational issues, or
if students are unable to give critical evaluations of such matters, their actions
should not be regarded as beyond the pale of critical judgement. Respect also
does not mean that everything students do is ‘fine’, such as when they express
incoherent and unjustifiable points of view. Respect means that students
should be held accountable in supporting and implementing educational issues,
for instance critical pedagogy, on the basis of self-reflection. This implies that
respect does not simply mean acceptance of everything students do. Respect
conceived as mere acceptance of everything students do or say negates the
value of the process of deliberation.

Introduction 13
Third, deliberative university classroom activity (what Hountondji refers to
as ‘structures of dialogue and argumentation’) provides possibilities that can be
used as instruments for making teaching and learning more desirable. Why? In
the first instance, deliberation demands that teachers and students do not merely
accept given educational problem definitions with pre-determined ends that
need to be instrumentally engineered and controlled. Through deliberation,
university teachers and students should approach educational problem-solving
by offering possibilities as to what is achievable and whether achieving it is
desirable (Biesta 2004: 14). It is quite possible to pursue this line of educational
problem-solving because deliberation creates possibilities for university teachers and students to come up with alternative possibilities for desirable action.
Educational problems are not solved in advance. Rather, through deliberation,
possible solutions are imagined, contested and experimented with. For this reason, Ramsden (1992: 19) claims that university education should lead students
to the ‘imaginative acquisition of knowledge’, which would not only encourage
them to think critically, but also to stretch their creative capacities in relation to
others to the point at which they can change ideas. In other words, solutions
to educational problems are imaginatively and deliberatively constructed, and
involve the use of both teachers’ and students’ imaginative powers and creative judgements to come up with ends not previously negotiated. These ends
grow out of the deliberative teacher–student pedagogical activity. In essence,
our deliberative actions in our teaching–learning encounters should also make
us open to the unexpected, the uncertain and the unpredictable. In this way
our teaching–learning encounters cultivate a kind of deliberation without any
preconceived end-point or finality in mind. This attitude invariably leads to
new pathways, new perspectives and new discoveries about what constitutes
education and our different understandings of it.
In sum, I have explored three interrelated constitutive elements of an
African philosophy of education: reasonableness, moral maturity and deliberative dialogue. These features of African philosophy of education demonstrate
its potential to enhance the efficacy of teaching and learning in university
classrooms. Hence, there is justification for an African philosophy of education
as being a practice.
In order to offer further justification for an African philosophy of education as a practice, I have organised this book into seven interrelated chapters
with a postscript. Chapters 1–4 articulate an extended notion of African philosophy of education along the lines of communitarian thought, building on
my initial ideas articulated in this introduction. The argument for an African
philosophy of education as a practice that can contribute towards addressing
the problems encountered by Africa takes on a pragmatic form in relation to
an elucidation of ubuntu (humaneness). Chapters 5–7 offer ways in which a
communitarian notion of African philosophy of education can be used to harness a notion of cosmopolitan justice that can contribute towards enhancing an
understanding of democratic citizenship education, as well as disrupting practices associated with human rights abuses, gender inequality, discrimination

14

Introduction

and the marginalisation of women on the continent. In turn, I show how a
particular understanding of African philosophy of education guides pedagogical
actions such as teaching and learning in the African context.

Note
1 African philosophy in the African historical context does have a voluminous, rich,
distinctive, original and multicultural heritage without just appealing to the beliefs
and practices of ancient Egypt (Hallen, 2009: 22). Its twentieth-century origins can be
traced back to the works of Placide Tempels, who argued in Bantu Philosophy (1949)
that Africans of a Bantu origin were perceived to explain and perceive the world as
expressions of ‘vital forces’ because, according to him, Africans are said to live in a
world that is fundamentally symbolicc and ritualisedd in character (Hallen, 2009: 24). More
importantly, the notion of an African philosophy can also be traced back to the seminal works of W.E. Abraham, in The Mind of Africa (1962), and John Mbiti, in African
Religions and Philosophy (1969). Abrahams chooses an essentialist interpretation of
African culture such as that all cultures are said to share fundamental beliefs and values,
and uses Gilbert Ryle’s conceptual analysis to advocate a methodologically pluralistic
approach to the study of the philosophical in Africa’s indigenous cultures (Abraham,
1962: 104–105). Mbiti considers African philosophy as subordinate to African religion
and argues that every culture has a ‘philosophy of life’ or ‘worldview’ on God, creation
and the afterlife, without focusing on technically philosophical problems. His works
are best known for the expressed importance of communal life in the African context
(Mbiti, 1970: 141). Thus, because of Abraham’s social anthropological contribution
and Mbiti’s bias to religious thought, African philosophy has been characterised as
essentially ‘traditional’ in character – a terms that did not do much for African philosophy as an academic discipline, as the ‘traditional’ became associated with what is
‘prescientific’ and ‘emotive’ (Hallen, 2009: 28).

1

In defence of a
communitarian view
of African philosophy
of education

Introduction
In this chapter I examine what constitutes African philosophy of education,
focusing on African thought and practices. Primarily I shall examine how
African ethnophilosophy of education differs from a scientific African philosophy of education, before arguing in defence of a communitarian, reasonable and
culture-dependent view of African philosophy of education. Concomitant with
the aforementioned view of philosophy of education, I argue that criticisms of
an African philosophy of education should not be taken lightly. Hence, analytically I also address some of the objections to and concerns about the use of the
concept that some people might have and show that an African philosophy of
education can be considered as a plausible concept, at least in the analytical sense.
This brings me to a discussion of African ethnophilosophy of education.

African ethnophilosophy of education
Taking my cue from Burbules and Abowitz (2008: 268), philosophy of education can be considered as a practice, that is ‘a socially established, cooperative
human activity that has normative standards that govern its activity, and which
is adapted to local contexts and innovations over time’. This ‘situated’ notion
of philosophy of education departs from two dominant and dichotomous
views: First, the view that embraces a ‘commitment to timeless standards of
argument and reason, and its recurring attention to fundamental questions of
truth, value and meaning that establish continuity across philosophers from
before Socrates to the present day’; and second, the radically historicised view
that integrates the expression of worldviews within a particular cultural and historical context, always partisan and implicated in social dynamics of power, and
merely contingent in its ability to persuade or compel’ (Burbules and Abowitz,
2008: 268). Before I make a case for a communitarian, reasonable and culturedependent view of African philosophy of education that can be considered
as a ‘situated’ philosophy of education in order to ‘illuminate the significant
educational dimensions underlying major philosophical problems’ (Burbules
and Abowitz, 2008: 273), I shall examine how African ethnophilosophy of
education connects with aspects of the afore-mentioned two dominant views.

16

In defence of a communitarian view

It seems as if African ethnophilosophy of education is concerned with the
history, culture, language and traditions of Africa’s peoples, including evidences
offered through a reference to indigenous folklore, proverbs, oral narratives,
artefacts, wise sayings of sages, and superstitions (Appiah, 2000: 123–124).
This approach to African ethnophilosophy conceives philosophy of education
as an engagement with ‘communal thought … [as] opposed to seeing [and
examining it] as a body of logically argued thoughts of individuals’ (Bodunrin,
1981: 161). Thus, from the myths, folktales, beliefs, proverbs and languages,
ethnophilosophy envisages to (re)construct a quintessential African approach to
education (Seller, 1984: 21). A prominent proponent of an African ethnophilosophy of education is Oruka (1990). Although he was emphatic in his earlier
manuscripts that African philosophy of education could not be equated with
ethnophilosophy of education, he later became more accepting of the concept
and concedes that it (that is ethnophilosophy) occupies a significant place in
African philosophy of education. While Oruka (2002) distinguishes ethnophilosophy from philosophic sagacity, the thoughts and words of men and
women who are considered to be the wise ones within African communities
are constitutive of what an ethnophilosophic practice entails. This is because
examining cultural artefacts, narratives and the wisdom of age-old beliefs is in
fact an activity of an ethnocentric nature – one that occurs through participation, observation and description. Considering that African ethnophilosophy
of education is attentive, on the one hand, to truth, culture and the meanings of African people’s thoughts and practices and, on the other hand, to the
historical and cultural worldviews of often authoritarian persons (such as the
sages), African ethnophilosophy of education has an inherent connection with
metaphysical value judgements that are invariably couched in the discourse
of philosophic activity, albeit in a complex and ambiguous way. For instance,
African sages do reflect on and offer reasons for and arguments on the nature
of the person, freedom of the will, immortality, and how to live one’s life.
Yet, at times, sages justify their reasons in relation to authoritarian traditional
thought such as an appeal to ‘what our ancestors said’ or ‘to gods and all sorts
of spirits’ (Appiah, 2000: 127). It is an appellation to superstition that brings
African ethnophilosophy of education into conflict with the rigour of reason
and argumentation (Wiredu, 1980: 41), that is, the critical and reflective nature
of philosophy of education itself. What the latter point reveals is not a rejection of African ethnophilosophy of education per se, as concepts such as life,
meaning, person, mind, reality, reason, understanding, truth, good and justice
are central to the canon of such a philosophy of education. In fact, the uncritical treatment of African ethnophilosophy of education would undermine
the activities of analysis, exposition and critique – all considered as critical to
philosophy of education. Therefore, Wiredu (1980) – an Anglophone philosopher from Ghana – and Hountondji (1983) – a francophone philosopher from
Benin – have emerged as two vehement critics of an African ethnophilosophy
of education. In continuing, I will now offer an analysis of their criticisms.

In defence of a communitarian view

17

For Wiredu (1980: ix), African ethnophilosophy of education considers
traditional modes of thought as too restrictive in the sense that African ethnophilosophers (I would argue, of education) are too unreflective and unwilling
to borrow and refine methods of Western philosophical analysis that can be
applied to the conceptual problems of African life. This criticism of African ethnophilosophy of education is corroborated by Kaphagawani (2000: 91), who
asserts that ‘Ethnophilosophy [of education] has come under a lot of criticism.
It has been charged with conflating philosophy, mysticism, and religion, and
hence paying lip-service to reason and critical analysis’. I agree with Wiredu
(and Kaphagawani, for that matter) to the extent that African ethnophilosophy of education cannot be blind to philosophical methods of reflection and
argumentation that have proved to be so successful in Western philosophy. It
does not make sense to ignore the ideas of, say, Kant, Hegel, Wittgenstein or
Dewey in order to think differently about education on the African continent
and to assume that geographic positioning alone can resolve major problems
that beset African communities. To have a disdain for Hegelian thought just
because Hegel did not live on the African continent and that his ideas therefore
might be inappropriate to Africa would be tantamount to depriving ourselves
of gaining insights into the ways others not from Africa conceived of the world
and its problems, as well as the of ways in which the latter have been addressed,
instead of remaining philosophically naïve. In fact, to adopt a disdainful attitude towards the views of those, who are not African, would be undermining
of an African philosophy itself – since it would imply that any contribution
from the African continent cannot have any bearing beyond Africa. And yet,
Africa has the most to gain, since, as Appiah (2000: 118) notes – there is too
little written about Africa that is philosophically serious, and refers to such
a deliberate rejection of others’ views as mere ‘carping’. It is for this reason
that Wiredu (1980) made a sustained assault on the preservation of traditional
thought and practices that are not subjected to critical scrutiny through others’ value systems. This does not mean that one must simply project Western
philosophical thinking onto indigenous ways of knowing and doing. Rather,
for African ethnophilosophy of education to be considered as philosophical,
it also must reflect a willingness to engage with the methods and claims of
other traditions, albeit of a Western kind. In this regard, Wiredu (1980: 10)
posits: ‘[the concern of] … a contemporary African philosopher’s conception
of African (ethno)philosophy is whether it enables him to engage fruitfully in
the activity of modern (Western) philosophising with an African conscience’.
Hountondji’s (1983: 104) objection to African ethnophilosophy of education is premised on the view that such a philosophy not only belongs to entire
communities, but that it exists mostly in oral tradition. The fact that such a
philosophy is considered the proprietorship of communities makes the issue
about negotiating and compromising on beliefs and traditions almost impracticable, as is the case with several indigenous communities failing to relinquish
their adherence to superstitious beliefs and their insistence on using mainly traditional herbal remedies, often at the expense of curative Western medicines.

18

In defence of a communitarian view

However, what is somewhat disconcerting about Hountondji’s assertion in
connection with ‘orality’ being considered as a necessary condition for the
existence of philosophy and philosophy of education is the view that the oral
tradition does not contribute to African philosophy of education’s status as
an exact ‘science’. According to him, ‘African philosophy … [of education
is] a set of texts, specifically the set of texts written by Africans themselves
and described as philosophical by their authors themselves’ (Hountondji,
1983: 33). Of course, written texts afford people an opportunity to systematically engage with the coherent forms of argumentation and they might respond
more insightfully and critically to the authored pieces of writing. However,
even an existing piece of authorship does not necessarily secure sophisticated
articulation or persuasive argumentation, as is often the case with several written journal articles and books on, say, the subject of ethnophilosophy itself.
However, texts do offer readers opportunities to engage with the ideas of
others through sustained efforts of criticism, reflection and evaluation which
might not always be possible if one just listens to the oral narratives of others.
And while Hountondji might be right to question African ethnophilosophy of
education’s abundant reliance on ‘orality’, to claim that ‘orality’ is unacceptable and inconsistent with the demands of ‘science’ is to assume a too radical
position. Because if Africa’s peoples were to begin to construct solutions for
Africa’s political, cultural and economic problems on the basis of talking to one
another and learning to talk back (instead of just reading and communicating
through texts), it might just be the catalyst required by Africans to deliberate in
and about a common language of understanding. While I am not dismissive of
Hountondji’s critique, I find his position somewhat too exuberant and overzealous in the quest to solve major philosophical problems with an educational
impetus on the African continent. I now turn my attention to a discussion of
scientific African philosophy of education.

Scientific African philosophy of education
A major theoretical statement on what constitutes a scientific African philosophy of education is related to the seminal thoughts of Hountondji (2002: 84)
– a vociferous critic of African ethnophilosophy. He considers repetitive stories recounted from generation to generation as unsophisticated constructions
of human speech, and hence in contradistinction with the methodology of
philosophy itself. He argues that philosophy is a ‘strict science’ aimed at ‘challenging, explaining, interpreting with a view to transforming’ (Hountondji,
2002: 91). And, contrary to such a view, he avers that African ethnophilosophy
of education is uncreative in that it enables one to indulge ‘lazily [in] seeking
refuge … behind the thought[s] of the ancestors’ (Hountondji, 2002: 128). He
warns against ‘the temptation of a reductive, unilateral, and overly simplifying
reading of cultures, and especially, of the worldviews of the African continent’
(Hountondji, 2002: 81). His valorisation of ‘science’ seeks to situate African
philosophy of education as a legitimate form of methodological inquiry with

In defence of a communitarian view

19

the same aims as those of any other philosophy in the world, within the geographical context of its authors (Hountondji, 2002: 126). In short, African
philosophy of education is that form of methodological inquiry that relies on
rational justification and interpretive argumentation with the intent to bring
about a critical transformation of African thought and practice. In the main,
his task, as he puts it, was to establish the legitimacy of an intellectual project
that was both authentically African and authentically philosophical (Appiah in
Hountondji, 2002: xiii).
Moreover, Hountondji connects his thesis of a scientific African philosophy of education to progressive ‘structures of dialogue and argument
without which no science (that is African philosophy of education) is possible’ (Hountondji, 2002: 73). It seems as if, for Hountondji, ‘structures of
dialogue and argument’ are constitutive of what a scientific representation
of African philosophy of education shows. Conversely any misrecognition
or non-commitment to ‘structures of dialogue and argumentation’ would
distort any credible, scientific African philosophy of education. But before I
explore how Hountondji’s scientific acclaim of African philosophy of education relates to some of the methodological concerns of two of the dominant
views of philosophy of education, as alluded to in the beginning of this
chapter, I first need to take issue with Hountondji, whose call for a scientific
African philosophy of education to be connected to ‘structures of dialogue
and argument’ seems somewhat ambiguous in relation to his critique of
African ethnophilosophy of education.
Considering that philosophy takes into account the narratives and life experiences of Africans, whose ‘structures of dialogue and argumentation’ invariably
involve listening to the voices of others (no matter how ill-informed), then
it follows that ‘structures of dialogue and argumentation’ cannot simply dismiss oral tradition and cultural narratives – unless Hountondji assumes that
‘structures of dialogue and argumentation’ relate only to offering persuasive
arguments through a rational articulation of points of view. But then rational
argumentation and persuasion are not necessarily related to eloquence and
philosophical justification alone. To my mind, listening to what the other has
to say, albeit unimportant or inarticulate justifications, brings to the fore the
voices of people who would otherwise have been muted or marginalised. For
instance, the view of an African sage (ondudu) or his followers, offered in conversation, should not necessarily be dismissed as irrelevant to the dialogue just
because it may possibly not be expressed eloquently. What makes a dialogue a
conversation is that people are willing to listen to one another’s ideas without
putting them down or dismissing their subjective views as being unworthy of
consideration. A dialogue becomes a legitimate conversation when points of
view are expressed in a way that allows the other to offer his or her rejoinder, no matter how ill-informed. In view of this, Hountondji’s critique of
African ethnophilosophy of education does not hold water, since it reflects the
moral standpoints and cultural justifications of people whose exclusion from
dialogue would nullify legitimate conversation among people. Hountondji

20

In defence of a communitarian view

himself values the importance of listening to others as an ‘advantage of facilitating dialogue and moderating, on occasion, the excessive passion of the most
aggressive opponents’ (Hountondji, 2002: 81). This perhaps is why he claims
that his earlier critique of African ethnophilosophy of education and rejection
of collective thought through dialogue were ‘a bit excessive’ (Hountondji,
2002: 128).
Similarly, listening to the stories of others does not mean that one uncritically accepts everything someone else has to say. Dialogue also means that one
challenges and questions the points of view of others, if these points of view
might not seem to be valid within the matrix of one’s understanding, or if one
has not been convinced of the legitimacy of the articulations of the other person. Hountondji (2002: 139) acknowledges the importance of criticising the
views of others in the sense that ‘higher-level formulation’ requires that one
does not passively accept the viewpoints of others or ‘the questions that others
ask themselves or ask us from their own preoccupations’ – a practice he refers
to as conscious rationality (Hountondji, 2002: 255). His contention is that
rationality is not given in advance. Instead, it needs to be developed ‘in a spirit
of solidarity and sharing … so that the germs of ignorance and poverty will be
eliminated forever from planet earth’ (Hountondji, 2002: 258). To my mind,
Hountondji paradoxically advocates a notion of dialogue and argumentation
that does not necessarily have to exclude the stories of others – that is to say,
he makes a claim for some of the methodological aspects of African ethnophilosophy that he seemingly finds irrelevant to the discourse of scientific African
philosophy of education.
The argument that a scientific African philosophy of education invokes and
advocates rational deliberation and argumentation can be connected to the
dominant view of philosophy of education as a mode of inquiry, because scientific African philosophy of education wants to retain a sense of distanced
objectivity through a commitment to timeless standards of dialogical argument
and reason and, of course, its recurring attention to fundamental questions of
truth, value and meaning – as if the voices of others in the oral tradition are
forms of untruth and of insignificant value and meaning. Perhaps, inherent in
Houtondji’s depiction of ‘higher-level formulation’ is a misconceived analogy
with sophisticated articulation, and therefore, truthful meaning. Hountondji’s
obsession with framing scientific African philosophy of education along the
constraints of ‘dialogue and argumentation’ seems to be at variance with the
other hegemonic view of philosophy of education as a radically historicised
account of philosophy that acknowledges and articulates the worldviews of
Africans within their particular cultural and historical contexts. Surely discounting the oral stories of people is tantamount to disconnecting them from
their cultural and historical contexts. Therefore it seems as if Hountondji’s
valorisation of scientific African philosophy of education is actually a recommitment to the view of philosophy as a form of distanced objectivity – a ‘view
from nowhere’ that does not recognise people (with their imperfections and
corporeal conditions) to be real, material agents of the practice of philosophy

In defence of a communitarian view

21

of education. In this way, it seems as if Hountondji wants to establish and
maintain African philosophy of education as a pure and immaterial ‘science’.
On the contrary, African philosophy of education (like any philosophy of education) cannot be dehistoricised, because, in their attempts to address recurrent
human problems and concerns, all practices happen over time, and these practices cannot be divorced from the people who lay claim to them. Likewise,
African philosophy of education cannot be disconnected from the cultural
beliefs, norms and oral traditions of people, as human concerns, although not
transcendental and always universal, are certainly culturally situated. To avoid
undermining ‘dialogue and argumentation’, and because an African philosophy
of education cannot be distanced from historically and culturally embedded
human activity, I want to suggest an alternative view of African philosophy
of education. Such a view draws on both aspects of the dichotomous views of
philosophy of education – one that is decidedly not just a form of distanced
objectivity, and one that does not overwhelmingly rely on the conventions of
people’s beliefs and values. Rather, I want to offer a view of African philosophy of education grounded in both reason and culture in order to illuminate
the educational dimensions of major philosophical problems on the African
continent in a different way. It is to such a discussion that I now turn my
attention.

Towards a communitarian, reasonable and
culture-dependent view of African philosophy of education
An African philosophy of education that is communitarian has in mind two
practices: first, that what people do is as a result of engagement, and not just
as a result of participating communally, as if acting in community implies
that people just meet without any serious sharing of ideas and even taking one another’s points of view into systematic controversy. Claiming that
an African philosophy of education should have a communitarian affiliation
implies that one recognises that such a philosophy creates opportunities for
human engagement. Second, to engage with one another in a communitarian spirit requires that one actually recognises the other persons with whom
one engages to have a legitimate voice that should be heard. Put differently,
communitarianism implies that one has a due regard for what the other has
to say and actually listens while the other is talking. By implication, for an
African philosophy of education to be communitarian, it has in mind people
engaging with one another while simultaneously affording one another the
time and communal space to be heard, in the form of listening to what others
have to say and to engender talking back. What follows from such a communitarian argument is that conditions would be established for people to be
reasonably and culturally engaged. Communitarianism can be traced back to
the seminal thoughts of three political philosophers: Michael Sandel (1982),
Michael Walzer (1983) and Charles Taylor (1989). Sandel (1982) coined
the term ‘encumbered selves’ to argue that individuals act according to a

22

In defence of a communitarian view

complex web of responsibilities to others and convictions imparted through
communities – in other words, people rarely act in their own self-interests.
Walzer (1983) posits that people have an inclination to establish political
identities that arise from historical situations wherein they see themselves
as members of tribes and cultures. Taylor (1989) emphasises the dialogical positioning of human selves and argues that humans can enjoy shared,
common goods as opposed to goods that are merely convergent individual
goods. Together, these three views constitute the basis of communitarian
thinking that offers a critique of the abstract, atomistic, and individualist
aspirations of people associated with parochial liberalist thought. Thus, ontologically speaking, communitarianism accentuates the communal and/or
relational nature of human selves, which, in turn, advocates for a recovery of
the primacy of community in social relations among people. Although not
denying individualism, communitarianism envisages social relations that can
be enhanced through human freedom and autonomy – that is, human actions
that are biased towards the cultivation of community and shared, common
goods. Following such a communitarian position, I contend that African
philosophy of education would be most favourably positioned to be attentive
to communal human aspirations that allow space for the enactment of human
freedom, autonomy and the cultivation of shared, common goods.
The question arises: how can a communitarian African philosophy of education engender reasonableness? My argument in defence of reasonableness
– a word I borrowed from Burbules (1995) – is premised on the idea that an
African philosophy of education cannot just
adhere strictly to the rules of logic and argumentation [according to the
metanarrative of ‘rationality’]. ‘Rationality’ has often been considered,
first, as an ‘artefact of patriarchy’ that denigrates intuition, affect and situational apperception, which are more salient for how women come to
know, come to understand, or come to judge alternative courses of action;
and second, as a privileged mode of thought or form of ideological speech
that serves as a buttress to relations of domination and oppression, and
indeed as a mode of domination and oppression itself, since it discourages
and demoralises any point of view or claim that cannot be legitimated
within its purview.
(Burbules, 1995: 88)
As aptly stated by Burbules (1995: 89):
In cultures [like those on the African continent] that have been exploited
and victimised by previous impositions of religious, economic, or political
systems, the proclamation of rationality as a neutral, universal arbiter of
legitimate thought and action is perceived as one more system of control
being imposed from without.

In defence of a communitarian view

23

In light of the aforementioned criticisms, I want to use reasonableness as a
defensible conception of reason that can respond to assumptions that ‘rationality’ is too absolutistic and intolerant of other views, and in fact disadvantages
and excludes potential participants from discussions about what should constitute a good society. In a similar way, I want to offer an account of an African
philosophy of education that connects with and advocates a notion of reasonableness. In this way, African philosophy of education would be prevented
from running the risk of being considered as an essential or universal guide to
all human thought and action.
The central insights of reasonableness as proposed by Burbules (1995: 90)
are twofold. First, reasonableness
relates reasoning to the dispositions and capacities of a certain kind of
person, not to formal rules and procedures of thought … [so that a] person who is reasonable wants to make sense, wants to be fair to alternative
points of view, wants to be careful and prudent in the adoption of important positions in life, is willing to admit when he or she has made a mistake,
and so on; and these qualities are not exhibited simply by following certain
formal rules of reasoning. They are enormously more complex than that,
because they are manifested in a broad range of situations that are not governed by such formal rules.
And second, reasonableness ‘concerns the capacity to enter into the types of
communicative relations in which persons together inquire, disagree, adjudicate, explain, or argue their views in the pursuit of a reasonable outcome (i.e., an
outcome that reasonable people are satisfied with)’. Hence, reasonableness has
both a dispositional and a communicative aspect. The disposition of reasonableness shows itself when people listen to one another caringly and reflectively,
whereas the communicative aspect of reasonableness encourages people to
work towards an outcome that has not been predetermined and concluded
in advance through some kind of logical argumentation. Instead, a reasonable
approach to an African philosophy of education, I would argue, is manifested
in the thoughts, conversations and choices that the persons involved in the
practice of education pursue towards some conclusion (Burbules, 1995: 92).
I shall now examine how reasonableness through an African philosophy of
education can be achieved.
Once again, following Burbules (1995: 90), to be reasonable implies that
one exercises one’s disposition and communicative capacity in order to be
objective, to be fallible, to be pragmatic and to judge. So, an African philosophy of education ought to be framed along the lines of objectivity, fallibilism,
pragmatism and judgement. First, objectivity implies that one has a thoughtful and sympathetic regard for other views in order to realise that each person
has something to say, so that one is distanced from the attitude that there is or
can be one ‘best’ way of all. In other words, one acknowledges ‘the limits of
one’s capacity to appreciate fully the viewpoints of others, or caring enough

24

In defence of a communitarian view

about others to exert the effort necessary to hear and comprehend what they
are saying’ (Burbules, 1995: 90). Here, I think specifically of many African
elders, sages and men who bluntly refuse to listen to the views of those men
and boys they regard as too young and immature to be listened to and those
women whose voices are to be silenced. An African philosophy of education
cannot be credible if it is buttressed by practices that emphasise the exclusion
and marginalisation of the other.
Second, fallibilism is a capacity of one to recognise that one can make mistakes, and admit (to one’s self, and possibly to others) that one was wrong. If
people are not afraid of making mistakes and experiencing failure, error and
disappointment, then the possibility exists for them to be reasonable (Burbules,
1995: 91). An African philosophy of education that is premised on the notion
of fallibilism does not aspire to consider people’s practices as conclusive without any room for further improvement. Such a philosophy in any case would
undermine the very aims of an education that encourage openness, a search for
the improbable and, simultaneously, remaining open to the unexpected. A philosophy of education that insists on the conclusive mastery of predetermined
outcomes could potentially make students blind to rational reflection and
imagination. Solway (1999: 64) posits that outcomes alone might develop in
students ‘only the feeblest sense of individual obligation for their performance
and will not likely grow [that is, students] into autonomous selves capable of
reflection, intellectual dignity, and moral answerability for their own accomplishments or even for lack of such’. An African philosophy of education that
aims to produce measurable outcomes vindicates its focus on objectification
that regards the world as an object detached from the self-understandings of
people (Taylor, 1985: 5). With regard to objectification, Gallagher (1992: 174)
argues that people consider themselves as disengaged from ties to nature, society and history, and preoccupied with exercising power and control over their
environment, nature and others. In this way, specifying outcomes can be associated, without an appeal to rational reflection and imagination, with control
and the manipulation of students – a situation that philosophy of education on
the African continent cannot afford to let happen, for such a situation would
once again colonise and dominate African minds.
Third, pragmatism provokes in people a belief in the importance of practical
problems, whether intellectual, moral or political. It is an outlook that is sensitive to the particulars of given contexts and the variety of human needs and
purposes (Burbules, 1995: 91). A pragmatic and therefore reasonable person
approaches ‘the present problems with an open mind, a willingness and capacity
to adapt, and persistence in the face of initial failure or confusion’. An African
philosophy of education that has in mind to cultivate pragmatic minds not only
‘reflects a tolerance for uncertainty, imperfection, and incompleteness as the
existential conditions of human thought, value, or action … [but] recognises
the need for persistence and flexibility in the face of such difficulties’ (Burbules,
1995: 91). Such a pragmatic view of African philosophy of education would
afford Africans the opportunities to be willing and open when confronted with

In defence of a communitarian view

25

political and moral problems that beset the continent, whether brought about
by dictatorships or by a discomfort with ethnic difference. Africans inspired
by such a philosophy of education would begin to recognise the urgency to
adapt to changing and difficult political, social and economic conditions, and
actually brace themselves to deal with the uncertainty and complexity spawned
by poverty, famine, hunger, political corruption, authoritarianism, and ethnic
intolerance and violence. In the main, Africans would be inspired to find practical and hopefully appropriate solutions for their problems.
Fourth, practising judgement implies that a person exercises ‘a capacity to
hold competing considerations in balance, to accept tensions and uncertainties
as the conditions of serious reflection’ (Burbules, 1995: 92). Reasonable persons are judicious about when and how they follow the dictates of argument
in the strict sense of the term, and they are receptive to the influence of other
kinds of persuasion as well (Burbules, 1995: 92). I now want to concentrate on
judgement as the capacity to reflect on arguments, and to be receptive to other
kinds of persuasions. Burbules is right when he claims that a capacity to judge
implies that one has to be receptive to other kinds of persuasion. However,
I differ from him when he argues that judgement involves adhering to the
dictates of argumentation in the strict sense of the term. If other kinds of persuasion to which one has to be receptive are not articulated strictly according
to the dictates of ‘logical’ argumentation – that is, what Burbules refers to as
attempts to be ‘clear, coherent and accurate’ (2008: 270), then the need to be
open to other kinds of persuasion does not seem to be a valid point. For this
reason, I am more inclined to the views of Gyekye (1997), who argues that
African philosophical discourse embeds two interrelated processes: ‘rational’
discourse and the application of a ‘minimalist logic’ in ordinary conversations without being conversant with formal rules of conversation. Although
Gyekye recognises the importance of ‘rationality’ and ‘logic’ in argumentation, and, besides claiming that ‘rationality’ is a culture-dependent concept
and that less formal rules are required if people want to engage in conversations (Gyekye, 1997: 29), he does not detail what these processes entail. My
own position, following Burbules, has been to move away from ‘rationality’,
which I suspect Gyekye also attempts to do by connecting the metanarrative
with ‘minimalist logic’. In a way, Gyekye and Burbules concur without the
former dropping the term ‘rationality’. However, Gyekye’s sensitivity towards
the use of a ‘minimalist logic’ implies that he does not want to adhere strictly
to ‘rationality’ in the universalistic sense. Therefore he talks about ‘rationality’
as a culture-dependent concept, by which he means that the way ‘rationality’
is understood, for instance in Western culture, may not necessarily apply to
African cultures. I agree, hence the use of the notion of reasonableness. African
traditional folktale can be reasonable, as it embodies critical thought that might
be understood starkly differently from a reasonable concept in a different culture. Gyekye’s notion of a ‘culture-dependent rationality’ can be related to
a critical re-evaluation of received ideas and an intellectual pursuit related to
the practical problems and concerns of African society – a matter of being

26

In defence of a communitarian view

reasonable. For example, Gyekye (1997: 237) relates how the wisdom of the
elders (whom he refers to as philosophical sages) could be used meaningfully to
cultivate reconciliation in tribal communities in African nation-states. The way
these sages resolve conflict is to explain to offenders that peaceful life is natural
and willed both by God and human beings. This culture-dependent reasonableness puts the conflicting parties in a situation in which they cannot refuse
to reconcile, since refusal would imply that they are against the natural course
of events and, ultimately, against the will of God. In other words, African
reasonableness is a critical, re-evaluative response to the basic human problems
that arise in any African society (Gyekye, 1997: 19). By critical re-evaluation,
Gyekye (1997: 19–24) means the offering of insights, arguments and conclusions relevant to the African experience by suggesting new ways or alternative
ways of thought and action. If I understand Gyekye (1997: 25–27) correctly,
then he also relates the articulation of insights, arguments and conclusions to
being critical of political authority, self-reflection and the cultivation of an
innovative spirit. If I consider criticism, self-reflection and innovation (creativity and imagination) as virtues of reasonableness, then it follows that the
insights, arguments and conclusions one offers cannot be unrelated to being
critical, creative and reflexive. If I relate Gyekye’s thoughts on reasonableness
to an African philosophy of education, then such a philosophy creates space
for critically questioning one another’s perspectives, allowing for a reflexive
re-evaluation of the position one holds in a spirit of openness and non-dogmatism, and re-evaluating one’s earlier position in the light of new information in
quite an imaginative way. These are important aspects of an African philosophy of education that would go some way to making conversations justifiably
persuasive and, hence, reasonable.
Gyekye seems to suggest that, taking into account their history and culture, Africa’s people ought to be less formal in argumentative conversations.
This implies that people should not strictly apply rules of adhering to the
most persuasive argument or following an argument systematically. If my
reading of Gyekye is correct, then it means that conversations should not
only be confined to articulating points of view in a defensible way through
rigorous argumentation and debate in terms of which points of view are
challenged and undermined; or, where persuasion and the quest for the
better argument become necessary conditions for such forms of inquiry. I
agree, since illiteracy and the lack of eloquence of ordinary citizens would
exclude them from the conversations. Gyekye (1997: 27) contends that
African colonial and postcolonial experience has had enduring effects on
the mentality acquired by many Africans to look for answers to Africa’s
problems outside Africa, more specifically in European culture. It is this
same attitude on the part of most of Africa’s people that causes them to
suppress their own opinions in preference to the wisdom of sages. I do not
think that Gyekye would dismiss the wisdom of sagacity in argumentation,
since the individual’s inclinations, orientations, intuitions and outlooks are
important to philosophical inquiry (Gyekye, 1997: 12). However, Gyekye’s

In defence of a communitarian view

27

view suggests that ways should be found to make the less eloquent, illiterate and seemingly inarticulate person express his or her thoughts. For this
reason, his call for the application of less formal rules in conversations seems
to be valid. In this regard, I have a suspicion that Gyekye’s emphasis on the
application of a ‘minimalist logic’ in conversations (that is, relying less on
rules of articulation and coherence of argumentation) has some connection
with allowing Africa’s people to articulate their oral narratives about their
beliefs, values, folktales, drama and cultural traditions, without having to
entirely convince others of their cultural orientations. This makes sense for
the reason that many of Africa’s people do not necessarily know the ‘logical’
reasons for their beliefs and values, which were bequeathed them by their
ancestral past. The idea of asking for a ‘minimalist logic’ would establish
conditions that would include people, rather than exclude them from the
conversation and where the force of ‘strict’ reasons per se is not sufficient to
guide our conduct. In fact, including them in the conversation might open
up possibilities for them to begin to challenge and question their own positions self-reflexively – a matter of acting reasonably. I agree with Burbules
(1995: 92) when he avers:
In the actual practice of human communication, strict argumentation,
even in an elliptical sense, is very rare; alongside that is an enormous range
of interlocutory styles, including questions, allusions, unsubstantiated suggestions, metaphors, and other tropes, as well as an even broader range of
expressions, gestures, touches, musical sounds, and other kinds of communication. The capacity of all these sorts of utterances to move us is
‘extra-rational’ only in a very narrow sense of that term.
I think that an African philosophy of education is also concerned with the
unsubstantiated suggestions and broader range of expressions, gestures, touches
and other kinds of communication of Africa’s peoples as they endeavour to
interact in their social contexts, mutually explore, and negotiate the pursuit of
common understanding.

African philosophy of education as a practice that attends
to the educational dimensions of major philosophical
problems
For too long philosophers and educationists have been scratching their heads
about what constitutes an African philosophy of education. As I have shown,
there have been several positions taken up by theoreticians on what should and
ought to be considered as African philosophy and philosophy of education.
These positions fluctuate from those that assign a privileged status to African
ethnophilosophy and ethnophilosophy of education to those notions that
accord African philosophy and philosophy of education an exclusive scientific
position commensurate with an objectified, universal ‘science’. Inasmuch as

28

In defence of a communitarian view

proponents of the aforementioned two strands of African philosophy of education insist on retaining exclusiveness and objectivity, my argument has been
for a more balanced position that draws both on reasonableness and cultural
orientation as determinants of African philosophy of education. And the communitarian position I have argued for straddles equivocally between particular
understandings of reason and culture. These understandings rely on elements
of objectivity, fallibilism, pragmatism and judgement that can each be explored
in ways that do justice to the diversity of human thoughts, values and forms
of life on the African continent. These four elements show the potential to be
flexible enough to accommodate a range of human processes of communication and engagement. And, in quite an intelligent, committed and caring way,
a communitarian, reasonable and culture-dependent idea of African philosophy of education shows the promise of identifying some of the educational
dimensions of human thought and action that underscore major philosophical
problems. The next section is an attempt to show what educational dimensions can be identified in major philosophical problems associated with African
thought and practice.
First, a major philosophical problem that prevails on the African continent is what Kochalumchuvattil (2010: 108) refers to as the lack of ‘subjective
becoming’. For him, ‘the self is defined in relation to a larger social or ethnic
group which encompasses not only the living but also the dead, the spirits, and
the unborn.’ Consequently, he argues that the individual remains unliberated
because of his or her attachment to the bonds of the ethnic group – that is, the
individual’s primary responsibility is to the tribe or ethnic clan that stunts the
individual’s pursuit of self-determination. I agree that self-determination and
responsibility can go far in tackling the persistent problems besetting Africa. I
do not disagree with the fact that serious humanitarian problems are manifest
and widespread in Africa and that periodic occurrences of ethnic cleansing, the
persistent conflict, the breakdown of democracy under the rule of dictatorships,
the perennial outbreak of ethnic violence, the continuing marginalisation and
at times, abuse of women, the widespread growth of HIV and AIDS and the
resultant prevalence of homes where children are heads of families, and the
overwhelming endemic poverty are examples of human tragedies that continue to plague the African continent. However, what concerns me is the fact
that humanitarian problems are attributed to the lack of ‘subjective becoming’. If Africa’s people have to act as self-determining and responsible persons
in addressing the humanitarian tragedies on the continent, they cannot act
as isolated or atomistic individuals, as Kochalumchuvattil (2010) wants them
to do. I cannot imagine how ethnic cleansing or genocide can be prevented
by an individual self without acting in community with others. It also seems
inconceivable that tribal, ethnic conflicts and violence towards indigenous
communities can be halted by the mere act of individualised activity. Societal
violence and conflict are by nature communal and require a communitarian
response – one that does not, of course, ignore the subjectivities of individuals. Rather, as I have articulated before, to act in a communitarian way, as an

In defence of a communitarian view

29

African philosophy of education suggests, is to do so with an intersubjective
human identity that does not dismiss the self-determined (autonomous) and
responsible actions of individual persons. They act with their subjective selves
in a self-determined and responsible manner towards others – that is, they are
in mutual action and interaction with others. I see myself reflected by and
through the Other, which makes the Other a mirror that recasts my image
to me; this suggests that there is some interconnectedness between the Other
and me. In a Cavellian sense (1979: 438), being a mirror image of the Other
makes me ‘answerable for what happens to them’ – in other words, enacts my
responsibility towards them. The Other – the actual Other as well as the Other
in myself – confronts the self and thus she is reflected upon her own self. The
Other, therefore, is not simply the friend, but becomes the teacher and the
mentor, the possibility of self-transcendence. It is not surprising to note that
Cavell (1979: 440) makes the point that ‘the other is like oneself, that whatever one can know about the other one first has to find in oneself and then
read into the other … [that is] conceive the other from the other’s point of
view’. If Hutu militia can see in Tutsis mirror images of themselves as human
beings (and not treat them as cockroaches), the possibility for murder, rape and
enslavement might be thwarted – a situation that stimulates Hutu aggressors
to destabilise and confront themselves with a readiness to depart from their
violent behaviour, and in fact to be for the Other (Tutsis) what the Other is
for them (human beings). Of course, this is not denying the Cavellian position
that some humans (say, Hutus) do not regard other human beings (say, Tutsis)
as human at all. Instead, Hutus treat Tutsis indifferently, that is ‘monstrously’
and ‘unforgivably’, but do not disregard them as humans. In fact, like Cavell, I
acknowledge that Hutu aggression towards Tutsis is an unjust ‘human possibility’ (Cavell, 1979: 378). And, considering that Cavell (1979: 376) takes issue
with certain human beings who consider other human beings as slaves, I too
take issue with Hutus who seem to be disconnected from Tutsis, whom they
(Hutus) continually humiliate and punish. The point I am making is that the
relationship between Hutus and Tutsis, albeit a violent one, is in fact a human
relationship, which opens up the possibility for humans to be answerable to the
Other – in this case, violent Hutus finding some way to live out their responsibility to Tutsis as humans. This is what an intersubjective community demands
in the first place – an acknowledgement of a human encounter that makes the
dominant (violent) one answerable to the one against whom violence is perpetrated (the Tutsi).
Moreover, central to one’s connection with the Other is the notion that
one has to acknowledge humanity in the Other – and the basis for such action
lies in oneself: ‘I have to acknowledge humanity in the other, and the basis of
it seems to lie in me’ (Cavell, 1979: 433). Considering the unimagined hatred
Hutus have for Tutsis, what Hutus ought to begin to acknowledge would
be the humanity in those people whom they seemingly have no regard for
as human beings – they fail to acknowledge the humanity in Tutsis, as they
fail to acknowledge the humanity in the Congolese women whom they rape.

30

In defence of a communitarian view

In doing so, Hutus, in a Cavellian sense, need to proceed from the point of
acknowledging their own humanity, that is, their own feelings, emotions and
compassion towards those who are vulnerable and whom they only want to
harm. Unless their own humanity is brought to the fore, they would inevitably
show no remorse when violating the sanctity of others’ lives. This is what I think
Cavell means when he states that hedging one’s acknowledgement of humanity in others is hedging (protecting) one’s own humanity (Cavell, 1979: 434).
Hedging one’s own humanity, without, or in the absence of acknowledging
humanity in the Other, actually places a limit on one’s humanity, and this is
described by Cavell as ‘the passage into inhumanity (of which) its signal is horror’ (Cavell, 1979: 434). This makes sense, considering the serious restrictions
Hutus place on their own humanity, which led to the atrocities and acts of horror perpetrated against hapless Congolese women. These Hutus simply do not
consider it important and respectful to recognise the humanity in the Other –
that is, they feel that they do not owe others respect simply as human beings – a
situation referred to by Cavell as ‘the failure of which (humanity within others)
reveals the failure of one’s own humanity’ (Cavell, 1979: 434). The point is
that if Hutus consider Congolese women as persons whose dignity needs to be
upheld, they need to acknowledge themselves as persons who should consider
others as being worthy as persons – a matter of acting through intersubjective
community. In other words, to acknowledge others as human beings worthy
of respect, one should simultaneously have to acknowledge oneself as a person
who should exercise respect. This is what I think Cavell has in mind when
he claims: ‘another may be owed acknowledgement simply on the ground of
his humanity, acknowledgement as a human being, for which nothing will do
but my revealing myself to him [her] as a human being, unrestrictedly, as his
or her sheer other, his or her fellow, his or her semblable’. So, intersubjective
community does require of a person to treat another person with hospitality,
in the sense of not violating the personhood of the other person. The very act
of treating another person with hospitality determines the personhood of the
Other and simultaneously gives another a passage into one’s humanity – that
is, seeing one as a human being who merits being treated hospitably. What
the aforementioned argument suggests is that ‘subjective becoming’ is possible
only through intersubjectively connecting with the Other. Only then can persons be self-determining and responsible human beings in the sense that they
do not just acknowledge humanity in themselves and in others, but that they
also become answerable to what happens to them – that by taking account of
others, they are essentially taking account of themselves. That is, they enact
their responsibility to others in a self-determining way – a matter of acting
educationally, as the latter is inextricably connected with being autonomous
and responsible.
Second, another major philosophical problem that exists on the African
continent can be associated with a lack of morality that is evident in the unforgiving, inhospitable and violent actions among Africa’s peoples. How can a
communitarian African philosophy of education grounded in reasonableness

In defence of a communitarian view

31

and cultural acceptance respond to the claim of a lack of moral grounding on
the continent? Drawing on the seminal thoughts of Jacques Derrida (1997)
and Hannah Arendt (1969), I shall examine what such moral positions can
offer a communitarian African philosophy of education in order to ensure
that the practice remains (re)imagined – that is, reasonable and culturally
acceptable. First, Derrida (1997: 33) argues for a view of forgiveness that
builds on the premise ‘that forgiveness must announce itself as impossibility
itself … (and that) it can only be possible in doing the impossible’. ‘Doing the
impossible’ implies, for Derrida (1997: 33), forgiving the ‘unforgivable’. In
his words, ‘forgiveness forgives only the unforgivable’ – that is, atrocious and
monstrous crimes against humanity that might not be conceived of as being
possible to forgive (Derrida, 1997: 32). Derrida (1997: 44) explicates forgiveness as ‘a gracious gift without exchange and without condition’. Among
crimes against humanity, Derrida (1997: 52) includes genocide (say, of Hutus
against Tutsis), torture and terrorism. This notion of forgiving the ‘unforgivable’ is spawned by the view that forgiveness is an act without, and not
dependent on finality – that is, the guilty (the one who perpetrates the evil)
are considered as being capable of repeating the crime without repentance
or promise that he or she will be transformed. And, forgiving the ‘unforgivable’ takes into consideration that the crime might be repeated, which makes
forgiveness an act of (madness) of the impossible (Derrida, 1997: 45). Now,
a reasonable conception of forgiveness that makes possible the act of forgiving the ‘unforgivable’ makes sense, because if Tutsis are not going to venture
into forgiving the ‘unforgivable’ genocidal acts of Hutus, these two different
tribal communities might not begin to connect with one another, and a process of inducing transformation in a Congolese or Rwandan society might
not begin to take place. Such a Derridian view of forgiveness is grounded in
an understanding that ‘nothing is impardonable’ (Derrida, 1997: 47), and that
‘grand beginnings’ are often celebrated and redirected through amnesia of
the most atrocious happenings. A case in point is South Africa’s democracy,
which grew out of forgiving those ‘unforgivable’ racial bigots who committed heinous crimes against those who opposed the racist state.
Third, Derrida (1997: 20) draws on Kant to develop a two-pronged
approach to hospitality: every person has a right to universal hospitality without limits, and the right to hospitality is limited to the right of visitation (that
is, temporary residence). On the right to universal hospitality, Derrida limits
such a right to innocent people (perhaps not guilty of a major crime) who seek
refuge or asylum in another country and who want to escape ‘bloody vengeance’. Surely, innocent Tutsis who are subjected to Hutu torture, rape and
enslavement have the right to seek and be granted asylum in another country. Following Derrida, these Tutsis (asylum seekers) cannot be considered
as resident aliens in another country, whose state and people ought to treat
them hospitably – that is, without question. Such a situation is possible on the
grounds that every person is endowed with a status of ‘common possession of
the earth’ (Derrida, 1997: 20). Moreover, the right of visitation is granted on

32

In defence of a communitarian view

the basis that a peaceful treaty between states and their peoples is encouraged.
So, for Tutsis to seek asylum in another country ought to be a temporary
arrangement on the grounds that Tutsis should have the right of return to the
country of their origin. In other words, the possibility should not exist that
they could be declared permanent refugees in another country. What follows
from such an understanding of hospitality is that reasonable action would take
the form of states offering temporary residence rights to people subjected to
violence in their own countries, and that these people should not be denied the
right to hospitable treatment by another state.
Fourth, following Arendt’s (1969) analysis of violence, it can be considered
as a phenomenon in terms of which people impose themselves on others, making others the ‘instruments’ of their will (Arendt, 1969: 56). In other words,
violence is an instrumental means of coercion (Arendt, 1969: 44). So, Hutu
militia murder, torture, rape and maim Tutsi women and children because
they use such instrumental acts to terrorise Tutsis. Reasonable action as a
non-violent strategy can counteract violence, because, unlike violence, reasonable action is capable of speech acts – that is, ‘violence itself is incapable of
speech, and not merely that speech is helpless when confronted with violence’
(Arendt, 1963: 19). Unlike violence that is determined by silence (Arendt,
1969: 77), such as the silence of both the victims and perpetrators of torture
in Nazi concentration camps, non-violence draws on the authoritative voice
of speech. It is here that reasonable action can begin to tackle the genocide of
Hutus by Tutsis. While I contend that violence, in some instances, might be
required to quell violence, there is, ultimately, as Arendt maintains, no legitimate justification for the flagrant use of violence, and that the use of violence
will only result in more violence. Yet, extending the views of Cavell and
Arendt, we sometimes require a disruption of existing practices of violence
through violence – that is, in exceptional cases, physical violence through war.
Is it conceivable that non-violent resistance will always be met with nonterrorisation and peace? I do not imagine so. If Hutu militia were to be resisted
non-violently, the only result will be the massacre and submission of Tutsis.
Thus, in a Cavellian sense we require a momentary break from non-violence
in order to ensure lasting change in the Congo – that is, a condition ought to
be set up whereby speech could become dominant in an attempt to resolve
conflict. Intrinsic in this argument is that reasonable action, with its insistence
on speech acts, can temporarily create conditions for violence to counteract the
destructive force of more violence.
What I have argued for is that the notion of reasonable action as a guiding principle of a communitarian African philosophy of education is, in fact,
a form of moral imagination that ought to be worked towards. And, such a
moral imaginative experience can engender possible changes on the African
continent through an emphasis on forgiveness, hospitality and non-violence.

2

Towards a different
understanding of African
metaphysics and epistemology

Introduction
This section concerns itself with African metaphysics and epistemology, with
a specific focus on what it means to be a person in the African context. I also
explore the implications of the notion of a person for educational discourse(s)
in Africa. Using a poststructuralist understanding of metaphysics, with reference
to the work of Derrida, I first frame the notion of African metaphysics. In turn,
I adopt a similar approach to the aforementioned to elucidate epistemology.
Thereafter, I move on to a discussion of the material person versus immaterial being debate, before offering a poststructuralist, more specifically Derridian,
analysis of the individual versus community thesis that has now become so
prominent in the discourses in and about African philosophy and philosophy of
education. My argument is that African metaphysics and epistemology should
look beyond their use of the binary oppositions of material person versus spiritual
(immaterial) person, and individual versus community to articulate a notion of
human engagement along the Derridian lines of what it means to act responsibly
in a metaphysical sense and criticallyy in an epistemological sense.

Towards a Derridian view of African metaphysics
Metaphysical thinking in Africa, following Teffo and Roux (2000: 137), ‘is
based on the African perception of reality as determined by a history, geographical circumstances, and such cultural phenomena as religion, thought
systems and linguistic conventions entrenched in African world-view’. For
them, African metaphysical discourses are constituted by religious beliefs relating to the concept of God and the universe, and their interrelationships with
notions such as spirit, causality, person, space and time and reality (Teffo and
Roux, 2000: 138). In their words, ‘the essence of African metaphysics, then,
is the search for meaning and ultimate reality in the complex relationship
between the human person and his/her total environment’ (Teffo and Roux,
2000: 139). In line with a Derridian analysis of metaphysics, I offer an account
of the relationship between the human person and his/her interrelationship
with the environment.

34

African metaphysics and epistemology

Jacques Derrida’s notion of deconstruction can be considered as a poststructuralist literary analysis aimed towards the (re)reading of philosophical
writings. In one of his attempts to elucidate deconstruction, Derrida in
(Caputo 1997: 77) asserts that ‘a deconstructive reading [is] able to give an
account of itself in scholarly terms and in the sense of responding to something
in the text that tends to drop out of view’. Deconstruction, then, attempts to
open up a text to several meanings and interpretations and its aim is to disrupt
the binary oppositions within a text by arguing that culturally and historically defined oppositions are fluid. In this regard, Williams (2001: 110) depicts
deconstruction as an exploration, location and questioning of the linguistic
and metaphysical conditions governing the possibility of conceptualisation,
together with a consideration of the historicity of meaning and the modes of
subjectivity that may support philosophical systems of thought. Unlike a traditional form of textual analysis, deconstruction wants to exceed or go beyond
the boundaries that (con)texts occupy. Accordingly, deconstruction claims that
there is always more to come – that which resides external to the text, and is
not always foreseen – that deconstruction aims to unravel. In other words it
focuses on the possibilities and potentialities of a (con)text. In this way, meaning, for Derrida, is never in the present; it emerges from the play of ‘differences
between the various terms in the (con)text: subject to continuous reframing,
within ongoing discursive activity’ (Derrida in Caputo, 1997: 42). In other
words, everything around deconstruction is organised around what Derrida (in
Caputo, 1997: 42) refers to as ‘the incoming of the other’, the promise of an
event to come, the event of the promise of something coming.
My interest in deconstruction is in its critique of binary oppositions. In
this sense, deconstruction holds the central argument that, in all the dualities
of Western thought, one term is privileged or ‘central’ over the other. This
implies that the structures of binary opposition, essential to the language of
logocentrism, are in actual fact hierarchies. In other words, they are not simply defined by the differences between terms, but rather by the privileging of
one term at the expense of the other (light/dark, divine/human, speech/writing, presence/absence, man/woman). Put simply, this implies that, in Western
metaphysics, it is always the first term that is being privileged over the second.
For instance, the terms good and bad form a binary opposition: a pair of contrasted terms, which depend on one another for their meaning. In this regard,
light would be privileged over dark, speech over writing and presence over
absence, to name but a few. In essence, the first term is classically conceived
of as original, authentic and superior (such as white over black), while the
second is thought of as secondary, derivative or even parasitic, and often associated with otherness. There are, as I have shown, many of these oppositions,
and they are all governed by the distinction either/or (Collins and Mayblin,
2006: 20). This thinking pattern seemingly inhibits Western metaphysical
thought and thus establishes a conceptual order. These binary oppositions,
according to Collins and Mayblin (2006: 20), classify and organise objects,
events and relations to the world. They make a decision possible. And, as I

African metaphysics and epistemology

35

have shown, they even govern our thinking patterns in our daily lives, ‘as well
as philosophy, theory and the sciences’ (Collins and Mayblin 2006: 20). Lye
(in Collins and Mayblin 2006: 3), however, contends that, in deconstruction,
these binary pairs or opposites are already united, and in fact, mutually contingent. In other words, they cannot be opposites otherwise they are ultimately
the alternating imprint of one another. Consequently, there can be no light
without darkness and no darkness without light and, similarly, no presence
without absence and no absence without presence. In short, deconstruction is
‘looking for a truth [though not final] anxious to question the true according
to a tradition of metaphysics … [that sees things beyond binary oppositions]’
(Derrida in Biesta and Egéa-Kuehne, 2001: 23).
In consonance with Derrida’s position on deconstruction, African metaphysics does not seem to conceive of the relationship between concepts in
binary oppositional terms. By this is meant that African metaphysics does not
seem to treat the relationship between mind, soul or spirit in a dualist way,
neither does it seem to consider the natural world as contradistinctive to the
supernatural, or mortal as the opposite of immortal for that matter (Teffo and
Roux, 2000: 138, 141). For instance, in some African cultures, living material
beings or mortals are not considered as the binary opposite of the deceased and
immaterial, immortal ancestors who occupy a different space and higher status.
Rather, there is some form of relationship and inter-relationship between the
living mortals and the immortal ancestors that is sustained through ritual and
the veneration of the ancestors – a practice very common in several African
communities across the religious divide. Considering the aforementioned
non-oppositional thinking, I shall now attend to a discussion of person in the
African sense.
Using non-binary deconstructive analysis, a person cannot be considered as
consisting of material qualities separated from his or her spiritual aspects. Of
course such a non-binary view of a person immediately raises the concern that
the material qualities of a person have spiritual dimensions and, similarly, that a
person’s spiritual aspects are ingrained with materialism. Such an explanation,
however, does not differentiate clearly between a person’s material and spiritual qualities, which raises questions about the true nature of the material and
the spiritual. I am inclined to agree with More (1996: 153), for whom a nondualist understanding of the material and spiritual qualities of a person relates to
his or her ‘tendencies’ that allow one to anticipate a person’s course of action.
In other words, the explanation offered by More is not to equate African cultural life with an inclination towards adhering to forms of ‘spiritual’, occult and
supernatural powers that mysteriously (mis)guide the actions of people. Rather,
a person’s good actions as opposed to his or her not-as-good actions cannot
be attributed to the clandestine operations of supernatural beings, but rather to
his or her own actions. Immediately, the claim some African peoples proffer,
namely that they are possessed by ‘evil spirits’ and therefore find it difficult to
develop materially (that is, socially and economically) in their communities,
is stunted.1 Instead, such a non-binary view of the material and immaterial

36

African metaphysics and epistemology

qualities of a person seems to be aimed at stimulating the person to be responsible for his or her own actions. Such a clarification of person and his or her
material and immaterial qualities is crucial to understanding the conception of
a person’s ‘destiny’ in African thought and practice. Often, in several African
communities, an understanding is held that Africa’s inadequate socio-political
and economic development can be assigned to the fate or destiny that behoves
African persons and communities. And often, because of this predestination
viewpoint, such persons and communities resign themselves to do little in the
way of alleviating their social, political and economic vulnerabilities, whether
through curtailing ethnic conflict, contesting authoritarian rule, or alleviating
poverty. Such persons simply resign themselves to the ‘fate’ that apparently has
befallen them – leading to a resigned acceptance of their ‘fate’. Now, if such
unforeseen misfortunes and perhaps calamities have simply been predestined
for humans, then the African persons do not have to embark on any efforts
to alleviate their vulnerabilities – leading to a further entrenchment of a fatalistic state of existence. I would rather, therefore, concur with the position
of the Yoruba ethnic community in western Africa (including Nigeria) that
the destiny of a person ought to be considered as both potential and circumstantial, and the actualisation of which depends on a person’s human qualities
(Gbadegesin, 1991: 360). For Gbadegesin (1991: 360–368), the destiny of an
African person is both determined by where he or she is situated circumstantially (that is, their familial or tribal upbringing), as well as the earnestness of
such a person in doing something about his or her position of vulnerability that
can be as a result of no fault of his or her own. So, the exercise of a person’s
autonomy, moral respect towards others and respect for the environment, for
instance, are human qualities that can assist in the actualisation of a person’s
destiny. That is, destiny is not something preordained for a person, but rather
realised through personal effort and continuous striving in relation with other
persons. Therefore, Gbadegesin (1991: 367) is right when he claims that the
destiny of people on the African continent depends on the virtues they gain
through developing their character and the communal influence on them, and
determined by the individual person’s commitment to developing his or her
morals, freedom and responsibility. This brings me to a discussion of a person
in terms of being an individual who should act in community.
In quite a non-binary way, a person in the African sense is an individual
who exists in community with other persons. Mbiti (1969: 109), in reference
to the person as both individual and in community with others, aptly refers
to the common African dictum (to which of course I shall again refer in later
chapters): ‘I am, because we are; and since we are therefore I am’. Here Mbiti
advocates a sociocentric view of the African person in which his belonging is
determined by the society that produces him or her. What follows from such
a view of persons is that African communalism does not deny the recognition
of individual human beings qua individuals, but rather positions an individual person as a constitutive member of the collective. In other words, in the
African sense, an individual does not act in opposition to the group to which


Documentos relacionados


Documento PDF yusef waghid african philosophy of education reconsidered on being human routledge
Documento PDF emmanuel chukwudi eze african philosophy an anthology
Documento PDF kwasi wiredu a companion to african philosophy
Documento PDF at
Documento PDF hard to get the timeless art of conquering his heart ebook
Documento PDF philosophia mathematica 2014 gillies 12 34 2


Palabras claves relacionadas