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Gyekye, Kwame. An Essay on African Philosophical Thought. The Akan Conceptual Scheme
1987, Temple University Press
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Added by: Sara Peppe and Björn Freter
Publisher’s Note: In this sustained and nuanced attempt to define a genuinely African philosophy, Kwame Gyekye rejects the idea that an African philosophy consists simply of the work of Africans writing on philosophy. It must, Gyekye argues, arise from African thought itself, relate to the culture out of which it grows, and provide the possibility of a continuation of a philosophy linked to culture. Offering a philosophical clarification and interpretation of the concepts in the ontology, philosophical psychology, theology, and ethics of the Akan of Ghana, Gyekye argues that critical analyses of specific traditional African modes of thought are necessary to develop a distinctively African philosophy as well as cultural values in the modern world.

Comment: A classical work of modern African philosophy and, because of its analysis of the conceptual scheme, highly relevant for the context of African philosophy and language.

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Wiredu, Kwasi. Philosophy and an African Culture
1980, Cambridge University Press.
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Added by: Suddha Guharoy and Andreas Sorger
Publisher’s Note:

What can philosophy contribute to African culture? What can it draw from it? Could there be a truly African philosophy that goes beyond traditional folk thought? Kwasi Wiredu tries in these essays to define and demonstrate a role for contemporary African philosophers which is distinctive but by no means parochial. He shows how they can assimilate the advances of analytical philosophy and apply them to the general social and intellectual changes associated with 'modernisation' and the transition to new national identities. But we see too how they can exploit traditional resources and test the assumptions of Western philosophy against the intimations of their own language and culture. The volume as a whole presents some of the best non-technical work of a distinguished African philosopher, of importance equally to professional philosophers and to those with a more general interest in contemporary African thought and culture.

Comment: Kwasi Wiredu’s Philosophy and an African Culture grapples with the relationship between African philosophy and African traditional folk thought in order to carve out a distinctive role for African philosophers in the present day. In the chapters for this week, Wiredu is contributing to a debate in African philosophy that seeks to answer the question: “What is African Philosophy?”. Wiredu takes issue with Europeans elevating the traditional folk beliefs of Africans to the status of philosophy, which historically has been used to justify and legitimise the racist belief in the inferiority of black Africans. Instead, Wiredu suggests that the absence of a written tradition of philosophy means that African philosophy can only exist in the present. Thus, it is up to contemporary African philosophersto create a ‘new’ tradition with distinctive insights for the problems faced by African societies.

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