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Kishani, Bongasu Tanla. On the Interface of Philosophy and Language in Africa: Some Practical and Theoretical Considerations
2001, Cambridge University Press
Added by: Sara Peppe and Björn Freter
Publisher’s Note:

The relation between philosophy and language in Africa seems to favor the languages of written expression to the detriment of the languages of "oraural" expression. Concretely, this has meant not only the exclusive use of Arabic and European languages in the philosophies in Africa, but also the assumption that philosophy is only possible in, with, and through written languages. This article argues that change is long overdue, and that African languages should play significant roles in both the exploration of the past and in contemporary and future philosophical inquiries in Africa. In other words, the real problem is not so much to determine how far philosophy is compatible or incompatible with specific languages and with language as a whole, or vice versa, as to discern what role African languages should play within the framework of the past, contemporary, and future philosophies in Africa. For if colonial experiences obliged Africans to confront this predicament without success, the contention here is that Africans cannot continue to philosophize sine die in European languages and according to European models of philosophy as if African languages cannot provide and play the same roles. Today more than before, both the lettered and "oraural" traditions of Africa invite Africans to practice self-reliance in such matters.

Comment (from this Blueprint): Kishani’s paper On the Interface of Philosophy and Language in Africa: Some Practical and Theoretical Considerations argues that African languages should play a vital role in the African philosophical inquiries. The crucial point of the article is to examine and establish the role African languages should play in past, present and future African philosophies. The article argues that Africans cannot keep doing philosophy relying on European languages and models as if African languages would be unable to play the same role. Indeed, the article explains that Africans should be self-sufficient in philosophising in their languages and with their models relying on their lettered and “oraural” traditions.

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