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Language matters!

Decolonization, multilingualism, and African languages in the making of African philosophy

Kwasi Wiredu in Dialogue with Kai Kresse



Content

deutsch  

»African philosophy is still in the making«
Reconciling "traditionalists" and "modernists"?
The issue of language: decolonizing African philosophical thought
Going intercultural, going multilingual?
Ethics and morals
The project of an intercultural dialogue in the African context
Literature



 »African philosophy is still in the making«



Kwasi Wiredu

Kwasi Wiredu
is professor of Philosophy at the University of South Florida, Tampa, and currently has a visiting professorship at Duke University.

Short presentation



In this issue:

Democracy and Consensus in African Traditional Politics.
A Plea for a Non-party Polity


(versión española)

(deutsche Fassung)



The interview was held at Jan van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht, on the 30th March 1996.

1

  Kresse: Prof. Wiredu, since the early years of discussion about African philosophy you have been regarded as a "modernist", and your saying that »African philosophy is still in the making« was often quoted and very heatedly debated. Later you have more and more included reflections on philosophical concepts in your own cultural community, the Akan of Ghana, into your philosophical work and linked that to the discussion of African culture and concepts in a broader sense of philosophy altogether. So in that way you somehow reconcile what Bodunrin once called the "traditionalist" and "modernist" approaches.

2

  I would like to sketch it this way: while in the beginning you were working rather on theories of logic, it is now clear (e.g. from you studies on Ghanaian thought, together with Kwame Gyekye) that you are, indeed, working on both aspects. These are both obvious also in the programme that you are following right now, the "decolonization of African thought". Is that correct from your point of view, and maybe you could elaborate a bit on the basis and the context of your programme of decolonizing African thought?


3

  Wiredu: Well, you begin with a statement which is very interesting to me, because a number of people have made the same observation about the development of my thinking. They say that in the beginning of my career it seemed that the modernist tendency was predominant. But actually, that's not the case. If you go back to my earliest papers, I had the two elements there together. But it seems that that particular statement, in which I said that African philosophy was still in the making, has been completely misunderstood, to the extent that some people think that at that stage I was saying there is no such thing as a traditional African philosophy. In fact, in that very same essay in which I made that statement, I said that Africans have their own traditional philosophies, and in the case of the Akans it comes out very clearly, e.g. in Abraham's "Mind of Africa", that we have our own traditional philosophers which, in terms of the scope and relevance, do not concede anything to the traditional philosophies of the Western world.

4

  When I said that African philosophy is still in the making, I had before already said that in Africa we have two important tasks facing us: first, to study our own philosophies and correct wrong interpretations, and second, to use everything that we can get from our own philosophies and combine that with what we can gain from the modern world, which is also extremely important, for philosophies that we can live by.

»If we are going to thrive in this contemporary world, then we have to make a synthesis.«

5

  Then I said from the point of view of this task it would not be wrong to say that African philosophy is still in the making. Now, what I meant was that if we are able to make that synthesis, which was going to be a synthesis of our traditional philosophies with what we can get from modern sources, then African philosophy will become that synthesis. This is important because in any culture in which modern sources of knowledge and reflection have been used together with whatever they may have had from the traditional – in any culture, in which these two have been used – when you say 'so-and-so philosophy', where 'so-and-so' is to be substituted for with the name of a nation or a culture or whatever, the phrase refers to that synthesis. That phrase does not refer to the traditional phase of the philosophy in question, particularly if the traditional phase was an unwritten phase or an unwritten tradition.

6

  So, when I said that African philosophy is still in the making, I did not mean that African traditional philosophy does not exist, since, in any case, I had said already in the same article that African traditional philosophy existed. What I meant was that we need now to make the synthesis mentioned above. I was extremely keen to emphasize this because it seemed to me that some African philosophers are not at all keen on it; they do not seem to realize that, if we are going to thrive in this contemporary world, then we have to make such a synthesis.




Kwasi Wiredu /
Kwame Gyekye
(eds.):
Person and community. Washington: Smithsonian, 1992.
(Ghanaian Philosophical Studies 1).
external linkPublication

7

  So, the two elements have been there, but it is just a matter of programme (of investigation, of work etc.). Now, one thing that has helped my recent focussing on the traditional aspects of the equation is the fact that I have been working in the United States, and there I get called upon, and I get the opportunity, to teach and discuss African philosophy more than when I was in Africa. When I was in Ghana, there were any number of people who could teach African philosophy. But we needed also to teach logic, epistemology and all the other things, so that we can do the programme of synthesis. So while being there, I was not always teaching African philosophy. I mean, Gyekye was there and a number of people who were also competent in African philosophy were there. That may account for some part of emphasis or the 'shift', for if it is a shift at all, then it is a shift of emphasis.


8

  Kresse: So one could say that the African philosophy that is "still in the making" is the philosophy for helping Africa in the present situation to modernize itself while not being neo-colonized?


»Right now, African philosophy still seems to be equated with traditional African philosophy. I think that we must change that by making a synthesis of the traditional and of the modern.«


9

  Wiredu: Yes. And the point is that, if we carry out that project of synthesizing insights from our own traditional culture with insights from the modern world - if we are successful in that - then when somebody speaks of African philosophy, the reference will be to that synthesis (which will already have included the traditional part). The reference will not be just to traditional African philosophy (i.e. the past) as it still tends to do right now.

10

  Now, if we do what I am recommending well, that is, if we do the synthesis well, then African philosophy will refer to that synthesis, not almost exclusively to the traditional philosophy. Right now, African philosophy still seems to be equated with traditional African philosophy. I think that we must change that by making a synthesis of the traditional and of the modern. Of course, this involves evaluating the traditional, and in regard to that I have not changed my attitude, which is that simply because it is our tradition, it doesn't mean that everything in it is valid. Some of the things will have to be rejected or modified. But I am satisfied that there are a lot of things in our tradition that we can use.



 Reconciling "traditionalists" and "modernists"?

Interview in German language, guided by
Kai Kresse:

"Gespräch mit Henry Odera Oruka: Zur Lage der Afrikanischen Philosophie".
In: Widerspruch. Zeitschrift für Philosophie 16.29 (1996), 162-171.
external linkInterview

11

  Kresse: Starting the interview in this way I followed a certain intention, namely, using your quotation as a documentation of a shift in the discussion on African philosophy which I think may be observed. In the seventies and early eighties there was a very fierce discussion and separation of the two groups: between traditionalists on the one side, and modernists on the other. So maybe I overemphasized that point a bit, but I regard your personal programme of philosophy as well as the sage-philosophy project of the late Henry Odera Oruka as approaches which are able to conceptionally bring the two groups, which before regarded each other as enemies, more together than it was possible before. This is done by using an understanding of philosophy in the strict sense for the reflection upon African culture.

12

  In this respect, I see a similarity between the work of Oruka and yours. You are, on the one hand, also working on the documentation of a traditional African philosophy, and, on the other hand, formulating your own contemporary criticism, and also trying to combine the two things in attempting to make the traditional philosophy useful for the problems of today. And that is sort of a shift which I have observed, and which I think has been very productive for the discussion as a whole, in approximately the last ten years.


Henry Odera Oruka:
"Grundlegende Fragen der afrikanischen 'Sage-Philosophy'".
In: Franz Martin Wimmer (Hg.):
Vier Fragen zur Philosophie in Afrika, Asien und Lateinamerika.
Wien: Passagen, 1988, 35-53.
external linkArticle

13

  Wiredu: Yes. The sage-philosophy project, I think, is one of the most important things that has been done in African philosophy. I have tried to be clear about the importance of that right from the beginning. It is to be seen already in the book Philosophy and an African Culture. If you take, for example, the chapter called "What is Philosophy?", which is a very general chapter, and which does not specifically discuss African philosophy, I say, in the beginning, that our own traditional philosophy must have originated from the thought of our own original philosophers. We must have had original philosophers who had their own ways of argumentation and everything. But because their thought was not written down, I said it was going to be one of the important tasks of our research to go into the thought of these people and record it. So I had written this down right there, and when Oruka started his research, that pleased me. I was very happy about it, because it was extremely important to show that folk-philosophy (i.e. the pooling-together of basic conclusions of a people), is not all we have and that we still have people in our tradition who are real philosophers in the sense that they have original ideas. These philosophers do not just repeat the popular thought; they have their own ideas. But the tragedy is that, of course, these were mostly not written down.

14

  So I think what Oruka did was to show, among other things, that there is no special virtue in a whole people saying the same thing. If you talk to people who are real philosophers, you obtain different perspectives. Now, I do not know to what extent that work has brought a kind of unity or even a coming closer together between the factions that might be called "modernists" and "traditionalists", I do not quite know. But of course, if it has had that effect, it would be wonderful. The thing that, I find, gets on the nerves of those who are called traditionalists, is the idea that we must approach our tradition critically. It is this, as far as I can see, that they do not want. I think that it is probably the principal problem between the two, in addition to which there is this: the traditionalists do not like the idea of a synthesis, synthesizing something from Western culture, that is, trying to exploit something that you have taken from Western culture for the improvement of your own.

Gail Presbey:
Who Counts as a Sage? Problems in the Further Implementation of Sage Philosophy.
1998.
(Paideia World Philosophy Conference paper)
external linkArticle

15

  Let me make this personal, in terms of my own experience. Particularly during my phase in Ghana, I used to write a fair bit about logic. I find that in my own tradition, the Akan tradition, there is a great value put on logical thinking and logical reasoning. Indeed, we have epigrammatic statements which, to me, formulate the principles of non-contradiction, excluded middle and so on. But because we did not emphasize writing or, in some cases, did not use it, we did not develop a logical tradition, a tradition of logical systemization, a tradition of formal logic. But I think that the Akan culture is very logical. Now, I think that logic is an extremely important part of philosophy. Thus if I find there is another culture that has spent a lot of time trying to formalize what is going on in logic, to me it only makes sense to, that if we are going to realize that objective of logical thinking that I find in tradition, then let us study those efforts to see if there is but one thing that I can use for the improvement of our contemporary existence.

16

  But there are Africans who tell me that if you do that, if you write about logic, about Frege and Russell etc., you are just participating in another culture, in another discourse, in the philosophy of another culture. And that's all there is to it, for them. They say that is not relevant to African culture. That is one big bone of contention between me and the people I would call "traditionalists". I do not know whether there is any coming together on this argument, although I would be happy if there is. Time will tell.


»If you try to get conceptual, you will find that there is a lot of superimposition of Western conceptions upon our thought materials.«

17

  Kresse: As a last question on that point: while you are more and more describing philosophical problems within cultural contexts and then commenting and systematically working on them (with e.g. those volumes on Ghanaian thought) the traditionalists or the ethno-philosophers stay within the boundaries of only describing communal thought but do not go beyond. That seems to be the essential difference in the conception of philosophy.


18

  Wiredu: Well, I find they are describing, but, in my opinion, they do not even try to interpret. I do not find an interpretation, not to mention evaluation, in their work. I find that, even at a level of description, it is not going to help us just to narrate. In the essay called "On Defining African Philosophy" I made just that point. Just narrating is not good enough, we have to interpret. Trying to interpret is actually getting conceptual.

19

  The thing is that if you try to get conceptual, you will find – and this brings us to the issue of decolonization – that in the literature there is a lot of superimposition of Western conceptions upon our thought materials. That is, African thought is conceptualized in categories, such as those of the spiritual and the supernatural, which do not fit. We need to make a critique of the application of such concepts to our thought, and this, I think, is the beginning of conceptual decolonization. I cannot say that these people (the "traditionalists") are celebrating our culture, our inheritance etc., as they do not seem to me to have a clue as to what is happening. They repeat these conceptualizations, which are actually foreign conceptualizations –


20

  Kresse: – of the anthropologists –


21

  Wiredu: Yes.



 The issue of language: decolonizing African philosophical thought

Kwasi Wiredu:
"Toward Decolonizing African Philosophy and Religion".
In: African Studies Quaterly 1.4 (1997).
external linkArticle

22

  Kresse: That already is an important aspect of the decolonization-programme in African thought. And, following your points from above, one might tend to say that you somehow followed this programme from the beginning, but you have only and especially made it explicit in the last few years.

23

  Here, of course, the crucial point is language; so it is the language, the words, the concepts of philosophy which you describe as having to be cleansed of colonial burden. Using a phrase of Ngugi, one could say that colonising the mind is what has happened, and the objective must now be the project of decolonizing the mind at all different levels. Ngugi has worked on doing that in literature, and your programme is to work on decolonizing philosophical thought. In both cases we can speak of a decolonization, a liberation of the language in which Africans think or express themselves.

»As we start, we must be aware of the differences: we must investigate the differences. But when we have brought the differences to attention, we can then work on cross-cultural evaluation.«

24

  T his now raises several difficult issues, above all maybe the relativity of languages, which gravely affect philosophical concepts. For example, you have sketched out that in your language Akan the famous phrase of Descartes, »I think, therefore I am« (cogito ergo sum), would be unintelligible. My question now is: is this an unsolvable problem – because the start of philosophy is inevitably within the language which one speaks, in which one perceives the world and with which one constructs meaning in the world? Taking you as an example, an Akan who has studied in English and has thus learned to philosophize in English: doesn't there always remain a dilemma of the two options in which to philosophize? You could either philosophize in Akan or in English, but even upon the same issue that might be two different ways of philosophizing within yourself.

25

  The question is, does not the language problem have to be linked to the project of an intercultural dialogue, which, if it wants to be fair and open to all (i.e. on a level of real equality), it has, above all, to grant equality on the level of language? Could you sketch out possibilities of how the language problem in the project of such an intercultural dialogue could be surmounted?


26

  Wiredu: You have put the problem very nicely, and it is an extremely important one. I have addressed it in at least two articles, one called "A Philosophical Perspective on Human Communication" and the other "Are there Cultural Universals?" (first published in Quest). What I try to show is that, even though human beings are different, for example, they have different languages, and they have different ways of conceptualizing some very important matters, still they are all simply featherless bipeds, and as featherless bipeds they are also subject to certain fundamental rules of reaction with the environment. And it is because of this that they can exchange ideas over everything, in philosophy, in (practical) ethics or whatever.

27

  As we start, we must be aware of the differences: we must investigate the differences. But when we have brought the differences to attention, we can then work on cross-cultural evaluation. This is what I am arguing in both articles. I am arguing that such evaluations are, in fact, possible. And, indeed, in the programme of decolonization, I envisage two stages: first, to elicit the differences, but second, to use what I call the independent considerations, i.e. considerations that are independent of the peculiarities of a particular language or culture, to make cross-cultural evaluations.




»In the programme of decolonization, I envisage two stages: first, to elicit the differences, but second, to use considerations that are independent of the peculiarities of a particular language or culture, to make cross-cultural evaluations.«

28

  So if you take the Cartesian example, "I think, therefore I am" (which is a very good one for these purposes), the reason why he is able to say sum, "I am", in the given context, is that in the language he is using there is something like the existential verb "to be" which can be used independently. In the Akan language there is no corresponding term representing this form of the word "to be". Now, there is no special problem about this. Because I am an Akan who understands English, I can see the correspondences nevertheless. So that in itself is not a problem at all.

29

  But I understand why an Akan, thinking and speaking in her own language, will not say something like that. He or she does not have the words for that in Akan. You see, "I think" in my language is medwen or mesusu asem, meaning, etymologically "I measure", "I measure a matter". Now, if I try to construct something like Descartes' existential sum, it will be something like mewo, which is meaningless. (The apparent Akan equivalent would have to be something like mewo ho, which says "I am there", whose locative significance would be suicidal from the point of view of both the epistemology and the metaphysics of the cogito.) Thus here we have a difference of structure, but the run of thought itself can be understood by the Akan who bothers to learn Latin, English, French, German or related languages. If he bothers to learn those languages, he can also see what is going on in Descartes' sentence.

»The way your language functions can predispose you to several ways of talking and, indeed, to several ways of reasoning. But we can, if we learn each other's language, see what is happening, and we will be able to sweep a lot of those translational things aside and argue on the main points.«


30

  The way your language functions can predispose you to several ways of talking and, indeed, to several ways of reasoning. But we can, if we learn each other's language, see what is happening, and we will be able to sweep a lot of those translational things aside and argue on the main points. Now, if I want to take on Descartes, it is not going to be enough for me just to say that the concept of sum is not in my language, therefore the statement is nonsense. No! I would have to go further, to develop my argument in English (or the relevant language). I maintain that I can develop a critique in English which is aided by the tendencies that I start with in my Akan language. But that is just the beginning, it can never be the ending: it is, in fact, only the beginning of a never-ending procedure.

31

  I think that if you take any other issue that I have touched upon in my discussion of decolonization, you can always develop an independent argument. Talking within the English language, I can develop independent arguments in support of whatever is at stake, and I think that in some respects also, if a foreigner who has learned Akan started a critique of this kind, she can do a similar thing the other way round by getting into Akan and developing arguments within the Akan language to show that certain things need correction.



 Going intercultural, going multilingual?

Ngugi wa Thiong'o

Ngugi wa Thiong'o



See his essays:

"The Allegory of the Cave: Language, Democracy and a New World Order!"
In: Black Renaissance/ Renaissance Noire 1.3
external linkArticle

"Europhonism, Universities, and the Magic Fountain: The Future of African Literature and Scholarship"
In: Research in African Literatures 31
external linkArticle


32

  Kresse: I agree, and I think that your position can be taken as an example of someone pressing philosophy to go intercultural, to become fundamentally aware of exactly that problem. I tend to conclude that what you have just said regarding the option for philosophers, or for the possibility of a real intercultural dialogue, indicates the need to go multilingual. So a philosopher has to be able to live and think in different languages, otherwise there might be no solution to that problem. Is that right?


33

  Wiredu: Well, that is the ideal. But I do not know. Time is short in the world, so some people, some philosophers will probably remain in the same language. Those who are specially interested in intercultural philosophy, however, would probably want to be able to use other languages in philosophical thought, in particular, languages which are very different from their own. And then they could see what can be done in and through cross-cultural evaluations.


34

  Kresse: I introduced this topic also with an eye on Ngugi and an analogous problem of African literature, Ngugi being a proponent of African literature, you a proponent of African philosophy. Ngugi, of course, concluded that he would, as a consequence of his critique of the colonized mentality, stop writing in English and write in Gikuyu only. This he does, and his works are translated into English and other languages. Now, if that is a sound conclusion, why are you not going a similar way and philosophizing in Akan? I do really think that this analogy between African literature and philosophy has some merits, so I would like you to explain your standpoint.


35

  Wiredu: I fear that I am not as important as Ngugi, so that if I wrote texts in Akan I do not think anybody would be going to translate them. But apart from that, Ghana alone has 46 languages. So, if I were to teach philosophy at the University of Ghana, Legon, in Akan, that would be a real problem. The idea is just not practicable at this point. Even if Ghana had only one language, what about Bodunrin in Nigeria and Odera Oruka (of pleasant memory) in Kenya? What would happen, between me and them? So, it is just not practicable now for us to work exclusively in our own languages.

Brandon Brown:
Subversion versus Rejection: Can Postcolonial Writers Subvert the Codified Using the Language of the Empire?
external linkArticle


Heather Sofield:
Postcolonial Identity and the Position of English in African Literature.
external linkArticle

36

  Somebody like Ngugi is perhaps a special case. He is so important that if he writes something, somebody will appear and translate it. But if it is not translated, it is going to be a closed book to you, to all non-Gikuyu speakers, to people in Ghana and most other places. So it seems to me that what you are proposing is simply just not practicable. Perhaps, in some future time, Africa may be able to adopt an own lingua franca. When that happens, that idea would become practicable. But it is, in any case, not an easy proposition, because we have to make sure that that one African language would not also become a foreign language to other Africans.


37

  Kresse: Would you opt for Swahili or Hausa – just to give some concrete examples of probable languages?


38

  Wiredu: Perhaps not Hausa. Personally, I have a certain affection to Hausa, for I used to speak Hausa when I was a child, and I just love that language. But I do not want that partiality to bias my judgement. I don't really mind. I have never learned Swahili, and I don't know how close it is to any one African culture. But if we decided on Swahili, well, we would have to live it. The point that I was making is that we should better be careful that it does not become too much of a second language, we would really have to live it.



 Ethics and morals

»Morals, in the strict sense, I take to be universal. I take morals to be rules that are absolutely essential for human community. Without such rules, I do not think that any society can remain human

39

  Kresse: I would now like to turn to a more classical field of practical philosophy, and it is the question of differentiation between morals and ethics. You are known to be universalist in the matter of rationality, making a strong case for argumentation everywhere. In terms of cross-cultural comparisons you have argued for the same basic criteria that have to be used on both sides of the comparison. Now, do you differentiate between morals and ethics in a way that ethics is the rationally evolved and systematically founded system of principles, whereas morals are inherent contingent elements in all the various cultures of the world, so they do not need to be explicitly rationally argued for? What is your differentiation between morals and ethics?


40

  Wiredu: The differentiation I make is not between ethics and morals, but between morals and custom. It is custom that can differ from one culture to another. That does not mean that a custom is necessarily anything irrational. Some customs may be irrational, some stupid, etc., but they neither need to be the one nor the other, and they can change from time to time and from place to place. Morals, in the strict sense – I note of course that the word "morals" is sometimes used in a broad sense to include even customs – morals in the strict sense, I take to be universal. I take morals to be rules that are absolutely essential for human community. Without such rules, e.g. the rule of truth-telling, I do not think that any society can remain human. But there are many rules of behaviour that are extremely important to human relations which are not universal. These are customs and may differ from one society to another.

41

  The problem arises when one society tries to impose their customs on another society in the guise of universal moral laws or principles. I believe that e.g. the Christians did a lot of that in connection with, let's say, marriage when they tried with quite a large amount of success to impose their own rules of marriage upon our people. And since this matter is not always easy, we need a philosophical study of this whole issue, so that we can lay down clear principles for separating what belongs to morality from what belongs to custom (which I try to do in an essay called "Custom and Morality"). Now as for morality, I regard it as a system of rational principles which is designed to achieve the organization of human interests in society.



 The project of an intercultural dialogue in the African context

»I am saying that if we look carefully at our own political tradition, then we shall see that consensus was frequently an essential factor of politics.«

42

  Kresse: Coming back to the point of an intercultural dialogue and combining it with practical implications, I just want to recall to mind that in one essay you end by talking about the problem of an African identity, saying it's a severe philosophical problem (in "Problems of Africa's Self-Definition"). On the other hand, one might also be tempted to say that the problem of identity is also, or maybe even more, a psychological problem or a political problem, although that may not exclude the other. Taking this into account and combining it with the pondering about the possibilities of an intercultural dialogue on an equal footing, which, of course, has practical implications, political implications, what would you await or hope for in such a dialogue, also in regard to concrete political changes in Africa?


43

  Wiredu: In terms of political changes, democracy, for example, is a very crucial concept, and I think that trying to find a way of basing a democracy on consensus, as a principle drawn from African tradition, leads to a form of democracy which is superior to the kind of democracy that I observe in America, for example. This is an extremely important political project. It is also a project of self-definition, of identity. I am saying that if we look carefully at our own political tradition, then we shall see that consensus was frequently an essential factor of politics. And even though we cannot use exactly the same basis of representation that was used in traditional times, if we are keen to exploit that great procedure in our politics (i.e. decision by consensus), then we will be doing something which is truer to ourselves than that which some people have been trying to compel us to do.


44

  Kresse: A question arises, still concerning the global political problem and taking into account the fact that you have been teaching in the US for a number of years and are still doing so. In a way, your work and life is already a kind of lived intercultural philosophy. How are you, with the self-understanding of an African philosopher in the American context, able to make that experience fertile for your practical interests, also in regard to your home country?


 

45

  Wiredu: In being in America, I am more able to advance the cause of African philosophy than I would have been able to do at home.


46

  Kresse: Why?


Kwame Anthony Appiah

Kwame Anthony Appiah





47

  Wiredu: Because there are greater opportunities of intercultural interactions, and also greater facilities of intellectual work, as well as better possibilities for publications and things like that. So, I think that although, in a sense, there is, of course, a brain-drain from Africa, there is also another side to that phenomenon, because it turns out that one can do a whole lot that one could not have done at home. This may be a phase in which the temporary absence from the culture at home may in fact help. Of course, I do intend to go back. I don't know what it is like in other African cultures, but in Akan culture you don't leave your culture and become a deserter. You do not go away and stay somewhere forever.


48

  Kresse: A last question, concerning a colleague of yours: Kwame A. Appiah, who is arguing for an emphasized individual approach to philosophy, especially in the African context, in his book In My Father's House where he, for instance, criticizes the concept of race used in the Afro-American discourse. Could you give a short comment on that approach which emphasizes the aspect of the individual in philosophy, in contrast to most of African philosophical works, focussing mainly on collective African identity (and generalized concepts on Africa and African thought)?


Kai Kresse
teaches African Philosophy and Social Theory at SOAS, University of London, where he is currently writing up his PhD-thesis.

49

  Wiredu: Well, Appiah does not suggest that there should be a focussing exclusively on the individual. He is also interested in studying the philosophical thought of the different communities. What he warns against is the making of hasty generalizations, in regard, for instance, to the whole of Africa. Even if you take just one group from Ghana, say, the Akans, he wants to make sure that one is sensitive to individual contributions and to the various (possibly heterogeneous) aspects of the thinking that may have been going on in the tradition. Thus he wants to combine a very careful study of individual cultures with individual efforts. So I do not find any significant difference between his approach and mine.

50

  Kresse: Prof. Wiredu, thank you very much for this interview.


Literature


Wiredu's books include the articles mentioned in the interview:


Kwame Anthony Appiah (1992): In my Father's House. Africa in the Philosophy of Culture. Oxford – New York: Oxford University Press.

Kwasi Wiredu (1980): Philosophy and an African culture. Cambridge: University Press.

Kwasi Wiredu (1996): Cultural Universals and particulars. Bloomington: Indian University Press.

Kwasi Wiredu / Kwame Gyekye (ed.) (1992): Person and community. Washington: Smithsonian (Ghanaian Philosophical Studies 1).



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