Course Unit: 3 Course Description

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Traditional African Philosophy

Course Code: PHI 3103

Course Unit: 3
Course Description:

A study of African philosophy as rooted in African culture and history, its nature and relevance and the various opinions of African philosophers about it. The course undertakes specifically a critical examination of African traditional thought about fundamental aspects of human existence as reflected in the traditional conceptions of God, nature, person, mind, free will, cause and chance, destiny, time, life, death, morality, society, etc., with due attention to their cultural matrix and to similarities and contrasts with other systems of thought wherever appropriate. Problems in the comparison of modes of thought and in cross cultural translatability. The course examines further the world-views and cultural expressions of ancient African societies with emphasis on their influence on social institutions and on contemporary culture and life.

Course Objective

The course mainly targets the development of indigenous African philosophers or philosophical thinking which gleans ideas from traditional African systems of thought.

Learning Objectives

  1. To encourage students to develop African philosophical perspectives

  2. To help participants examine traditional African thought

  3. To help students distinguish between African anthropology from African philosophy

  4. To help students glean philosophical perspectives that underlies traditional African culture

Course Outline

  1. General introduction to traditional African philosophy

  2. The defining of Africa

  3. Questions of defining traditional African philosophy

  4. Methodology in studying traditional African philosophy

  5. Non-African influences in defining philosophy

  6. The question of rational thought and African philosophical capacities

  7. Trends in Traditional African philosophical thought

  8. African philosophy as anthropology

  9. The hermeneutics of traditional African thinking and existence

  10. Traditional African culture and African philosophical thought

  11. Traditional African meanings of existence

  12. Traditional African moral reasoning

  13. On the legacy of Hegel, Strauss, et al on African rationality


The facilitator(s) will employ the following methods; Lectures, individual presentations, textual criticism, guest lectures

Assessment Mode

Course work exercises 30%

End of semester examination 70%
Reading List

  1. Abanuka, Boniface (1994), A New Essay on African Philosophy. Nsukka, Nigeria: Spiritan Publications

  2. Appiah, Kwame Anthony, (1992) In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture. Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press

  3. Bell, Richard, (2002), Understanding African Philosophy. London: Routledge

  4. Coetzee P. H. and A. P. J. Roux, eds.(2003), The African Philosophy Reader, 2ndEdition. London: Routledge

  5. Eze, Emmanuel, (1998), African Philosophy: An Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers

  6. Eze, Emmanuel (1997), Race and the Enlightenment: A Reader. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers

  7. Bruce B. Janz, “African philosophy”

  8. P. O. Bodunrin, in Wright "The Question of African Philosophy"

  9. James George, (1954) The Stolen Legacy: Greek philosophy is stolen Egyptian philosophy, Africa World Press

  10. Ptah-Hotep, Maxims 

  11. Fanon, Frantz (1967), The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington. New York: Grove Press

  12. Graiule, Marcel (1965), Conversations with Ogotemmêli, London: OxfordUniversity Press for the International African Institute.

  13. Gyekye, Kwame (1995), An Essay on African Philosophical Thought. Philadelphia: TempleUniversity Press.

  14. Hallen, Barry and J. O. Sodipo (1997), Knowledge, Belief and Witchcraft: Analytic Experiments in African Philosophy. Palo Alto, CA: StanfordUniversity Press.

  15. Hallen, Barry, (2002), A Short History of African Philosophy. Bloomington: IndianaUniversity Press.

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