Are we Finished with the Ethnophilosophy Debate?

Filosofia Theoretica 8 (2):111-137 (2019)
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Abstract

In line with the tradition of the Conversational School of Philosophy, this essay provides a rare and unique space of discourse for the authors to converse about the place of the ‘ethno’ in African philosophy. This conversation is a revisit, a renewal of the key positions that have coloured the ethnophilosophy debate by the conversers who themselves are notable contributors to arguments for and against the importance of ethnophilosophy in the unfolding of African philosophy particularly in the last decade or so. There are four key positions that have been argued for in the pages of this paper: ethnophilosophy is not African philosophy and it is useless and inimical to the growth of African philosophy and should thus be jettisoned – Matolino; ethnophilosophy is the foundation for African philosophy as it provides the raw materials for African philosophical discourse – Ogbonnaya and Agada; ethnophilosophy has some value for African philosophy but it is definitely not the foundation for genuine African philosophy the way criticism and rigours are – Attoe; and ethnophilosophy can be adequately conceived as African philosophy particularly in terms of its etymology as culture or race philosophy, dealing with a philosophical or critical reflections on, and exposition of, immanent principles in African thought – Mangena and Etieyibo. These conversers provide good arguments for the positions they hold, arguments that are of course, open for further interrogation. Two points can be concluded from the ethnophilosophy debate provided in this essay: the disparities in views among conversers it seems, stem ultimately from the understanding of ethnophilosophy that each converser holds, which varies from the notion of a method used at some point in the history of African philosophy, to an etymological understanding as culture philosophy; and the debate about ethnophilosophy in the spirit of any philosophical tradition remains a perennial one that is yet to be concluded. This essay certainly concretises what is on ground and paves the way for further discussions.

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