Anton Wilhelm Amo: The African Philosopher in 18th Europe

Blog of The American Philosophical Association (2018)

Authors
Dwight Lewis
University of South Florida
Abstract
Anton Wilhelm Amo (c. 1700 – c. 1750) – born in West Africa, enslaved, and then gifted to the Duke of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel – became the first African to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy at a European university. He went on to teach philosophy at the Universities of Halle and Jena. On the 16th of April, 1734, at the University of Wittenberg, he defended his dissertation, De Humanae Mentis Apatheia (On the Impassivity of the Human Mind), in which Amo investigates the logical inconsistencies in René Descartes’ (1596 – 1650) res cogitans (mind) and res extensa (body) distinction and interaction by maintaining that (1) the mind does not sense material things nor does it (2) contain the faculty of sensing.
Keywords Anton Wilhelm Amo  African Philosophy  Descartes  Cartesian  mind/body  German Philosophy  Ontology  soul  Princess Elisabeth  pineal gland
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