'Broad'and 'Strict'Distinctions Proposed by Claude Sumner Regarding Ethiopian and African Philosophy

In Claude Sumner & Samuel Wolde Yohannes (eds.), Perspectives in African Philosophy: An Anthology on. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Addis Ababa University. pp. 76-88 (2002)

Authors
Gail Presbey
University of Detroit Mercy
Abstract
This paper will put forward to new audiences the core of Claude Sumner's thesis regarding philosophy in the "broad" and "narrow" senses, the former referring to wisdom and the sapiential tradition. It will look at Sumner's role in popularizing early Ethiopian texts in a project meant to debunk preconceptions that Africa has no written history of philosophy. Nevertheless Sumner does not limit himself to written texts in the Ethiopian tradition, but has branched out into collecting and analyzing the oral traditions as well. He has argued that the written texts of Zera Yacob are examples of "religious rationality" in some ways similar to Descartes' scientific rationality. He argues that proverbs possess "figurative logic," which while different than conceptual logic is still indeed logic. Both written and oral sources of Ethiopian philosophy stretch well beyond the last fifty years, Sumner asserts, and thus African philosophy becomes known as being older than Hountondji, Okolo and others have thought. The paper argues that Sumner's contributions to the growth of the field of African philosophy should not be overlooked.
Keywords Claude Sumner, S.J.  Ethiopian philosophy  Wisdom and philosophy  Definitions of philosophy  History of African philosophy
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