Gail Presbey
University of Detroit Mercy
The paper is about H. Odera Oruka's Sage Philosophy project. Oruka interviewed rural sages of Kenya, saying that like Socrates, these wise elders had been philosophizing without writing anything down. Paulin Hountondji (at the time) criticized efforts of oral philosophizing, saying that Africa needed a written tradition of philosophizing. Some philosophers were representatives of an "individualist" position which says that philosophical ideas must be attributed to specific named individuals. Kwame Gyekye instead argued that anonymous community wisdom of Africans had indeed been created by individuals, but individual names were not important to Africans at the time they created the wisdom. The paper then argues that hearing a certain bit of wise philosophy coming from a particular person in an interpersonal oral communication at a certain time and in a certain context can impress an idea upon this listener, commanding their attention in a way that a written text does not, due to the importance of presence in interpersonal communication. Respect for the speaker, and the way in which the speaker uses voice inflection and facial and bodily expressions while communicating all play a role in the message's reception. The paper does not argue that written philosophy or oral philosophy are superior to each other in all ways; rather, each has a strength that the other does not have.
Keywords Oral philosophy  H. Odera Oruka  Kwame Gyekye  Paulin Hountondji
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Secularism and Rationality in Odera Oruka’s Sage Philosophy Project.Gail M. Presbey - 2008 - Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 28:121-128.
Kenyan Sages on Equality of the Sexes.Gail M. Presbey - 2012 - Thought and Practice: A Journal of the Philosophical Association of Kenya 4 (2):111-145.
H. Odera Oruka on Moral Reasoning.Gail M. Presbey - 2000 - Journal of Value Inquiry 34 (4):517-528.
From Socrates to Odera Oruka: Wisdom and Ethical Commitment.Anke Graness - 2012 - Thought and Practice: A Journal of the Philosophical Association of Kenya 4 (2):1-22.
African Sage Philosophy and Socrates: Midwifery and Method.Gail M. Presbey - 2002 - International Philosophical Quarterly 42 (2):177-192.
Is Elijah Masinde a Sage-Philosopher? The Dispute Between H. Odera Oruka and Chaungo Barasa.Gail Presbey - 1997 - In Kai Kresse & Anke Graness (eds.), Sagacious Reasoning: Henry Odera Oruka in Memoriam. Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Peter Lang Verlag. pp. 195-209.
African Sage Philosophy.Gail M. Presbey - 2014 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Odera Oruka’s Account of the Foundation of Human Rights: A Critique.Reginald M. J. Oduor - 2012 - Thought and Practice: A Journal of the Philosophical Association of Kenya 4 (2):219-240.
H. Odera Oruka: A Biographical Sketch.Oriare Nyarwath - 2012 - Thought and Practice: A Journal of the Philosophical Association of Kenya 4 (2):3-5.


Added to PP index

Total views
47 ( #226,854 of 2,448,358 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
12 ( #53,950 of 2,448,358 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes