Authors
Gail Presbey
University of Detroit Mercy
Abstract
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
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