This book explores aspects of indigenous Yoruba philosophy of law and relates this philosophy to the Yoruba indigenous traditions of governance. It is written with an appreciation of the relevance of the Yoruba traditions of law and governance to contemporary African experiments with imported Western democracy in the twenty-first century.
First published in 1986, Knowledge, Belief, and Witchcraft remains the only analysis of indigenous discourse about an African belief system undertaken from within the framework of Anglo-American analytical philosophy. Taking as its point of departure W. V. O. Quine's thesis about the indeterminacy of translation, the book investigates questions of Yoruba epistemology and of how knowledge is conceived in an oral culture.
The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful Discourse about Values in Yoruba Culture Barry Hallen Reveals everyday language as the key to understanding morals and ethics in Yoruba culture. "This contrasts with any suggestion that in Yoruba or, more generally, African society, moral thinking manifests nothing much more than a supine acquiescence in long established communal values.... Hallen renders a great service to African philosophy." —Kwasi Wiredu In Yoruba culture, morality and moral values are intimately linked (...) to aesthetics. The purest expression of beauty, at least for human beings, is to possess good moral character. But how is moral character judged? How do actions, and especially words, reveal good moral character in a culture that is still significantly based on oral tradition? In this original and intimate look at Yoruba culture, Barry Hallen asks the Yoruba onisegun—the wisest and most accomplished herbalists or traditional healers, individuals justly reputed to be well versed in Yoruba thought and expression—what it means to be good and beautiful. Posed as an outsider wanting to gain understanding of how to speak Yoruba correctly, Hallen engages the onisegun and has them explain the subtleties and intricacies of Yoruba language use and the philosophy behind particular word choices. Their instructions reveal a striking and profound depiction of Yoruba aesthetic and ethical thought. The detailed interpretations of everyday language that Hallen supplies challenge prevailing Western views that African thought is nothing more than acquiescence to long-established religious or communal values. The philosophy of ordinary language reveals that moral reflection is indeed individual and that evaluations of action and character take place on the basis of clearly and logically delineated criteria. With the onisegun as his guides, Hallen identifies the priorities of Yoruba philosophy and culture through everyday expression and shows that there are rational pathways to both truth and beauty. Barry Hallen has taught philosophy at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria. He is a Fellow at the W. E. B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University and Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Morehouse College. He is coauthor of Knowledge, Belief, and Witchcraft: Analytic Experiments in African Philosophy. Contents Ordinary Language and African Philosophy Moral Epistemology Me, My Self, and My Destiny The Good and the Bad The Beautiful Rationality, Individuality, Secularity, and the Proverbial Appendix of Yoruba-Language Quotations Glossary of Yoruba Terms. (shrink)
In the last two decades the idea of African Philosophy has undergone significant change and scrutiny. Some critics have maintained that the idea of a system of philosophical thought tied to African traditions is incoherent. In African Philosophy Lee Brown has collected new essays by top scholars in the field that in various ways respond to these criticisms and defend the notion of African Philosophy. The essays address both epistemological and metaphysical issues that are specific to the traditional conceptual languages (...) of sub-Saharan Africa. The primary focus of the collection is on traditional African conceptions of topics like mind, person, personal identity, truth, knowledge, understanding, objectivity, destiny, free will, causation, and reality. The contributors--who include Leke Adeofe, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Lee Brown, Segun Gbadegesin, D.A. Masolo, Albert Mosley, Ifeanyi Menkiti, and Kwasi Wiredu--incorporate concerns from various African philosophical traditions, including Akan, Azande, Bokis, Igno, Luo, and Yoruba. African Philosophy ultimately tries to bring a more rigorous conception of African philosophy into fruitful contact with Western philosophical concerns, specifically in the philosophies of psychology, mind, science, and language, as well as in metaphysics and epistemology. It will appeal to both scholars and students. (shrink)
The symposium, “How is gender relevant to comparative philosophy,” focuses on relevance of gender as an analytic and critical tool in comparative philosophical understanding and debate. Nkiru Nzegwu argues that gender as conceived by contemporary Euro-American feminism did not exist in pre-colonial Yorùbá as well as many Native American societies, and that therefore employing gender as a conceptual category in understanding the philosophies of pre-colonial Yorùbá and other non-gendered societies constitutes a profound mistake. What’s more, doing so amounts to a (...) totalizing Euro-American colonial imposition that does violence to nongendered societies that reject gender as an ontological category. Hence, gender is ill-suited as a universal comparative philosophical tool. Nzegwu’s three co-symposiasts, Mary I. Bockover, Maitrayee Chaudhuri, and María Luisa Femenías enrich and complicate this question by bringing to bear both conceptual, ethical and empirical considerations drawn from the United States, India, and Latin America respectively. (shrink)
In the field of African philosophy, there exists the belief among the modernists or professional philosophers that gerontocracy is coterminous with authoritarian traditions in traditional Africa which, supposedly, are responsible for the lack of sustained curiosity to look at issues from different perspectives. Drawing from the Ifá literary corpus as a store-house for Yorùbá philosophy, I argue in this paper that gerontocracy in Africa does not construe the idea that the elderly in Africa are rigid in thoughts or have immutable (...) authority which discourages independence of thought. I conclude that the position of the modernists on the supposed manifestation of authoritarianism in Africa derives its continuing force from a conception of philosophy which gives special overtones to the ideas of individuals as opposed to a collectivistic system of thought and the assumption that the multitude cannot produce philosophy. (shrink)
Many African scholars have expressed varied thoughts about the concept of a person, specifically about that which constitutes a person in African philosophy. These philosophers include Kwasi Wiredu, Kwame Gyekye and Segun Gbadegesin. What they have in common, though, is that their ideas on the concept of a person issue largely from the traditional philosophies of some West African peoples. Wiredu and Gyekye reflect on Akan conceptions while Gbadegesin carries out his discussions from the Yoruba cultural perspective. This paper (...) examines the thoughts of these prominent philosophers, with a particular focus on the constitution of the person and the nature of his or her destiny. (shrink)
The concern of this paper is to argue against Maduabuchi Dukor’s conception of African philosophical ideas of man, universe and God as“theistic humanism”. Dukor’s submission is an anti-thesis of the claims by many pioneer scholars in African philosophy who claimed that if Africans do not live in a religious universe perhaps one can affirm that their universe is theistic. But indeed the Africans’ perceptions and attitude to life in their various manifestations reveal an idealistic metaphysical orientation without an attenuation of (...) humanistic elements. It is argued in this paper that Dukor’s philosophical idea of reality in the African context though contributes to knowledge, it is in sharp contrast to African metaphysical theories such as Placide Temple’s theory of vital forces, Olubi Sodipo’s theory of mystical causality, Dagogo Idoniboye’s theory of spiritism among others. Even Sophie Oluwole, who argues that the Yoruba idea of morality is humanistic, still concludes that in moral issues the gods act as agent of sanction. In situating the African idea of reality in context, the Yoruba example is used in this paper with a view to establishing, contrary to Dukor’s“theistic humanism”; that reality among the Yoruba is better construed as“humanistic theism”. (shrink)
The most complete and up-to-date philosophy reference for a new generation, with entries ranging fromObjects to Wisdom, Socrates to Jean-Paul Sartre, Ancient Egyptian Philosophy to Yoruba Epistemology. The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy includes: * More than 2000 alphabetically arranged, accessible entries * Contributors from more than 1200 of the world's leading thinkers * Comprehensive coverage of the classic philosophical themes, such as Plato, Arguments for the Existence of God and Metaphysics * Up-to-date coverage of contemporary philosophers, ideas, schools (...) and recent developments, including Jacques Derrida, Poststructuralism and Ecological Philosophy * Unrivalled international and multicultural scope with entries such as Modern Islamic Philosophy, Marxist Thought in Latin America and Chinese Buddhist Thought * An exhaustive index for ease of use * Extensive cross-referencing * Suggestions for further reading at the end of each entry. (shrink)
The most complete and up-to-date philosophy reference for a new generation, with entries ranging fromObjects to Wisdom, Socrates to Jean-Paul Sartre, Ancient Egyptian Philosophy to Yoruba Epistemology. The _Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy_ includes: * More than 2000 alphabetically arranged, accessible entries * Contributors from more than 1200 of the world's leading thinkers * Comprehensive coverage of the classic philosophical themes, such as Plato, Arguments for the Existence of God and Metaphysics * Up-to-date coverage of contemporary philosophers, ideas, schools (...) and recent developments, including Jacques Derrida, Poststructuralism and Ecological Philosophy * Unrivalled international and multicultural scope with entries such as Modern Islamic Philosophy, Marxist Thought in Latin America and Chinese Buddhist Thought * An exhaustive index for ease of use * Extensive cross-referencing * Suggestions for further reading at the end of each entry. (shrink)
This paper posits that there are elements of oppression in some of the Yoruba proverbs that relate to women. It argues that these proverbs violate the rights and dignity of women, and that they are indicators of discrimination against women in Yoruba culture. The paper further argues that the most fundamental but neglected aspect in gender discourse lies in the proverbial resources of the community. The paper provides textual evidence of proverbial oppression of the feminine gender in (...) class='Hi'>Yoruba culture, and also underscores their pernicious effects on the struggle for gender balance. The paper contends that there is an urgent need to review the assumptions underlying these proverbs. (shrink)
In most societies, greetings are the expression of emotions such as friendliness or rejection, and form the basis of social and moral order. The symbolic dimension of greetings is frequently entwined in the cultural and metaphysical reality of a community. In African societies this ethical and religious dimension carries its own peculiarities. It is interesting to see how much of the content-meaning of greetings depends on cultural traditions. This paper presents an analysis of greetings in the Yoruba culture in (...) Nigeria. (shrink)
In Athens and other ancient cultures, a woman, whatever her status and whatever her age or social class, was, in law, a perpetual minor. Throughout her life, she was in the legal control of a guardian who represented her in law. Rape, as unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman, warranted a capital charge in the Graeco-Roman world. It still carries a capital charge in some societies and is considered a felony in others. As for adultery, it may be prosecuted in (...) some cultures while in others it is a matter to be decided by the family council. This paper examines laws concerning the abuse of and exploitation of women in ancient and modern societies, especially within the context of their biologically determined roles and sexual culture. It also seeks to establish the socio-legal rights of women, especially those who were traumatised and sexually abused. The research method is mainly content analysis. It employs sources such as legal evidence in the form of recorded speeches of the Attic orators along with literary accounts, historical or legendary and epigraphic inscriptions. (shrink)
This paper undertakes a philosophical investigation of the implications of the traditional Yoruba understanding of education for the contemporary African quest for development. The paper argues that the Yoruba conception of education is marked by the underlying philosophical principles of functionalism, moralism and progressivism. These principles, the paper contends, are of great relevance to the quest of contemporary African societies for education that will serve as a catalyst for development.
The meaning of the term “ethnophilosophy” has evolved in both a significant and controversial variety of ways since it was first introduced by Paulin Hountondji in 1970. It was first challenged by the Kenyan philosopher, H. Odera Oruka, as based upon Hountondji’s unfair appreciation of Africa’s indigenous cultural heritage. Barry Hallen and J. Olubi Sodipo, using a form of analytic philosophy as foundational, thereafter argued that Yoruba ordinary language discourse also served to undermine Hountondji’s critique. The later work of (...) the Ghanaian philosopher, Kwame Gyekye, and the Kenyan D. A. Masolo have further legitimized the epistemological status of elements of African culture that once would have been labeled as of no genuine philosophical significance because they were ‘ethnophilosophical’ in character. The end result of this debate seems to be that both the form and content of philosophy in culture generally must be relativized.The most significant consequence of this would be that African and non-Western philosophy generally would finally be culturally liberated from the oppressive influence, indeed dominance, of what has conventionally come to be known as ‘mainstream’ philosophy. (shrink)
Claims about people's intuitions have long played an important role in philosophical debates. The new field of experimental philosophy seeks to subject such claims to rigorous tests using the traditional methods of cognitive science – systematic experimentation and statistical analysis. Work in experimental philosophy thus far has investigated people's intuitions in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, epistemology, and ethics. Although it is now generally agreed that experimental philosophers have made surprising discoveries about people's intuitions in each of these areas, (...) considerable disagreement remains about the philosophical significance of the key findings. Some have argued that work in experimental philosophy should be assessed by asking whether it can contribute to the kind of inquiry that is normally pursued within analytic philosophy, while others suggest that work in experimental philosophy is best understood as a contribution to a more traditional sort of philosophical inquiry that long predates the birth of analytic philosophy. (shrink)
This paper argues that explicit reading instruction should be part of lower level undergraduate philosophy courses. Specifically, the paper makes the claim that it is necessary to provide the student with both the relevant background knowledge about a philosophical work and certain metacognitive skills that enrich the reading process and their ability to organize the content of a philosophical text with other aspects of knowledge. A “How to Read Philosophy” handout and student reactions to the handout are provided.
Experimental moral philosophy began to emerge as a methodology in the last decade of the twentieth century, a branch of the larger experimental philosophy (X-Phi, XΦ) approach. From the beginning, it has been embroiled in controversy on a number of fronts. Some doubt that it is philosophy at all. Others acknowledge that it is philosophy but think that it has produced modest results at best and confusion at worst. Still others think it represents an important advance.
This essay discusses Wittgenstein's conception of logic, early and late, and some of the types of logical system that he constructed. The essay shows that the common view according to which Wittgenstein had stopped engaging in logic as a philosophical discipline by the time of writing Philosophical Investigations is mistaken. It is argued that, on the contrary, logic continued to figure at the very heart of later Wittgenstein's philosophy; and that Wittgenstein's mature philosophy of logic contains many interesting thoughts that (...) have gone widely unnoticed. (shrink)
Once symbolized by a burning armchair, experimental philosophy has in recent years shifted away from its original hostility to traditional methods. Starting with a brief historical review of the experimentalist challenge to traditional philosophical practice, this chapter looks at research undercutting that challenge, and at ways in which experimental work has evolved to complement and strengthen traditional approaches to philosophical questions.
Except for a patina of twenty-first century modernity, in the form of logic and language, philosophy is exactly the same now as it ever was; it has made no progress whatsoever. We philosophers wrestle with the exact same problems the Pre-Socratics wrestled with. Even more outrageous than this claim, though, is the blatant denial of its obvious truth by many practicing philosophers. The No-Progress view is explored and argued for here. Its denial is diagnosed as a form of anosognosia, a (...) mental condition where the affected person denies there is any problem. The theories of two eminent philosophers supporting the No-Progress view are also examined. The final section offers an explanation for philosophy 's inability to solve any philosophical problem, ever. The paper closes with some reflections on philosophy 's future. (shrink)
Recreative Minds develops a philosophical theory of imagination that draws upon the latest work in psychology. This theory illuminates the use of imagination in coming to terms with art, its role in enabling us to live as social beings, and the psychological consequences of disordered imagination. The authors offer a lucid exploration of a fascinating subject.
Drawing on work of the past decade, this volume brings together articles from the philosophy, history, and sociology of science, and many other branches of the biological sciences. The volume delves into the latest theoretical controversies as well as burning questions of contemporary social importance. The issues considered include the nature of evolutionary theory, biology and ethics, the challenge from religion, and the social implications of biology today (in particular the Human Genome Project).
Is Bayesian decision theory a panacea for many of the problems in epistemology and the philosophy of science, or is it philosophical snake-oil? For years a debate had been waged amongst specialists regarding the import and legitimacy of this body of theory. Mark Kaplan had written the first accessible and non-technical book to address this controversy. Introducing a new variant on Bayesian decision theory the author offers a compelling case that, while no panacea, decision theory does in fact have the (...) most profound consequences for the way in which philosophers think about inquiry, criticism and rational belief. The new variant on Bayesian theory is presented in such a way that a non-specialist will be able to understand it. The book also offers new solutions to some classic paradoxes. It focuses on the intuitive motivations of the Bayesian approach to epistemology and addresses the philosophical worries to which it has given rise. (shrink)
The paper provides a systematic overview of recent debates in epistemology and philosophy of science on the nature of understanding. We explain why philosophers have turned their attention to understanding and discuss conditions for “explanatory” understanding of why something is the case and for “objectual” understanding of a whole subject matter. The most debated conditions for these types of understanding roughly resemble the three traditional conditions for knowledge: truth, justification and belief. We discuss prominent views about how to construe these (...) conditions for understanding, whether understanding indeed requires conditions of all three types and whether additional conditions are needed. (shrink)
What does it mean to think about technology philosophically? Why try? These are the issues that Carl Mitcham addresses in this work, a comprehensive, critical introduction to the philosophy of technology and a discussion of its sources and uses. Tracing the changing meaning of "technology" from ancient times to our own, Mitcham identifies the most important traditions of critical analysis of technology: the engineering approach, which assumes the centrality of technology in human life and the humanities approach, which is concerned (...) with its moral and cultural boundaries. Mitcham bridges these two traditions through an analysis of discussions of engineering design, of the distinction between tools and machines, and of engineering science itself. He looks at technology as it is experienced in everyday life--as material objects (from kitchenware to computers), as knowledge ( including recipes, rules, theories, and intuitive "know-how"), as activity (design, construction, and use), and as volition (knowing how to use technology and understanding its consequences). By elucidating these multiple aspects, Mitcham establishes criteria for a more comprehensive analysis of ethical issues in applications of science and technology. This book will guide anyone wanting to reflect on technology and its moral implications. (shrink)