Approaches to the African Novel Third Edition

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Chapter 3 From nostalgia to myth. Chapter 4 Craft in Marxist garb. Chapter 7 Privileged communications. Chapter 8 Dilectic as form. Chapter 13 Achebes Things Fall Apart. Chapter 14 The journey motif. Chapter 15 Technique and meaning in Achebes Arrow of God. Chapter 17 The novelist as historian. Chapter 18 Trends in the Nigerian novel. Chapter 10 In search of Aniebo.

Chapter 11 SaroWiwas world and his craft in Sozaboy. Ancient Egyptian philosophers also made important contributions to Hellenistic philosophy and Christian philosophy. In the Hellenistic tradition, the influential philosophical school of Neoplatonism was founded by the Egyptian philosopher Plotinus in the 3rd century CE. The most prominent of West Africa 's pre-modern philosophical traditions has been identified as that of the Yoruba philosophical tradition and the distinctive worldview that emerged from it over the thousands of years of its development.

Philosophical concepts such as Omoluabi were integral to this system, and the totality of its elements are contained in what is known amongst the Yoruba as the Itan. The cosmologies and philosophies of the Akan , Dogon , Serer and Dahomey were also significant. In pre-colonial Senegambia modern Gambia and Senegal , the 17th-century philosopher Kocc Barma Fall stood out as one of the renowned philosophers in Senegambian history.

In the Horn of Africa , there are a number of sources documenting the development of a distinct Ethiopian philosophy from the first millennium onwards. Among the most notable examples from this tradition emerge from the work of the 17th-century philosopher Zera Yacob , and that of his disciple Walda Heywat. He comes to the belief that every person will believe their faith to be the right one and that all men are created equal. In Southern Africa and Southeast Africa the development of a distinctive Bantu philosophy addressing the nature of existence, the cosmos and humankind's relation to the world following the Bantu migration has had the most significant impact on the philosophical developments of the said regions, with the development of the philosophy of Ubuntu as one notable example emerging from this worldview.

Approaches to the African Novel Third Edition (English Edition)

Many Central African philosophical traditions before the Bantu migration into southern Central Africa have been identified as a uniting characteristic of many Nilotic and Sudanic peoples, ultimately giving rise to the distinctive worldviews identified in the conceptions of time, the creation of the world, human nature, and the proper relationship between mankind and nature prevalent in Dinka mythology , Maasai mythology and similar traditions.

Some pre-Modern African diasporic philosophical traditions have also been identified, mostly produced by descendants of Africans in Europe and the Americas. One notable pre-modern diasporic African philosopher was Anthony William Amo , who was taken as a slave from Awukenu in what is now Ghana , and was brought up and educated in Europe where he gained doctorates in medicine and philosophy, and subsequently became a professor of philosophy at the universities of Halle and Jena in Germany.

Kenyan philosopher Henry Odera Oruka has distinguished what he calls four trends in modern African philosophy: ethnophilosophy, philosophical sagacity, nationalistic—ideological philosophy, and professional philosophy. In the African diaspora, American philosopher Maulana Karenga has also been notable in presenting varied definitions for understanding modern African philosophy, especially as it relates to its earliest sources. Ethnophilosophy has been used to record the beliefs found in African cultures. Such an approach treats African philosophy as consisting in a set of shared beliefs, values, categories, and assumptions that are implicit in the language, practices, and beliefs of African cultures; in short, the uniquely African worldview.

As such, it is seen as an item of communal property rather than an activity for the individual.

One proponent of this form, Placide Tempels , argued in Bantu Philosophy that the metaphysical categories of the Bantu people are reflected in their linguistic categories. According to this view, African philosophy can be best understood as springing from the fundamental assumptions about reality reflected in the languages of Africa. Another example of this sort of approach is the work of E. Algoa of the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria , who argues for the existence of an African philosophy of history stemming from traditional proverbs from the Niger Delta in his paper "An African Philosophy of History in the Oral Tradition.

In support of this view, he cites proverbs such as "More days, more wisdom", and "What an old man sees seated, a youth does not see standing. It is dangerous to judge by appearances "A large eye does not mean keen vision" , but first-hand observation can be trusted "He who sees does not err". The past is not seen as fundamentally different from the present, but all history is contemporary history "A storyteller does not tell of a different season". The future remains beyond knowledge "Even a bird with a long neck cannot see the future".


Nevertheless, it is said, "God will outlive eternity. However, these arguments must be taken with a grain of cultural relativism, as the span of culture in Africa is incredibly vast, with patriarchies, matriarchies, monotheists and traditional religionists among the population, and as such the attitudes of groups of the Niger Delta cannot be construed to the whole of Africa.

Another more controversial application of this approach is embodied in the concept of Negritude.


Leopold Senghor , a proponent of Negritude, argued that the distinctly African approach to reality is based on emotion rather than logic, works itself out in participation rather than analysis, and manifests itself through the arts rather than the sciences. Cheikh Anta Diop and Mubabinge Bilolo, on the other hand, while agreeing that African culture is unique, challenged the view of Africans as essentially emotional and artistic, arguing that Egypt was an African culture whose achievements in science , mathematics , architecture , and philosophy were pre-eminent.

This philosophy may also be maligned as overly reductionist due to the obvious scientific and scholarly triumphs of not only ancient Egypt, but also Nubia, Meroe, as well as the great library of Timbuktu, the extensive trade networks and kingdoms of North Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, the Horn of Africa and Great Zimbabwe and the other major empires of Southern, Southeast and Central Africa. Critics of this approach argue that the actual philosophical work in producing a coherent philosophical position is being done by the academic philosopher such as Algoa , and that the sayings of the same culture can be selected from and organised in many different ways in order to produce very different, often contradictory systems of thought.

Philosophical sagacity is a sort of individualist version of ethnophilosophy, in which one records the beliefs of certain special members of a community. The premise here is that, although most societies demand some degree of conformity of belief and behaviour from their members, a certain few of those members reach a particularly high level of knowledge and understanding of their cultures' worldviews; such people are sages. In some cases, the sage goes beyond mere knowledge and understanding to reflection and questioning—these become the targets of philosophical sagacity.

Critics of this approach note that not all reflection and questioning is philosophical; besides, if African philosophy were to be defined purely in terms of philosophic sagacity, then the thoughts of the sages could not be African philosophy, for they did not record them from other sages.

Also, on this view the only difference between non-African anthropology or ethnology and African philosophy seems to be the nationality of the researcher.


Critics argue further that the problem with both ethnophilosophy and philosophical sagacity is that there is surely an important distinction between philosophy and the history of ideas , although other philosophers consider the two topics to be remarkably similar. To call them philosophy is to use a secondary sense of that term, such as in "my philosophy is live and let live. Professional philosophy is usually identified as that produced by African philosophers trained in the Western philosophical tradition, that embraces a universal view of the methods and concerns of philosophy.

Nationalist and ideological philosophy might be considered a special case of philosophic sagacity, in which not sages but ideologues are the subjects. Alternatively, it has been considered as a subcategory of professional political philosophy.

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In either case, the same sort of problem arises with retaining a distinction between ideology and philosophy, and also between sets of ideas and a special way of reasoning. Examples include African socialism , Nkrumaism , Harambee and Authenticite. Although Africa is extremely diverse, there appear to be some shared moral ideas across many ethnic groups.

While many traditional African societies are highly religious, their religions are not revealed, and hence, ethics does not center around divine commands. Africana philosophy is the work of philosophers of African descent and others whose work deals with the subject matter of the African diaspora. Africana philosophy includes the philosophical ideas, arguments and theories of particular concern to people of African descent.