Dimensions of Epistemology and the Case for Africa’s Indigenous Ways of Knowing
philosophical practice has taken a new turn since it survived the large scale problems and debates which characterized its early beginnings in an African environment and intellectual community. The metaphilosophical issues then concerned about its status, relevance and methodology appropriate or usable for doing it. Although the issues that troubled African philosophers then may have subsided, yet some of them have and are still expressing reservations on the possibility of having Africa‟s indigenous ways of knowing, just as they deny the possibility of „African physics‟ or „African arithmetic‟. Paulin Hountondji, a leading African philosopher, is reputed for denying African traditional thought as philosophy, which he prefers to type as ethnophilosophy, simply because it thrives on orality and other ethnographical materials like proverbs, parables, folklores, fables, songs etc. For him, the piece, at best can qualify as ethnographical or anthropological monographs as opposed to philosophical work which relies on written texts and documentation on the basis of which “theoretical knowledge and significant intellectual exchange and innovation can” be achieved in Africa. Hountondji‟s position is, to say the least, exclusionist, since it denies and debars African modes of thought and heritage a position in the on-going philosophical conversation or discourse. The paper shares Hountondji‟s vision of adoption of an attitude of critical, scientific and skeptical orientation in African societies. However, it rejects the views of Hountondji and other scholars who deny African intellectual and cognitive systems and argues that their position rests on one sided conception or dimension of epistemology. The other intention of the paper is to show that philosophical practice is as old as the history of mankind in Africa, though Hountondj has expressed the view that philosophy as an academic discipline started in African Universities only in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
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