Caribbean Philosophy

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A brief overview to some of the main Caribbean philosophers

Afro-Caribbean philosophical consist within the wider framework of African, European, and Afro-American philosophical traditions. There were different languages in the history of Caribbean philosophy; English, French and Spanish. The following paper tries to give a Brief summary of the most influential authors.

Eric Eustace Williams (1911 – 1981) was prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago from 1961 until his death. Prior to entering politics, he was professor of political and social science at Howard University. He was educated at Queen's Royal College in Port of Spain, where he excelled at academics and football. He won an island scholarship in 1932 which allowed him to attend Oxford University where he received his doctorate in 1938. Williams was in part inspired by C.L.R. James and his doctoral thesis, owed much to the influence of James's The Black Jacobins (1938) One of the most important works of Williams is the book “Capitalism and slavery” where he explains how the triangular trade between Britain, British America, and Africa was fundamental in the structure of British economy in the eighteenth century. It assisted in the accumulation of capital for the industrial revolution. Williams's study of the role of slavery in financing the Industrial Revolution refuted traditional ideas of economic and moral progress and firmly established the centrality of the African slave trade in European economic development. He also showed that mature industrial capitalism in turn helped destroy the slave system. According to him, ' the capitalists first encouraged West Indian slavery, and then helped to destroy it’. He is not content with this. As an economic determinist he relates the abolition of slavery to the economic change he has noted. He holds, that the importance of the humanitarians ' has been seriously misunderstood and grossly exaggerated by men who have sacrificed scholarship to sentimentality”

Walter Rodney (March 23, 1942 – June 13, 1980) was a prominent Guyanese historian and political figure. Born to a working class family, was a Guyanese graduate of the University o the West Indies, Jamaica. In 1963, he entered the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University, and in 1966 he was awarded his PhD for his research focused on the slave trade on the upper Guinea coast. He also traveled widely and became very well known around the world as an activist and scholar. He was tragically killed during the summer of 1980 amidst political turmoil in Guyana In his major work “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, Rodney examines how Africa, the second largest continent on earth, is among the least developed. He explains the European and African past, showing how the present came into being, and what the trends are for the near future. He tries to give an overview of this in his second chapter: "It has been shown that, using comparative standards, Africa today is underdeveloped in relation to Western Europe and a few other parts of the world; and that the present position has been arrived at, not by the separate evolution of Africa on the one hand and Europe on the other, but by exploitation. To set the record straight", In Rodney's view underdevelopment is expressed as a particular relationship of exploitation ¬ the exploitation of one country by another. According to him all the countries named as 'underdeveloped' are exploited by others; and the underdevelopment with which the world is now pre-occupied is a product of capitalist, imperialist and colonialist exploitation.

C.L.R. James was born in Trinidad and Tobago. He was an historian, political activist, journalist, and a writer on art, literature and cricket. Two of its major currents, Marxism and Pan-Africanism, defined the substance of James’s work. His own active participation in cricket, combined with an intensive study of...
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