African Philosophical Humanism

Topics: Meaning of life, Africa, Human Pages: 23 (7816 words) Published: December 8, 2009


Alloy S. Ihuah PhD.
Department of Religion and Philosophy
Benue State University Makurdi.

(i) Introduction
African indigenous knowledge system expressed in proverbs, names and songs etc. are conscious reflections on specific situations, events and experiences in the lives of the people. For the African, observation and experience are sources of knowledge that have immediate practical results in such areas as agriculture, medicine, crime prevention and remedy among others. It is no longer fiction that, our ancestors, whose main occupation was farming, knew of the system of rotation of crops; they knew when to allow a piece of land to lie fallow for a while; they had some knowledge of the technology of food processing and preservation; and there is a great deal of evidence about their knowledge of the medicinal potentialities of herbs and plants – the main sources of their health care delivery system long before the introduction of Western Medicine. (Even today there are countless testimonies of people who have received cures from ‘traditional’ healers where the application of western therapeutics could not cope) (Gyekye, 1997:26-27).

Although western scientific thought similarly acknowledge observation and experience as sources of objective knowledge. It depends on the adoption of a linear monistic conception of reality, which goal is analysis and demonstrative procedures. Here understood, western civilization lacks the principle of self-limitation in terms of size, speed and violence and has in the process killed more than healed humanity and the environment.

The work argues that any civilization that claims immunity from error and confers on itself authority over other cultures is to say the least no civilization. Every culture has its basic assumptions about nature and the method of arriving at trustworthy knowledge of reality. It is posited further that a value system that aims at having more instead of being more dominates man and empties his being.

The work argues in conclusion for a new vision of reality, a worldview that is holistic; ‘functional and humane, a value system which restores meaning and wholeness, not just in the African human community, but in the entire cosmos. Such is the corpus of African humanistic value system, the oral corpus of African indigenous knowledge system that ensues concern, care, co-operation and co-existence and ensures sustainable development.

(ii) African Culture:

Culture, like every other word in common use, can be variously defined. It entails a people’s integrative conceptual framework of reality. It is the totality of indigenous knowledge and behaviour, ideas and objects, that constitutes the common heritage of a people. This understanding of culture so described means a people’s world-view or outlook, a conceptual model of reality that enables a people to develop a strong sense of belonging to a community of shared beliefs i.e. religion, politics, economics arts, morals, science and philosophy etc. Understood as such, African indigenous knowledge system is the outlook of an African on the created world. It is the African conception of reality in its totality and from which every other life index find its bearing. It is a product of the African experience in the world as distinguished from the experiences of other peoples. Such distinction, properly defined, constitute what is described as the African mindset, which, its modes of perception, its normative theories and social organizations contra-distinguish the western modes of thought.

The African reality has a unitary view, so, man is man because of other men, and life is only life with others. Unlike the western civilization of analysis, mathematics and mechanics which translates to the...
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