African Research Review

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Revisiting the Seeming Unanimous Verdict on the Great Debate on African Philosophy

Arinze C. Agbanusi


The great debate on African Philosophy refers to the debate as to whether African Philosophy does exist or not. The debate aroused great interest among Philosophy scholars who were predominantly polarized into two opposing positions - those who denied the existence of African Philosophy and those who insisted on the existence of African Philosophy. The basic questions in the debate include: What constitutes the ‘African’ in African Philosophy? What body of knowledge qualifies as the proper content of the ‘Philosophy’ in African philosophy? The debate raged in the early nineteen seventies and, in fact, throughout the rest of the 20th century. In recent times, a few writers have assumed the arbiter position and, in their writings, passed judgment in favour of the debaters who held that there is African philosophy. Such writers hinge their judgments predominantly on the fact that African philosophy is recently studied in the Philosophy departments of some universities. True as this may seem, the problems are: One, what percentage of African universities study African philosophy? Two, in those Philosophy departments where African philosophy is studied, how many African philosophy courses are studied? Three, at the postgraduate level where sometimes provision is made for students to study African Philosophy as a major course in the programme, what is the ratio of African philosophy courses to other philosophy courses in the curricula of the departments in question. Using the hermeneutic method, this paper takes a critical look at the above-mentioned problems vis a vis finding out whether the acclaimed correct verdict about the great debate on African philosophy actually stands. At a cursory glance, the work may seem a contraction but the crux of the matter is that for Africans to claim to do African philosophy, much more needs to be done in order to sustain the verdict that African Philosophy exists.
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