Claude Sumner and the Quest for an Ethiopian Philosophy

  • Fasil Merawi
Keywords: , Wisdom Literature, Philosophy, Sagacity, Narratives


African philosophy emerged out of the rationality debates and the need to affirm the existence of a unique African intellectual tradition that primarily reflects on the legacies of colonialism. Such a debate also centered on whether there is a unique philosophical tradition rooted on African traditional practices. In such a context, Ethiopian philosophy represents a unique approach in defying the colonial bias which is founded on the idea that philosophy is exclusively a western mode of thinking. It is also unique in being available among others in a written form which is absent in other philosophical traditions in Africa. In this paper, I will develop a critical exposition of Sumner’s studies into the written, oral and sapiential sources of Ethiopian philosophy. I will discuss the contributions of Claude Sumner in light of questioning Eurocentric bias that undermined the existence of non-western philosophies, escaping the charge of ethno-philosophy, and situating Ethiopian philosophy on different modalities of Ethiopian experience. To attain such an undertaking, Sumner’s investigations on Ethiopian philosophy and their major contributions to the attempt to introduce a unique philosophical tradition in Ethiopia will be discussed. Through a discussion of Sumner’s works on Ethiopian philosophy, this paper attempts to situate the place of Ethiopian philosophy within the need to reflect on our existential predicaments. I will start my discussion by situating the forces that motivated Sumner’s pursuits, and also elaborating on Sumner’s explorations into the classical, oral and written sources of Ethiopian philosophy

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2520-582X
print ISSN: 1810-4487