Ethiopian Journal of the Social Sciences and Humanities

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Is there an Ethiopian Philosophy? Rereading the Hatetas of Zara Yaecob and Walda Hewat in the Context of Knowledge Production

Fasil Merawi, Setargew Kenaw


The hatetas of Zara Yaecob and Walda Hewat are widely regarded as the precursors of societal enlightenment and written philosophy in Ethiopia. Mainly taking a form of an autobiographical exercise that tries to reflect on inherited horizons and conventional authority, the hatetas are seen as philosophical treatises that establish the need for societal rationality. Earlier on debates existed on the originality of the hatetas and whether or not the idea found within the hatetas qualifies as a philosophy. Claude Summer could be regarded as the ardent advocate of the position which celebrates the hatetas as original works of Ethiopian philosophy. Based on an attempt to refute the originality of the hatetas initiated by the Italian orientalist Carlo Conti Rossini, Daniel Kibret recently argued that the whole idea of an Ethiopian philosophy founded on the works of Zara Yaecob and Walda Hewat is a Western fabrication. He proceeded to argue that it was an Italian Jesuit by the name of Giusto d'Urbino who wrote the hatetas and that the hatetas had a hidden motive of initiating a reformist movement within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. In this paper we will try to evaluate the credibility of such arguments by initiating a rereading of the hatetas.

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