What makes African Philosophy African? A conversation with Aribiah David Attoe on ‘the foundational myth of ethnophilosophy’
One of the most debated issues in African philosophy concerns the question of ethnophilosophy. While most Particularists equate it to African philosophy, the Universalists reject it as philosophy let alone being African philosophy. The rationale behind the second position is that ethnophilosophy is said to be descriptive and lacks argumentation, criticality, rigor and systematicity, which are the hallmarks of philosophy. What these two views revolve around is the question of the place of ethnophilosophy in African philosophy. Here, I focus on two scholars who have sought to address this question. The first is Ada Agada, who opines that ethnophilosophy plays a foundational role to African philosophy. The other is Aribiah Attoe, who sees this view as a myth that must be done away with. In this paper, I show two things: first, I show that these two conflicting views arose due to both scholars’ failure to clarify their ideas of what makes a philosophy African. Second, I converse with Attoe on his critique of the foundational role of ethnophilosophy as a myth. Here, I contend that Attoe’s view is a misreading of Agada’s views and that Attoe’s position that critical rigor instead of ethnophilosophy should be the foundation of African philosophy is unfounded. My argument is that criticality is just one among other tools of philosophy; and a tool of philosophy cannot be its foundation.
Keywords: Agada, African Philosophy, Attoe, criticality, ethnophilosophy, Ezin’ulo Ontology