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Cosmic Purpose: An African Perspective

Aribiah David Attoe


In much of the literature concerning African theories of meaning, there are certain clues regarding what constitutes meaningfulness from an African  traditional perspective. These are theories of meaning in life such as the African God’s purpose theory, which locates meaning in the obedience of divine  law and/or the pursuit of one’s destiny; the vital force theory, which locates meaning in the continuous augmentation of one’s vital force through the  expression and receipt of goodwill, rituals and the worship of God; and what I will call the transcendent communal normative theories, where meaning is  located in the positive contributions one makes to his/her society, whether as a human being or as an ancestor. I contend that all these theories have one  thing in common that unifies them – and that is the legitimization of God’s existence through the continued sustenance of the universe. This, I will  show, constitutes the meaning of life (in cosmic terms) from an African traditional religious perspective. To argue for this thesis, I will first tease out the  basic tenets of the previously described theories of meaning. I will then analyse the metaphysical underpinning of the African relational ontology and  how it reflects on the subject of being. Finally, I will end by showing the role of the universe in legitimizing the existence of God as a thing in the world,  and how that constitutes the meaning of life.