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Ibadan Journal of Humanistic Studies

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African Divinatory Systems and the Assertions of Ethnophilosophy

Omotade Adegbindin

Abstract


In classical literature, there was a serious debate surrounding the possibility of divination. More specifically, Cicero allegedly denounced divination as superstitio, leading to divergent reactions and also urging the need to provide justification for the possibility of divination. Although it is often said that Cicero's de Divinatione has suffered different interpretations since his time to date, the suspicion still remains that, perhaps, the text itself assumes that science— and, by extension, the imposition of certain cognitive modes on others— is the hēgēmon in matters concerning the State and human existence; the oracle cannot disclose the true nature of the universe. Cicero's position is no doubt a compelling reflection of the sharp differentiation between European and African thoughts that have endured as issues mostly discussed in African philosophy. For the African, the issue of debate on the possibility of divination does not arise: as a matter of fact, divination, for the African, serves as a veritable means through which he can understand the configurations of the entire universe and his place in it. Thus, this paper invariably attempts a deconstruction of the myth of writing that is mostly associated with the constitution of science or/and philosophy and shows that African divinatory systems, as legitimate candidates in ethnophilosophy, and their related mythical or religious conceptions represent a legitimization of the body of wisdom found in orality.

Keywods: African philosophy, divination, cognitive modes, ethnophilosophy, orality




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