The problem of language in contemporary African philosophy: some comments
A critical discussion of the contentious problem of language in contemporary African philosophy is attempted in this paper. The problem centres on whether or not African languages can be used in ‘doing’ contemporary African philosophy, where ‘doing’ means teaching, writing and researching. It also revolves around the question of the extent to which words and concepts in use in traditions of philosophy outside Africa can be translated into indigenous African languages without loss of content meaning. Two camps are delineated in this paper as reactionary views to the language question: the conservatives and the progressives. In taking sides with the conservative position, a critical discussion of the relationship existing between thought, language and reality is given. On the basis of the nexus established, as well as the conviction, that the challenges occasioning the irresistibility of doing African philosophy in non-African indigenous languages are surmountable, the paper defends the prospects of doing contemporary African philosophy in African language(s).
Key words: Language, African philosophy, thought, reality