Tempels' Philosophical Racialism

  • B Matolino


Placide Tempels’ Bantu Philosophy has largely been met with hostility from African philosophers. Whilst Tempels intended to show that the Bantu were not only capable of thinking, but also that they had a distinct and coherent philosophy of their own, his project seems to have achieved exactly the opposite. Temples’ project sought to expose the racism of thinkers such as Lucien Levy-Bruhl, thereby raising the African to the same status as the Westerner. However, his efforts have been rejected for a number of reasons ranging from the view that it is a theory of magic, freely generalized to the Bantu, to the accusation that his project fails to speak on behalf of the oppressed Bantu and furthermore, that he is overly obsessed with finding the African difference at the cost of reason. In this paper, I seek to argue that a neglected critique of Tempels is one that has to do with the basis of his philosophical racialism. I seek to show that at the root of Bantu Philosophy is racialism grounded in the same assumptions as those made by Levy-Bruhl. I seek to argue that the categories that Tempels creates for Bantu thought do not simply seek to articulate a genuine difference from Western categories. The Bantu categories are coined as inferior, incoherent, inarticulate, illogical, and mystified. I argue that it is for reasons of philosophical racialism that Tempels urges his Western audience to overthrow their logical and articulable systems if they ever want to understand the Bantu system of thought.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0258-0136