African philosophy

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-Z018-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved August 16, 2022, from

1. Oral cultures

Two areas of folk-philosophy have been the object of extended scholarly investigation in the late twentieth century: the philosophical psychology of people who speak the Akan languages of the west African littoral (now Ghana) (see Akan philosophical psychology) and the epistemological thought of Yoruba-speaking people of western Nigeria (see Yoruba epistemology). In both cases the folk ideas of the tradition have been addressed by contemporary speakers of the language with Western philosophical training. This is probably the most philosophically sophisticated work that has been carried out in the general field of the philosophical study of folk-philosophy in Africa. It also offers some insight into ways of thinking about both the mind and human cognition that are different from those that are most familiar within the Western tradition.

One can also learn a great deal by looking more generally at ethical and aesthetic thought, since in all parts of the continent, philosophical issues concerning evaluation were discussed and views developed before writing (see Aesthetics, African; Ethical systems, African). Philosophical work on ethics is more developed than in aesthetics and some of the most interesting recent work in African aesthetics also focuses on Yoruba concepts which have been explored in some detail by Western philosophers. The discussion of the status of such work has largely proceeded under the rubric of the debate about ethnophilosophy, a term intended to cover philosophical work that aims to explore folk philosophies in a systematic manner (see Ethnophilosophy, African). Finally, there has also been an important philosophical debate about the character of traditional religious thought in Africa (see African traditional religions).

Citing this article:
Appiah, K. Anthony. Oral cultures. African philosophy, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Z018-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2022 Routledge.

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