African philosophy

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-Z018-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 08, 2023, from

3. Recent philosophy

Most work in African philosophy in the twentieth century has been carried out by African intellectuals (often interacting with scholars outside Africa) under the influence of philosophical traditions from the European countries that colonized Africa and created her modern system of education. As the colonial systems of education were different, it is helpful to think of this work as belonging to two broadly differentiated traditions, one Francophone and the other Anglophone. While it is true that philosophers in the areas influenced by French (and Francophone Belgian) colonization developed separately from those areas under British colonial control, a comparison of their work reveals that there has been a substantial cross-flow between them (as there generally has been between philosophy in the French- and English-speaking worlds). The other important colonial power in Africa was Portugal whose commitment to colonial education was less developed. The sole Portuguese-speaking African intellectual who made a significant philosophical contribution is Amílcar Cabral, whose leadership in the independence movement of Guinea Bissau and the Cape Verde islands was guided by philosophical training influenced by Portuguese Marxism. Cabral’s influence has not been as great as that of Frantz Fanon. He was born in the French Antilles, but later became an Algerian. He was a very important figure in the development of political philosophy in Africa (and much of the Third World).

Among the most important political thinkers influenced by philosophy are Kwame Nkrumah, Kenneth Kaunda and Julius Nyerere (see African philosophy, Anglophone). Out of all the intellectual movements in Africa in this century, the two most important ones of philosophical interest have been négritude and pan-Africanism (see African philosophy, Francophone; Pan-Africanism).

Philosophy in Africa has changed greatly in the decades since the Second World War and, even more, as African states have gained their independence. Given the significance of the colonial legacy in shaping modern philosophical education in Africa it is not surprising that there have been serious debates about the proper understanding of what it is for a philosophy to be African. These lively debates, prevalent in the areas of African epistemology, ethics and aesthetics, are found in both Francophone and Anglophone philosophy (see Aesthetics, African).

Citing this article:
Appiah, K. Anthony. Recent philosophy. African philosophy, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Z018-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2023 Routledge.

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