Volume 42, Issue 2, June 2002
Gail M. Presbey
African Sage Philosophy and Socrates
Midwifery and Method
The paper explores the methodology and goals of H. Odera Oruka’s sage philosophy project. Oruka interviewed wise persons who were mostly illiterate and from the rural areas of Kenya to show that a long tradition of critical thinking and philosophizing exists in Africa, even if there is no written record. His descriptions of the role of the academic philosopher turned interviewer varied, emphasizing their refraining from imposition of their own views (the social science model), their adding their own ideas (like Plato), or their midwifery in helping others give birth to their own ideas (like Socrates). The accuracy and consistency of the various metaphors used by Oruka is the main focus of the article’s analysis. The article sums up the shortcomings of Oruka’s method as well as its strengths and concludes with Oruka’s challenge to academic philosophers to rethink their own roles in society.