Thought and Practice: A Journal of the Philosophical Association of Kenya

Volume 4, Issue 2, December 2012

Odera Oruka Seventeen Years On

Anke Graness
Pages 1-22

From Socrates to Odera Oruka: Wisdom and Ethical Commitment

Odera Oruka’s Sage philosophy project, his definition of philosophy, the method of interviewing sages, and the differentiation between folk and philosophic sages, have been discussed and criticised at length. Unfortunately, less known is Odera Oruka’s work on Ethics. This is especially regrettable, as his philosophical work had two main objectives: · The liberation of philosophy in Africa from ethnological and racist prejudices (Sage philosophy). · The reconstruction of the dimension of sagacity in philosophy which got lost in technical and analytic language during the last decades. Philosophy became a kind of expert knowledge with specialized terminology, thereby losing its holistic outlook and practical relevance. For Odera Oruka, who situates himself in the Socratic tradition of philosophy, philosophy is not a science in the ivory tower, but has to contribute to the betterment of the life of the people - it has to be made practical. Philosophers have to deploy the results of their thinking to the well-being of their communities. This is what he considers, following Socrates, the sagacious dimension of philosophy. The aim of the present article is to highlight the ethical dimension of Odera Oruka's work, and to show the inseparable relationship of the Sage Philosophy project and his works on ethics, with a special focus on his concept of global justice. At the same time, the article attempts to show the relevance of Odera Oruka's work to the world philosophical discourse.