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

Volume 6, Issue 2, December 2014

Fainos Mangena
Pages 23-38

Ethno-philosophy is Rational: A Reply to Two Famous Critics

In this article, I contend that philosophical reactions against ethno-philosophy, especially the arguments by professional African philosophers such as Paulin Hountondji and Kwame Anthony Appiah, cannot go unchallenged at a time when Africa is facing a myriad of problems such as disease, famine, ethnic conflicts, religious wars, and natural disasters which, in my view, stem from the continent’s failure to reflect on its past in the quest for lasting solutions. Having looked at the historical context of the emergence of ethno-philosophy or the project of cultural revivalism, and having closely examined the premises presented by Hountondji and Appiah against ethno-philosophy - which I consider to be unconvincing because of their tendency to glide into Western philosophical forms of thought - I argue that ethno-philosophy is just like Western philosophy, as it is based on a recognized form of reasoning, namely inductive reasoning, which is packaged in proverbs, riddles and other cultural resources. I also argue that religious beliefs are not an obstacle to the development of scientific thought in Africa; rather, they are an aid to it since both have complementary rather than opposing roles.