I quite agree with Albert Einstein that, it is important that one never ceases to raise questions. it is in this line that I ask, to what extent can a mind ( African or not) be called civil? what actually are the signs of the civilization of a mind? (in our case here, the African mind) is it the mere liberation from the so called colonial shackles, building of sophisticated houses, riding the most expensive cars, acquisition of certificates and various degrees, holding of prestigious religious and political offices, use of the latest scientific and technological gadgets? I dare say NO! while the above mentioned are not bad in themselves, I tend to see them as secondary evidences of a civilized mind. Our ancestors were without these, but I think to an extent, their conducts are very closer to civility than the ones we display today. With the events happening in our African world, one who critically observes can say that, most African minds are still far away from the door of civilization despite the perceived show of enlightenment. There are many examples and cases of this but in this write-up, we shall how the case of Encrypted Phenomena has put a huge question mark on the externalities we show under the guise of civility. The neologism, Encrypted Phenomena is a coinage of Prof Innocent Asouzu. He describes encrypted phenomena as, those things that appear mysterious to us due to the paucity of our knowledge. Here, the mysteries disappear the moment the knowledge or information that is lacking is made available. Here the ignorant are usually exploited and are victims of selfish interests. Uncritical thinking arising from indoctrination and socialization looms here. Hence to be free from these, we can talk about de-crypting the encrypted or decoding the encrypted phenomena. One striking thing about the encrypted phenomena is that, it is practiced greatly in Africa by Africans and to Africans. So many people in the African milieu are being exploited daily under the guise of these phenomena. How do we explain the fact that despite the positive wind of enlightenment, we still hold back to the negative and deceptive ways of acting? Today for instance, so many are aware that wealth can be made through the rules of market economies yet we still continue to engage in practices like, money doubling, ritual killings just to make money. where then lies our rationality and enlightenment? the pillars of honest savings, hard work and honest investments which Africans were known for are gradually fading away before our very eyes. Religion on the other hand has been greatly exploited to the last. it is no longer seen as a genuine encounter with the Divine. What we have in the so called religious houses are simply the use of the name of God to exploit and deceive poor and innocent minds. Religion sadly has fallen into the category of encrypted phenomena used where man is served and worshipped in the name of God. We must know that, wearing the garment of civility when one cannot transcend this base and crooked form of thinking is useless. it is simply ironical or pseudo-civility so to say. True civility entails the capacity to see the Other not just as a negation or an object used to attain advancement and selfish interest but as a being that has rights, dignity and aspirations as we have. Emmanuel Levinas captures this thought when he talks of a face-face encounter. when this happens, then we can realize that such values as honesty, hard work, respect for life, worship of God in spirit and in truth will fall into place. Besides, these were hallmarks of the traditional African societies. unless this approach is taken, the Door of Civility might remain locked up from us for a long time to come.
African philosophy is gradually gaining recognition as a discipline both within its milieu and the universal arena. But then, as this takes place, certain pressing challenges still awaits it because she is yet to put in her best in the universal philosophical discourse. These challenges portray African philosophy as moving back wards and in serious need of an external aid as scholars like Makinde seem to assume. In certain parts of the world, the question of the existence of African philosophy is still in doubt whereas in some areas, African philosophy is merely exotic and devoid of critical reasoning. This has put African scholars to reflect deeply on the often asked question, can the Black Man think? To an extent, I share the view that Africans and scholars alike are to be blamed for this. We are not at our best in our bid to promote African philosophy. While I deeply acknowledge the sincere efforts of some scholars in some quarters, I still believe that we need to do more. As the day goes by, little efforts are being made by scholars to articulate African knowledge in a systematic way so as to make our philosophy challenging and to promote lasting intellectual curiosity beyond mere world views. What is usually the case in African philosophy today is the mere recitation of world views that do not resonate in the universal. What is more? We have in our time a gradual decrease in the reading culture. Few tend to cultivate the habit of deep critical reading that goes beyond what we see in newspapers and novel. It does seem that with the excitement generated by the debate about the existence or non existence of African philosophy, we seem to be marking time to use the words of Prof Innocent Asouzu. At this time, one is not mistaken by asking, where are our trained philosophers who study in various prestigious universities in and around the globe? How much do the give to African philosophy after their degrees? Is the bank of African philosophy enriched enough by their wisdom? I come back again to the need for system building because, it is one of the greatest trials facing African philosophy. If our scholars can actually begin to systematize their thoughts as they philosophize from their African Ambient, then we can say that we are on our way to progress. To forestall retrogression and lack of creativity in African philosophy, we must change strategy. Here we must study not only Western philosophies and their methodologies but also works and systems of African philosophers. The study of regional philosophy must be promoted in our institutions of learning. We can’t loose our own. (Nkemefuna). All forms of sheepish and slavish attachments to Western philosophical thoughts and paradigms must be discouraged as this can kill creativity in African philosophy. Africans must take pride in studying and internalizing the ideas of African philosophers as part of the wealth of our intellectual heritage. It is often surprising how one can search for the works of fellow Africans in African libraries, universities and not easily find them as we find that of our European counterparts. On the other hand, for the work of total and comprehensive solution to be achieved, African philosophy must engage in critical reflections that will solve the pressing human problem both in and around African philosophy. This is quite a daunting task but without it, all our arguments will be meaningless. It is by aiding in solving both the existential and perennial problems of man in a systematic way that the voice of African philosophy can truly resonate beyond ethnocentric and exotic world views that it is usually styled with. Indeed now is the finest moment for African philosophy to stop marking time and move to the next level. This is our chance… Have a blissful week!
Events of last week, had me feeling nostalgic about my days in the philosophy department. These events are actually the catalysts for this little reflection on the nature and role of Philosophy in the face of our contemporary world. In the first place, philosophers are not merely the sort of people who impersonally work with a set of select tools in the quiet seclusion of their minds or classrooms. They are humans whose tools consist of their languages and whose work shops are chiefly their minds. They are known for distancing their passion from their position so as to enable them stand out as gadflies of the society. To use the words of one of my lecturers in those good old days, “philosophers are constructors of a world”. They are not just mere lovers of wisdom as the etymology makes us understand. How is this construction of the world possible? This can be achieved by challenging erroneous beliefs and assumptions. No position is sacrosanct in philosophy except it is truth itself . the philosopher must not necessarily be a scholar. Even though, being one gives him an edge over others and thus, more responsibility. The philosopher does not usually see things from the usual lenses. He is always in the maze of critical questionings, deconstructions and reconstructions. This is to avoid undue absolutism and dogmatism. This is why, the philosopher is in a better position to give honest answers or opinions to the questions, why is there so much suffering in a world sustained by a necessary Being?, why is life worth living? Can we know the truth in its entirety? In the face of the unsatisfactory nature of leadership, we expect philosophers to reflect over the nature of good government and governance in general. In all these, we see that philosophy is not just an abstract activity but a very practical one. To acquire this “philosophical temperament”, we must avoid pure ideological exercises in the form of religious fanaticism, ethnic chauvinism, political extremism and the likes. These are enemies of the philosophical attitude. Of course we know that philosophy thrives across the length and breadth of our daily activities. It is active in history as philosophy of history, in law as jurisprudence, in politics as political philosophy, the list continues. When Ayer says philosophy studies reality as a whole, we see that the subject matter of philosophy agitates the mind of one who raises the philosophical question. For philosophy to be properly done, we must approach it with the proper mindset. A mindset that is not hegemonic or exclusivit but rather one that is complementary(to borrow the word of prof Asouzu). Complementary here implies that, every link of reality is very Important. This leads to mutual dependence that is very absent in philosophy today. It does seem that our philosophy is lacking a more humane face that is attuned to the problems of our time. The Epicurean Metaphysics captures it vividly, “empty is the argument of the philosopher by which no soul is healed”. We tend to hold on to the subject-object divide in philosophy. Rejecting this does not negate the systematic thinking we ascribe to ourselves. Diversity is strength. This is what philosophers in a postmodern era must realize. Our thinking and being is enriched when we learn from one another and complement one another. Thus, wither philosophy is a clarion call on all lovers of wisdom to expunge and exorcise if necessary all the ghosts that keep on reappearing in the philosophical enterprise to hinder progress. These Ghosts are present in all cultures that form the seeds of philosophy. We must not let them thrive in their thought trajectories. The philosopher must seek to reclaim his true autonomy. This is one of the arduous task facing Philosophy. GOD BLESS THE PHILOSOPHICAL ENTERPRISE!