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!
I had a little spare time Last week. Some period away from the stress of my place of work. Thus, I decided to engage in one of my past times (watching movies). It was one of the famous movies making grounds in Neuro science and philosophy because of its seeming novel scientific insights. It is titled SELFLESS. An American science fiction thriller produced last year. The film was written by David and Alex Pastor and directed by Tarsem Singh. In the movie, we see Damian a business tycoon who was diagnosed with a terminal illness but discovers a radical novel medical procedure called SHEDDING which gives room for the transfer of consciousness to an artificially grown healthy body. Interestingly, Damian decides to undergo this procedure and fakes his death. His body was successfully transferred into a new body and drugs were given to him to prevent hallucinations which he claims are side effects of the procedure. After some time, Damian begins a new life in New Orleans under the name Edward Kidner and the story continues. My interest here is not to unravel the whole plot of the story, mine is more of a reflection and also to draw our attention to the rising issue in science, the possibility of the transfer of consciousness to the human person and its devastating effects to the future of man. Is it right for shedding to take place under any guise even in the case of death as we have in our selfless movie? Living in a techno-scientific world, man is faced with the nagging tendency of making technology the be all and end all of our existence. As we move towards a De-Godment(doing away with God) and a relativization of morals, everything gradually becomes permissible. This earthly existence is now held tenaciously and vain efforts are made to enthrone immortality to an ever frail mortal nature. It is within this spectrum that we can understand the efforts made to promote scientific novelties like Shedding while depersonalizing the human dignity. While the movie makes it seem like it is very easy to swap memories between two people, one should be aware of the severe difficulties involved According to Wolfgang Fink a Neuro Scientist, “the reason why the selfless-style body procedure is not possible is because, everyone has a different brain. Here one would have to transfer not just memories but the same generating process”. Besides what about the dangers and unknown side effects of such procedures? Surely a human consciousness in an artificial body calls into serious question his humanity and dignity. He or she is more like a walking robot. What’s more, there is no assurance that the so called artificial body can live longer. It will get to die one day. Thus, why the unbridled quest for immortality? It all boils down to the fact that we are gradually loosing the sense of the absolute value of the human person. A bizarre world indeed! Technology and science should not blind and enslave men despite its positive effects. We do not live for the sake of technology. We cannot loose our humanity because of science. Science must be subject to right reason. A future that shedding or the transfer of consciousness will take place spells doom for the human race. The sacredness and inviolability of the body must be respected and should not be sacrificed on the altar of science and technology. A BLISSFUL WEEK TO ALL OF US!
A good number of us are well acquainted with the etymology of atheism. An origin which comes from the Greek “atheos” (without God or gods). It is often addressed to those who reject any belief in God, gods or any form of supreme being. Beginning from the age of enlightenment down to the French Revolution and to our day, the concept of atheism has consistently reared its ugly head. One interesting fact though unadmitted by atheist is that, if God had not existed, there would not have been so much fight and struggle to prove his non-existence. But then, one pressing question remains for the atheist, does believing in God take away our true freedom? Why are they so bent on proving his non existence as if his existence depersonalizes our being. Die hard atheists like Satre thinks otherwise when he says “man is free but his freedom does not look like the glorious liberty of the enlightenment. It is no longer the gift of God. Once again, man stands alone in the universe.” Now, if we fast forward time from the period of enlightenment, we see that the idea and concept of atheism has gradually shifted from just rejecting any belief in God down to the non-tolerance of religion and the countering of religion through the use of the so called rational arguments. This is what is called in some quarters as The New Atheism. A movement commonly associated with the likes of Sam Harris, Daniel Denett, Richard Dawkins , Christopher Hitchens and other disciples of the New Atheist bent. The new atheists I must say are emerging with a more fierce and dangerous approach than it has been in former times. There is what is known today as the politics of new atheism where campaigns are made to reduce the influence of religion in the public sphere and efforts are made to project the idea of God as a delusion to use the words of Dawkins. Perhaps, Watson was right in saying that, the modern man has seen a theological understanding of the humankind being replaced by a psychological nature. What this movement is quickly forgetting is that, the experience of God is real and can be tried. If it were an illusion or delusion , it would not inspire the sacrifice, the purity of morals, the humility, the sublimity of learning that it has inspired for the past 21 centuries. I return again to the questioning mode, what really makes us afraid of God? If he is love, should we not embrace him? This is why Atheism is of the will. It gives room for the permissibility of actions and inactions. It is under this ambience that one can fully understand the new atheist who are bent on destroying God and refusing anything that might put God in action. I was in a recent chat with someone on the internet who made the following statement about God that captures the spirit of the new atheism, he says “I don’t believe in God. God is just a kind of phrase” phraseology is exactly what today’s atheists want God to be. A roless God amidst men. One interesting and puzzling fact amidst these is that God being a relentless lover continues to be in search of the souls of even the worst of Atheists. We may not be surprised to see in heaven the likes of Henry Bergson. Despite the fact of turning God into an endless becoming, he later sought the assistance of a priest before breathing his Last. This points to the fact that we can never exhaust the possibilities of choice. We are free. My final word to this movement is that, there is no escaping God, we cannot keep him out of our lives. We can only greet him with hate instead of love. His pervasive presence will continue to be felt by all. For Godlessness is nothing unless one admits a God. Happy new week! God loves us!!
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!
This reflection is a fruit of a mutual discussion i had with an online friend of mine last week. The crux of our conversation was on the current crisis bedevilling our modern world and what actually was the place of those who wish to steer the virtuous paddle. As the discussion progressed, he said to me “actually Stan, I quite agree with those who say that, virtue is a dangerous career.” At first, i kept silent allowing the words to sink in then, we continued with our chat. But after then, i sank into deep reflection, pondering what it actually meant for virtue to be a danger to the one who decides to wear her mantle.
I do not intend in this work to thread the path of an exhaustive lecture towards philosophical virtues. i reserve that exclusively to scholars in Philosophical Ethics and Moral Theology. My interest here is simple. To reflect on how and why virtue can be a danger and the hope of those who still maintain this life or aspire towards it. is it possible that they can find a light at the end of the tunnel?
Virtue from the Latin “virtus” and the ancient Greek “arete” simply means moral excellence. it is a trait or a quality deemed to be morally good and this is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral well being. Following the above definition, any trait or quality that promotes good moral well being can be called virtues. There are however different kinds of virtues but i think the four classical platonian cardinal virtues encapsulates most of the virtuous acts; (prudence, temperance, courage and justice). virtue then is a good habit(habitus). The Catechism calls it “a firm disposition that allows the person not only to perform good acts but also to give the best of himself”. The question now is, can adapting this habitual and firm disposition to do good pose a threat to the agent? how is this possible? why must this be so? well i think that if it is not actually a dangerous career, Perfect Goodness would not have been crucified like a thief. Saint Paul once said in his letter to the Galatians “Have I made enemies because i tell you the truth?(4:16). Here we see the courage to be truthful (Virtue) being an avenue to acquire more enemies. (we know that enemies may pose dangers to one’s life).
Virtue can be hated for so many reasons which makes it possible to attract dangers. The first reason is pride which refuses to admit that a position, statement or action once taken can be a false one. Here we observe that some of us do not like to be contradicted or proven false. All their acts are good and so when you come with an action that gears at correcting them, Beware! you could be threading a dangerous path! you could loose your head like John the Baptist!
Virtue can also pose a dangerous path because accepting the message of the virtuous man might require the “giving up” of our evil ways. An instance, if i post on my facebook wall or in my blog the following “ALL THOSE WHO COMMIT FORNICATION IN THE NAME OF DATING ARE DESTROYING THEIR BODIES WHICH IS THE TEMPLE OF GOD”, do not be surprised then at the number of criticisms, verbal attacks and over rationalization that will thrall my blog or wall. A keen observer will notice that, part of the reason for such comments will be that, accepting the truth of the above message will imply giving up fornication during dating. Very few people can boast of that.
Virtue can also arouse hatred if it implies that another agent has come to discover the truth of our sins and is not convinced by our false face of immorality that has permeated our world. This is why the virtuous man may be threading a dangerous path because, he is swimming against the current. In our world today, the above three examples are clearly metamorphosing into a Residual Escapism. This escapism sheds its light today in the various acts of indifference, ridicule and persecution of the truth. i guess it did not actually begin with us. After all, Pilate asked Jesus the vexing question “what is truth?” in other words Pilate was asking what is virtue? what does the good life actually consist of?
Virtue is not just a mere academic and abstract theory. It has some element of witnessing that goes with it. Witnessing to a good and a habitual disposition that is already innate in man. This is why the martyrs are usually respected for their excellence in one heroic act or another. Since we have seen that virtue can sometimes pose a threat, those who wish to thread this path must be disposed to fish in dangerous waters if need be. They must know that the can sometimes ;live in an atmosphere of coldness to their deepest beliefs, this is more true because of the pervasive ideological currents, human deceptions and trickery that seem to entice people into error. However this makes the task of witnessing to virtues more urgent. As the igbos say “Anaghi aso mgbagbu hara iga ogu( one does not avoid going to war because of being shot). Those wishing to thread this path are like those who want to pass through the proverbial narrow gate or undertake the Igbo Proverbial concept of war.
Thus, this is my little way of encouraging all of us not to be afraid of taking this path because i strongly believe that it is through this path that the spirit of God can recreate the face of the earth. Once this recreation takes place, then just like Gandhi spoke about in the year 1925 we can think of a society where people will value work so as to acquire wealth, to enjoy pleasure with a conscience, to acquire knowledge alongside characterstan ijeoma memoir, to engage in business carrying the spirit of ethics, to practice science with a humane heart and to participate in politics with principles.
HAVE A BLISSFUL WEEK!!!