African philosophy, as a negritude, is a moment in the postcolonial critique of European/Western colonialism and the bodies of knowledge that sustained it. Yet a critical analysis of its' original articulations reveals the limits of this critique and more broadly of postcolonial studies, while also pointing towards more radical theoretical possibilities within African philosophy. Jean-Paul Sartre's essay 'Black Orpheus', a philosophical appropriation of negritude poetry, serves as a guide for this reflection, for the text reveals the inspiration and wealth of expressions of negritude, as well as their ambiguity. Sartre's essay however also renders possible a further act of re-appropriation that takes us beyond culture and identity-centred readings of African philosophy and postcolonialism, readings whose conceptual and critical potential is far greater than what has hitherto been explored.
Tomaz Carlos Flores Jacques
Ward E. Jones
This is a programmatic paper, calling for the renewal and modernisation of the therapeutic approach to philosophy found in Epicureans, Stoics, and Skeptics; and, in particular, for an application of the therapeutic approach to the life of poverty. The general assumption behind a therapeutic approach to philosophy is that it is possible for someone to be exposed to philosophical work which leads her to an improved understanding of herself and her situation, and for her life to be improved by this understanding. After offering a sketch of how, given the current nature of academic philosophy, such work will be carried out and disseminated, I suggest three areas in which philosophical discourse could have a therapeutic affect on the poor.
Strauss's Critique of Heidegger and the Fate of the 'Quarrel between Philosophy and Poetry'
Strauss's critique of Heidegger's philosophy aims at a recovery of political philosophy, which he saw as threatened by Heidegger's radical historicism; for Strauss, philosophy as a whole could not survive without political philosophy, and his return to the classical tradition of political philosophy, while inspired by the work of Heidegger, was directed against what he saw as the nihilism that was its consequence. Here I wish to examine a dimension of Strauss's critique which, though hinted at, remains neglected or unexplored by Strauss: that is, how the critique of Heideggarian historicism should naturally link with Strauss's frequent attention to the issue of the ancient 'quarrel between philosophy and poetry'. It has often been observed by other commentators that through Heidegger's work, philosophy appears liable to be supplanted by contemporary literature, whether poetry or philosophy. As some of Strauss's explicit statements extend his definition of what falls under the category of 'poetry' in the modern age to contemporary novels and poetry, this aspect of Heidegger should have commanded more of his attention. Endurance of the quarrel between philosophy and poetry becomes through the prism of Strauss's work the confrontation of political philosophy with literature, particularly the novel form. It was not so much the rise of modern, non-teleological natural science that threatened the endurance and dignity of philosophy, then, but the rise of modern literature; the critique of historicism, when viewed in the light of the enduring 'quarrel', should lead one to a consideration of a crucial issue which remained oddly neglected, or was only hinted at, by Strauss.
The impetus for exploring the relationship between Sartre and Foucault may be informed more by Foucault than by Sartre, as it would seem to be geared toward a Foucauldian determination of the discursive parameters of a particular dimension of modern philosophy; that is, of the history of philosophy, including, by extension, the history of existentialism. But insofar as this determination opens up a significant dimension of the situation of philosophy today - of our situation and of the situation of existentialism - it is also Sartrean in nature, as are the effects of this determination, a determination situated somewhere between Sartre's philosophy of freedom and the freedom afforded to Foucault and to us all by the practice of philosophy, and by its future possibilities, which include the possibility "… that I do not believe a word, not one little word, of all I've just scribbled."
The focus of the article is to explore the possibilities of philosophic discourse in the present postcolonial African situation. As indicated in the title, it will begin by exploring and laying out grosso modo, the character of philosophy as a discipline. It will then engage in examining, again broadly, Africa’s present: the situation that has prevailed since the end of formal colonialism. Consequent on the two expositive presentations, the article will then indicate the role that philosophy can and should play in this situation. The aim is to explore the possible beyond the demise of colonialism in the hope of catching sight of a truly postcolonial future. The article is thus a concise articulation of the hermeneutical stance in contemporary African philosophy.
Where Does He Leave Us?
R. Bruce Douglass
John Rawls is widely thought to have revitalised political philosophy. This paper discusses that claim critically in the light of Rawls' own characterisation of his project as well as a series of objections that have been raised by critics from diverse points of view. It concludes that the criticisms advanced by the authors in question help to clarify what exactly Rawls accomplished. He did revitalise liberal political philosophy, but in a manner that lacks much of the traditional substance of political philosophy. The paper concludes by discussing the significance of this finding and its implications for the future of political philosophy.
Recognition of a right of resistance to oppression clearly helped modern Western polities accept constitutional forms of order. Drawing on Locke's canonical discussion in the Second Treatise, influential Anglo-American political theorists also suggest that the establishment of modern constitutional states required outlawing resistance practices. A francophone perspective, however, raises a problem for such generalizations about modern Western political philosophy and practice: the French “résistance” differs in meaning from the English “resistance” in important ways. Reconstructing the histories of the cognate concepts, I show that “résistance” emerged out of feminized discourses concerning moral conscience and that, as a result, excluding résistance from politics seems implausible, a conclusion that sheds light on the discussion of résistance in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. The article closes with the suggestion that, following the Second World War, French understandings of “résistance” may have influenced American politics and thought in unrecognized ways.
Hegel associates 'subjective' freedom with various rights, all of which concern the subject's particularity, and with the demand that this particularity be accorded proper recognition within the modern state. I show that Hegel's account of subjective freedom can be assimilated to the 'positive' model of freedom that is often attributed to him because of the way in which the objective determinations of right (Recht) recognise the subject's particularity in the form of individual welfare. To this extent, the practical constraints to which individuals are subject in the modern state are not purely external ones, and the freedom which they enjoy within it is not merely subjective in kind. In exploring the role of certain practical forms of necessity in Hegel's account of civil society I show, however, that Hegel points to the existence of a group of people, the poor, who must be thought to lack subjective freedom, because they will experience the constraints to which they are subject as purely external ones. He also suggests the existence of a form of freedom that is merely subjective in kind, because it consists in a sense of absence of constraint that fails to reflect fully the practical forms of necessity that underlie civil society and constrain an individual's actions. The importance of the concept of necessity in Hegel's Philosophy of Right, as highlighted in the paper, demonstrates, moreover, that the emphasis on freedom found in recent interpretations of Hegel's social and political philosophy needs to be counterbalanced by greater recognition of the role played in it by this concept.
Jeffrey D. Burson
This article explores the relationship of religion, universal histories of philosophy, and eighteenth-century French vitalism in the work of Abbé Claude Yvon. Yvon, while in exile in the Netherlands, was a high-ranking associate of the Masonic societies of The Hague and close to radical publishers. He was also heralded as a materialist and radical Enlightenment partisan. Upon his return to France in 1762, his significant role in the Prades Affair (1752) led to mistrust and scorn on the part of the French clerical establishment, but he also spent the bulk of his later years writing anti-philosophe apologetics for the Catholic Church. This unlikely collision of seemingly inimical career trajectories makes Yvon a figure that transcends common understandings of Catholic Enlightenment, as well as recent scholarly taxonomies of “radical” and “moderate” Enlightenment introduced by Jonathan Israel's controversial synthesis of the age. Yvon's awkward adherence to a kind of “vitalistic materialism” is but one such aspect of his ambivalent position on the peripheries of radical and Catholic Enlightenment currents.
This article examines Nnamdi Azikiwe’s idea of mental emancipation as the intellectual foundation for his political philosophy. Mental emancipation involves re-educating Africans to adopt scientific, critical, analytic, and logical modes of thinking. Azikiwe argues that development must involve changing Africans’ intellectual attitudes and educational system. He argues that Western education, through perpetuating negative stereotypes and engendering ‘colonial mentality’, has neither fostered critical and scientific thinking, nor enabled Africans to apply their knowledge for development. Mental emancipation would enable Africans to develop self-confidence, and the critical examination of superstitious beliefs that have hindered Africa’s development. I show that Azikiwe’s ideas have been recaptured by African philosophers like Bodunrin and Wiredu, regarding their critique of aspects of African tradition and prescription for how African philosophy can contribute to development.