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“Ethnophilosophy” Redefined?

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Abstract:

The meaning of the term “ethnophilosophy” has evolved in both a significant and controversial variety of ways since it was first introduced by Paulin Hountondji in 1970. It was first challenged by the Kenyan philosopher, H. Odera Oruka, as based upon Hountondji’s unfair appreciation of Africa’s indigenous cultural heritage. Barry Hallen and J. Olubi Sodipo, using a form of analytic philosophy as foundational, thereafter argued that Yoruba ordinary language discourse also served to undermine Hountondji’s critique. The later work of the Ghanaian philosopher, Kwame Gyekye, and the Kenyan D. A. Masolo have further legitimized the epistemological status of elements of African culture that once would have been labeled as of no genuine philosophical significance because they were ‘ethnophilosophical’ in character. The end result of this debate seems to be that both the form and content of philosophy in culture generally must be relativized. The most significant consequence of this would be that African and non-Western philosophy generally would finally be culturally liberated from the oppressive influence, indeed dominance, of what has conventionally come to be known as ‘mainstream’ (Western) philosophy.

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