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  General > African Philosophy

African Philosophy is a disputed term, partly because it is not clear if it refers to philosophies with a specifically African theme or context (such as distinctively African perceptions of time, personhood, etc.), or just any philosophizing carried out by Africans (or even people of African descent).

One of the earliest works of political philosophy was the Maxims of the Egyptian official and philosopher Ptah-Hotep as early as the 24th Century B.C. The Egyptian Hellenistic philosopher Plotinus of the 3rd Century B.C. is credited with founding ther Neoplatonist school of philosophy.

Ethnophilosophy treats African philosophy as consisting in a set of shared beliefs, values, categories and assumptions that are implicit in the language, practices and beliefs of African cultures (or the uniquely African world view). Ths argues that the fundamental assumptions about reality are reflected in the languages of Africa. For example, E. J. Alagoa argues for the existence of an African philosophy of history stemming from traditional proverbs from the Niger Delta.

Some African philosophers (such as the Senegalese Léopold Senghor) have argued for the concept of negritude, including the idea that the distinctly African approach to reality is based on emotion and artistry rather than logic, although the idea is highly contentious.

Philosophical sagacity is a sort of individualist version of ethnophilosophy, in which one records the beliefs of certain special members of a community (sages) who have a particularly high level of knowledge and under­standing of their cultures' world-view. However, it becomes difficult to distinguish between a bona fide philosophy and a mere local belief, or just a history of ideas.

The professional philosophy trend argues that the whole concept of a particular way of thinking, reflecting, and reasoning is relatively new to most of Africa, and that African philosophy is really just starting to grow. An example of this growth is the Kawaida project, created by Maulana Karenga, an ongoing search for African models of excellence in the seven core areas of culture: history; spirituality and ethics; social organization; political organization; economic organization; creative production (art, music, literature, dance, etc.) and ethos.

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