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The Problem of the absence of a well-established and contextual philosophy in South African philosophy.

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In Ramose’s argument, “for too long, the teaching of Western philosophy in Africa has been decontextualized precisely because both its inspiration and the questions it attempted to answer were not necessarily based upon the living experience of being-an-African in Africa”. Because of this situation, many thinkers have engaged in Western philosophy more as opposed to African philosophy. Only recently some African philosophers like Kwasi Wiredu, Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Kwame Gyekye, etc., established and started engaging in African philosophy. The establishment of African philosophy by these philosophers was due to the need, desire and interest of a philosophy that was reflective of their continent and context. Philosophers like Kwasi Wiredu even went as far as attempting to create a system of governance (Democracy by Consensus) that was inspired by the Ghanaian philosophy of the Akan to reflect the place of philosophy. In South Africa, ubuntu was also invoked as a philosophy by various thinkers such as Mogobe Ramose as a reflection of South Africa as a place of philosophy. Ramose and Wiredu through their reflection did express clearly that Africans as a people are not monolithic. Therefore, each country needs to have a philosophy that will reflect the context and place of a thinker. In South Africa, for a long time, there has been an absence of well-established, relevant, and informative South African philosophy. This can be traced to the practice of South African philosophy from the Apartheid era. During this period, Robert Paul Wolff once visited South Africa in 1986 with the intention of having an experience and an understanding of the academic nature of South African philosophy. His assessment of the nature of this place’s philosophy was not what he expected it to be. The philosophy that was taught in South African Universities, precisely the former white universities, was just an imitation of a philosophy written and taught in American or English universities. This concern proclaimed by Wolff strongly indicates how the place-of-philosophy has been neglected in both African and South African philosophy. Two years after South Africa’s first democratic election and the end of Apartheid, Mabogo P. More, a South African thinker, argued against the failure of South African philosophy to play a significant role in both setting and arguing for an agenda in a political situation that was unfolding in South Africa. This dissertation will seek to point out the problem of the absence of the well-established and contextual philosophy in South African philosophy. The primary contribution of this dissertation to literature is as follows. Firstly, it seeks to show the urgent need for a well-established, informative, and relevant South African philosophy. Secondly, it points out the issues that have emerged due to the absence of a well-established, informative, and relevance of this place’s philosophy. Lastly it seeks to emphasizes the purpose and the relevance of South African philosophy.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.