The march of African philosophy in this second half of the twentieth century is fraught with many difficulties. Its brief history is so far marked by some progress, obviously not rectilinear but nonetheless exhibiting overall advances even though punctuated by fluctuations, oscillation, and occasional regressions. This essay attempts to survey African philosophy since its appearance in written literature in comparison with Western philosophy which has always served as a model for its evaluation. Interest in comparative philosophy is rapidly growing. This relatively new area of philosophy was born out of the conviction of some Western philosophers that there are non-Western traditions of philosophy worthy of study. Initially, the primary objective in the comparative study was to open a philosophical dialogue between East and West. Significantly, those Western philosophers whose academic interest brought them in contact with Asia have shown keener interest in the field of comparative philosophy than those whose interests are limited to the West and are not attracted by any idea of non-Western philosophies. Philosophy East and West , as a journal of philosophy, provided the forum for the dialogue. Meanwhile, African philosophy struggles under many odds to capture its rightful position among the world philosophies. What I undertake to do here is not to compare African thought with Western thought, but rather to put the development of African philosophy in historical perspective, and survey its themes, methods, and goals vis-´ a-vis Western philosophy. In this discourse, “African” is used in a univocal sense; it denotes the black peoples of Africa. This needs further explanation.
The Journal of Value Inquiry 05/1997; 31(2):251-267. DOI:10.1023/A:1004259125528