n African Human Rights Law Journal - A rights-centred critique of African philosophy in the context of development

Volume 5, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



The author discusses two schools of African philosophy: the holistic and the contemporarist. The holistic school looks into the past and present to find solutions to Africa's contemporary problems, while the contemporarist school looks at a Western standard of philosophy and ideas of civil society, human rights and development. The contemporarist school does not incorporate the cultural past of African traditions into African philosophy. The emphasis put by the contemporarist school on science and technology and rights as the originators of development is questionable. The author supports the holistic school in which African proverbs form part of African philosophy. The author uses Akan proverbs to illustrate how these are part of an African philosophy of human rights. Modern African philosophy should be diverse in outlook, but have a common core in the traditions that African societies have in common. In using African philosophy in the African rights struggle, it must become a tool that can be used by the oppressed, the deprived and the marginalised to regain their status in the development structures of their countries. The language of rights should be used as a tool for development, unmasking the disempowering effect of enjoying abstracted civil and political rights disconnected from the struggle for economic justice.

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