Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Phronimon]]> vol. 19 num. 1 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>Mbembe at the Lekgotla of Foucault's self-styling and African identity</b>]]> Achille Mbembe's article "African Modes of Self-Writing" (2001), which is a precursor to his book On the Postcolony (2001), challenges essentialist conceptions of African identity and their theoretical and political poverty, and in turn offers a fluid conception of African subjectivities. Reviewing anti-colonial and postcolonial theories of African identity, Mbembe contends that dominant notions of African identity are tropes of Nativism and Afro-radicalism premised on historicist thinking, which lead to a dead-end. He utilises Michel Foucault's notion of self-styling and argues that, contrary to Nativist and Afro-radicalist notions of African identity- which deny African subjects spaces or sites of autonomous actions that constantly constitute their identities-African subjects in Mbembe's view are existential works of art forged through the practices of the self. Critique on Mbembe's "African Modes of Self-Writing" and On the Postcolony has been dominated by the polarities of essentialist and anti-essentialist views of African identity and their socio-political and material consequence. Except for Jewsiewicki (2002), none has interrogated Mbembe's appropriation of Foucault's notion of the practice of liberty or self-styling and its theoretical and political consequence on Mbembe's conception of the sociopolitical and cultural freedom of the African subjects. It is the aim of this essay to interrogate Mbembe's narrow appropriation of Foucault's conception of self-styling and its consequent problematic theorisation of African identity as enacted by practices of the self. By way of introduction, I will contextualise Mbembe's critique of African modes of imagining African identity, before I analyse his bounded appropriation of Foucault's notion of self-styling, and conclude by exposing his consequent problematic conception of African practices of freedom. <![CDATA[<b>I kill, therefore I am: War and killing as structures of human spirit</b>]]> This article uncovers the function of war and killing as the primary and primordial formative structure of human spirituality and religious experience. Tracing the representations of war in texts of philosophers and social thinkers from ancient Greece to the present, reveals a tradition of thought that considers war as the defining characteristic of humanity and as the foundation for constructing human and divine identities. While war is a social and collective activity, at its core are the actions of fighting and killing that are forms of interpersonal engagement. It is this interpersonal engagement that many thinkers imagine as being the source of human consciousness, identity and meaning; as Heraclitus put it: war creates both men and gods, making mortals immortal and immortals mortal. <![CDATA[<b>The question of epistemic justice: Polemics, contestations and dialogue</b>]]> This essay, which reflects on the "unfinished humanistic project" of decolonisation in Africa, is an invitation to examine the problem of epistemic injustice from a philosophical standpoint. At the core of my argument is the position that there is an epistemic dimension to Africa's problems, and the struggle for epistemic justice is as fundamental to humanity as all other struggles for social justice. Addressing the problem of epistemic injustice calls for multiple efforts and initiatives. Among these is commitment to new canon building across the disciplines, and adopting "strategic particularism" as a paradigm and philosophical framework in our academic projects. To confront epistemic injustice-and thus restore parity and equilibrium-polemics, contestations, and dialogue are inevitable. In this endeavour, the goal should be to reclaim Africa's position in the conversation of humankind. <![CDATA[<b>Parsing "Decolonisation"</b>]]> This article addresses the fraught question of "decolonisation" at South African universities-what does it mean when students and some academic staff members call for the decolonisation of the curriculum? The issue of legitimate participation in the debate is raised, as well as that of the "incommensurability thesis"-the claim that individuals working within a certain "paradigmatically distinct" theory or within an identifiable discourse, cannot understand those working within other theoretical paradigms, and therefore thwart discussion between pro-decolonisers and those who oppose it. The consideration that, regardless of culture, or race, or gender, all human subjects are linguistic beings, is related to the mutual translatability of languages, and the notion of always being embedded in a cultural life-world. Instead of remaining relativistically imprisoned in the latter, it is argued that the sciences afford people the opportunity to step away from their involvement in this life-world, with its cultural prejudices, to meet one another through a shared terminology and conceptual or theoretical apparatus that enable one to understand the (natural and social) world in a manner that allows intersubjective understanding. The point is made that, for something to be scientific (or "rational"), any human being should be able to "test" or examine, or simply enter into a (sometimes difficult) dialogue about it. Unless these issues are kept in mind, one cannot even begin to discuss the merits of the demand for decolonisation. It is acknowledged, however, that there are "knowledges" that have been (unjustifiably) "disqualified" by Western culture as being "inadequate" in terms of "scientific cognition." For this reason it is argued that every scholar, scientist or philosopher must be willing to see beyond the confines of privileged Western knowledge to acknowledge these "excluded knowledges" and to affirm that they are epistemic "equals" of, albeit different from, Western knowledge. <![CDATA[<b>Cosmology, chemistry, and Aristotle's elemental powers</b>]]> Aristotle employs the simple bodies, or elements, in two rather different scientific contexts, each of which highlights some of their qualities at the expense of others. On the one hand, he uses the elements in the service of cosmology, where their natural motions are imperative to drafting an architectural plan of the cosmos. On the other hand, he uses them in the service of chemistry, where their heat, coldness, dryness, and moistness are decisive in securing accounts of elemental transformation and the generation of composite bodies. Two families of interpretive proposals for the formal principles of Aristotle's elements have been advanced accordingly. One family of interpretations construes the form of a simple body in terms of its cosmological characterisation, while a second construes that form in terms of the simple body's chemical characterisation instead. A critical step in bridging that interpretive divide is thus to bridge the underlying divide between Aristotle's cosmological and chemical characterisations of the sublunary elements. It is that latter task that I set out to accomplish in the present paper. I argue that the hot and the cold are efficient causes, respectively, of the light and the heavy, and further, that the moistness of elemental water and air explains the intermediary natural positions of those elements relative to earth and fire in Aristotle's idealised cosmic landscape. In this way, Aristotle's chemical characterisation of the elements is shown to ground his cosmological characterisation of them.