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. <![CDATA[<b>Voltaire's satirical catechisms: secular confessionalism</b>]]> This article is the second in a series, focusing on middle Modern secularist documents entitled "catechism" or "confession"; intending to understand this peculiar phenomenon. Here I am trying to disclose the format and contents of five catechisms published by Voltaire (in the 1760s) and to link this to the idea of catechisms and confessions as discussed in another article. Voltaire apparently initiated the writing of secular catechisms. Catechisms are preparatory confessions of religious commitment to true doctrine and associated lifestyles to be confessed to and lived by. Voltaire chose the format of a catechism for satirical, dialogical attacks on intolerance, superstition, and irrational beliefs; also to express his own faith in a universal supreme being, the god of a rational civil society controlled by a totalitarian philosophical government, a rational soul that is immortal (and will receive reward or punishment in an afterlife), a life of honest work, justice, dignity, under "natural law"-the commandment of love inscribed a priori in the hearts of all humankind. The catechisms expressed a substitute religion, a confessional faith in scientific and practical reason, within a liberal, enlightened, totalitarian civil society-a Modern cultic replacement for Christianity combining Classical ideas with a Modern philosophy of power. <![CDATA[<b>Placing the Ecological Crisis in a Broader Context: The Orphic and the Promethean</b>]]> The historical prevalence of Promethean characteristics such as dominion and domination has resulted in a dispensation where exclusive pragmatism and habitual perception have steered human actions in directions that have resulted in an unprecedented ecological crisis. Christianity, reductionist science, pragmatic technology, and capitalism have homogenised discursive arenas, limiting the extent to which one can exercise negative freedom, and making ecological degradation unavoidable as a consequence of Promethean progress. Mechanisms exist that prevent changes toward ecologically-sensitive attitudes from rooting and spreading as remedies to Promethean attitudes. Alternative, Orphic attitudes, theories, and movements do exist, and they offer something of a response to Promethean attitudes underpinning the ecological crisis. Permaculture offers a down to earth, context-bound approach to establishing Orphic systems, while philosophy in two specific formats are tools to further broaden the context of the ecological crisis. These philosophical formats are, first, Badiou and Zizek's outline of the role of philosophy "in the present," and second, Pierre Hadot's work on philosophy as a way of life. From the first, it is clear that philosophy cannot confine itself to humanity as it has been historically constituted, which implies that it cannot confine itself to the realm of the Promethean, which has dominated Western history. From the second, philosophy as a way of life entails a breakaway from Promethean, utilitarian, and habitual perception, and aligns itself with an Orphic form of consciousness. <![CDATA[<b>The fall and original sin of set theory</b>]]> Hermann Weyl published a brief survey as preface to a review of The Philosophy of BertrandRussell in 1946. In this survey he used the phrase, "The Fall and Original Sin of Set Theory." Investigating the background of this remark will require that we pay attention to a number of issues within the foundations of mathematics. For example: Did God make the integers-as Kronecker alleged? Is mathematics set theory? Attention will also be given to axiomatic set theory and relevant ontic pre-conditions, such as the difference between number and number symbols, to number as "an aspect of objective reality" (Gödel), integers and induction (Skolem) as well as to the question if infinity-as endlessness-could be completed. In 1831 Gauss objected to viewing the infinite as something completed, which is not allowed in mathematics. It will be argued that the actual infinite is rather connected to what is present "at once," as an infinite totality. By the year 1900 mathematicians believed that mathematics had reached absolute rigour, but unfortunately the rest of the twentieth century witnessed the opposite. The axiom of infinity ruined the expectations of logicism-mathematics cannot be reduced to logic. The intuitionism of Brouwer, Weyl and others launched a devastating attack on classical analysis, further inspired by the outcome of Gödel's famous proof of 1931, in which he has shown that a formal mathematical system is inconsistent or incomplete. Intuitionism created a whole new mathematics, which finds no counter-part in classical mathematics. Slater remarked that within this logical paradise of Russell lurked a serpent, hidden behind the unjustified employment of the at once infinite. According to Weyl, "This is the Fall and original sin of set theory for which it is justly punished by the antinomies." In conclusion, a few systematic distinctions are introduced. <![CDATA[<b>Educating Africans: perspectives of Ghanaian philosophers</b>]]> This paper reflects on the foundational principles and strategies for tertiary education in Africa. Since the early 1940s, Ghanaian philosophers have advanced unambiguous perspectives on education policy in Africa. Although the integrity and cogency of these perspectives have remained intact for over 60 years, they have not yet found expression in public policy formulation. Available evidence suggests that Africa has so far remained impervious to the perspectives and strategies for education outlined by Ghanaian philosophers since Nkrumah's overthrow from the presidency in Ghana. Current African Union strategies on education, articulated in Agenda 2063, seem to validate the resistance by national governments to these philosophical perspectives. This paper seeks to argue that what these philosophers espouse are excellent conceptual models worthy of development and implementation in Africa; and that in service of a sounder educational future for Ghana and Africa than that which currently prevails, a sankofa approach to the conceptualisation of education, which incorporates these Ghanaian philosophical perspectives, is desirable.