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Phronimon

On-line version ISSN 2413-3086
Print version ISSN 1561-4018

Abstract

OLIVIER, Abraham. Contextual identity: The case of Anton Amo Afer. Phronimon [online]. 2015, vol.16, n.2, pp.58-77. ISSN 2413-3086.

What does it take for a person to persist through the various changes that he or she undergoes in the course of a lifetime? Consider the case of Anton Wilhelm Amo. Assumed to be born in Ghana in the first half of the eighteenth century, Amo was brought to Germany at the age of three or four, where he was reared by a German Duke. He obtained degrees in the natural sciences as well as philosophy, and became the first black philosophy professor in Germany. Wiredu argues that Amo was an African and a philosopher, therefore, he was an African philosopher. Amo returned to, what Wiredu calls, "home", "to his motherland", after more than forty years. Could he have felt "at home" in Ghana? Was this really to be his "motherland"? Was Amo actually German or rather deep down Ghanaian? Who was Amo really? Amo's is no rare case in our time of globalisation. This is reflected by a large number of discussions on migration, immigration, interculturalism and multiculturalism across the globe. Philosophically these questions are typically treated as questions of personal identity. The case of Amo seems to pose above all one particular and persistent traditional philosophical question: What fact about a person such as Amo makes that person the same person through the various changes that he or she undergoes in the course of a lifetime? This paper considers possible responses to this question by comparing concepts of narrative, experiential, communal, cultural and placial identity, and offers an alternative, contextual identity.

Keywords : Personal identity; Amo; narrative; experiential; communal; cultural; placial; contextual identity.

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