This is not a book for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
It is not the first time that I have read a book on philosophy, but this book was an uphill battle and I do not pretend that I have understood everything. Maybe it did not help I read the book over a long period, for everytime I picked up the book I took me some time to get back into the flow.
Henk Haenen wrote his Ph.D., comparing several philosophers, some from Europe, some from Africa. The focus is on the philosophers from Africa and I have to admit I understood these bits beter than the bits on the European philosphers.
The first African philosopher that gets special attention is not an African philosopher! It is the Belgian Placide Tempels, who spent many years in Congo. He is wellknown for his use of ‘ubuntu’ as the kernel of Bantu-life. Ubuntu refers to life in a community and recently this word has become popular in the northern world.
Another one is the politician cum philosopher cum poet Leopold Senghor. A man who was raised in two worlds, his own traditional background and the French traditional background.
Next is the Kenyan Henry Odera Oruka, who makes use of the wisdom traditions in African cultures.
The last one in the book is Paulin Houtondji (born in the Ivory Coast). He is not a philosopher in isolation. For many years he was involved in the political scene in Benin. He does not agree with the thought that there is unity in the African traditions. He feels attracted to western philosophical constructs and he does not want to discard those constructs due to their foreigness. He does not want to lock up the African situation in its own past.
Henk Haenen- Afrikaans denken. Ontmoeting, dialoog en frictie. Een filosofisch onderzoek – Amsterdam 2006 – 288 pages