A TRIBUTE TO PROF KWASI WIREDU
A Compilation by Amara Esther Chimakonam
Not long ago, the world of African philosophy was thrown into mourning with the announcement of the passing away of Professor Kwasi Wiredu, who was a renowned African philosopher. He died in Florida, USA, on 7 January 2022 at the age of 90. He was born in Kumasi, Ghana, in 1931. From 1948 to 1952, he attended Adisadel College, Ghana. He obtained B.A. Hons. from the University of Ghana, legion, and B.Phil from University College, Oxford. He devoted his life to the pursuit of philosophy.
Professor Wiredu began his academic career at the University of Keele (formerly known as the University College of North Staffordshire), where he taught philosophy for a year. From 1987 to his retirement, he served as an academic staff at the University of South Florida, retiring as an Emeritus Professor of philosophy.
He will be greatly missed not only by the African philosophical community but also by the entire philosophical community for his immense contributions to philosophy and humanity. This compilation of tributes celebrates the life of a great philosopher. May his gentle soul rest in the bosom of the Ancestors.
Kwasi Wiredu (1931-2022): The Passage of a Titan
On 8 January 2022, the death of the outstanding African philosopher Kwasi Wiredu was
announced on the Conversational School of Philosophy (CSP) WhatsApp group account. The
unexpected announcement elicited a combination of shock, disbelief, sadness, and
resignation. Our resignation was complete with the confirmation of the passing of the
eminent African philosopher. The finality of death, the profundity of passage, imposed a
moment’s silence on those of us who were active online on the CSP WhatsApp Group.
After the moment of silence, I opened Wiredu’s Wikipedia page and noted his age. The great
man lived to a ripe old age. 90 is by every account a ripe old age. I told myself that this was
not a time to mourn but a time to celebrate the life of a man who gave so much to African
philosophy and worked tirelessly with his contemporaries to firmly establish the African
philosophical tradition as a thought-tradition deserving as much respect as the thought-
traditions of the West, the Chinese, the Indians, and other cultures of the world.
A thinker of remarkable acuity, Wiredu was a bright star in the African intellectual
firmament, publishing important books and articles that challenged the African philosophical
imagination, a lifetime work in the field of 20th-century African thought whose impact
continue to reverberate across the continent and the world of philosophy. Few who are
familiar with Wiredu’s thought will doubt that Wiredu has achieved lasting fame as a major
African philosopher of the 20th century. And while the question of his exact position in the
ranks of the great minds of African philosophy is a question only coming centuries will
decide, I hasten to pay tribute to this icon and wish him a happy reception by our ancestors as he joins the legion.
Paraphrasing Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington,” I say to the African continent:
Bury the great man,
Let us bury the great man
To the noise of a continent’s celebration!
Good night Prof. Kwasi Wiredu.
Ada Agada, The Conversational School of Philosophy
The demise of Prof Kwasi Wiredu was a great Loss. His contribution to African Philosophy was great and impactful. His legacies will continue to live on. He is indeed a Hero. Rest on Prof Wiredu.
Mirian Ngozi Alike. PhD.
Department of Philosophy,
Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria.
What a loss to the world and to [the] African philosophy community! May his soul find eternal rest, may his works flourish through our minds.
Tony Okeregbe, University of Lagos
So sad to learn about your demise Professor. In Africa some of us believe that you have only departed, but you can still hear us and visualise us. Rest in power son of the soil, your works will live forever throughout the generations.
Dudziro Nhengu, Africa University – Zimbabwe
Sorry for such a big [loss]. He was one of [the] great thinkers in African philosophy. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
Wilfred Lajul, Makerere University, Uganda
The death of Professor Kwasi Wiredu has created a deep lacuna in the world’s intellectual heritage that will take a long time to fill. He will be greatly missed both by his own and others. I join the rest of the world to mourn the exit of a rare breed of African philosopher. May his brilliant mind find repose in the waiting hands of ancestors.
BJB, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria
Sad news and such a loss for us all!
Mikael Janvid, Department of Philosophy, Stockholm University, Sweden
Losing Prof. Wiredu is painful indeed! We mourn his demise, but are grateful that he has left us such an exceptional philosophical legacy for the benefit of the peoples of Africa first and foremost, and for humanity at large.
Reginald M.J. Oduor, Ph.D.
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Nairobi, Kenya
Kwasi Wiredu has not just been a most inspiring thinker of African Philosopher but he has also been a deeply respected teacher to generations of students. To me, he has also been a friend whom I have spent some unforgettable moments with….
Niels Weidtmann, College of Fellows, Center for Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Studies, Universität Tübingen
Quantum Mechanics, Life, Ethnoscience and the Limitations of Human Knowledge
Emmanuel Ofuasia, csp (Ofuasia.email@example.com)
As humans, we pride ourselves as the higher animals – with improved reasoning faculty, language, and adaptability, to name a few. Unfortunately, there are true, untrue and doubtful elements implied within this conviction. We are merely massaging and soothing our ‘Ego-Humanity.’ I admit that we are better, more knowledgeable and higher only by the standards we had set (but also revise as new pieces of ‘evidence’ surface) by ourselves for the rest of nature. The preceding is the only true aspect, but others are untrue or at best doubtful! Whereas the basic argument that we are no better than other types of living entities is not new, there are scanty frameworks that foreground the idea from Quantum Mechanics, Time and Ethnoscience. Incidentally, these are ideas that have been original to ancient sages and mystics, with very few process thinkers that are emergent in recent times. Assuming the implications of Quantum Mechanics are true, we have lesser knowledge of the actual world than some plants and animals, just as we possess a cognitive faculty that is inherently and primordially deficit. The findings and implications of Quantum Mechanics and life, in general, are not new to the postulates of extraordinary personae. Ancient and modern ‘mystics’ and sages such as Heraclitus, Cratylus, Ọrúnmìlà, Lao Tzu, Siddharta Gautama, Zoroaster, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, William James, Henry Bergson and Alfred North Whitehead, are some of those whose reflections fall under the nomenclature – process metaphysics. These are diverse minds that emanate from various scientific cultures on the planet.
As these minds have echoed previously, nothing is lifeless, save for the misleading biology taught to us since elementary level. Another common denominator among them is that the fragile human mind is difficult to grasp reality in one instant. Even when the proposals of these minds are worthy of reconsidering, it is pertinent to add the African voice. One principal implication to be inferred from this reconsideration is that much of what modern science tells us about the actual world are not new to the ethnosciences of traditional Africa and Asia. Incidentally, the world has had to wait for the ‘Almighty Western science’ before these ethnosciences could be validated, when it could have humbled itself, learned from them and perhaps the human cognitive faculty with our knowledge of the actual world could have improved than its present state. A curious question at this juncture, would be: just how limited is our knowledge or knowing capacity vis-à-vis other entities? Recourse to the cognitive capacities of humans and non-human entities, will not only be of help but further the inevitable end of anthropocentrism.
There is a proposal which reeks of the outlook that humans are better ranked than other species-life owing to advanced linguistic skills. This is founded upon the complexity and dexterity with the tongue. But this reasoning is flawed and constitutes an untrue aspect that this piece seeks to highlight! It gives scope to the human yardstick as its basis. Assuming echolocation, bats and dolphins would rank highest. Assuming telepathy, perhaps, cats and dogs! From these equally pertinent standards, humans will not make the list. This is striking when we recall the verdict of Cyril Hoskins, the British plumber who claims to be a reincarnated Buddhist lama named Lobsang Tuesday Rampa. For him: “Animals are not just stupid creatures who can’t talk and can’t do anything. Actually, humans are the dumb clucks because animals can do and do talk by telepathy. Humans, for the most part, have to make uncouth sounds which they term a language, whereas animal can do telepathy in any language!”
There is another proposal that is suggestive of the adaptive fittings of humans as a species. This, it has been tendered, accounts for the imprimatur that the ability to hyper-cooperate and withstand harsh conditions; overcome hitherto impossible challenges through scientific and technological breakthroughs make humans better than other species-life. But this reasoning is flawed. Again, this is viewed from human standards. Tardigrades are micro-organisms that do well in temperatures as low as absolute zero and up to 150 degrees centigrade. They can admit over a hundred times the radiation that will kill humans. They can live for thirty human years without food and water. Jellyfishes have their nervous system distributed all over their bodies so cannot boast of a central nervous system (i.e. brain). They have however witnessed and overcome five mass extinctions in the history of the earth as they have bagged 500 million years since the Big Bang, or what Gary Schwartz calls the Big Bloom. Assuming these stands, I doubt if humans will continue to boast of superiority arising from survival and adaptive capacities. Humans as a species have barely reached the 200,000 mark and we possess enough nuclear weapons to cause our extinction. Survival and adaptive competence, when examined from the ‘standards’ of tardigrades and jellyfishes, disclose that humans are fragile. Unfortunately, however, extensive research, using the unreliable human brain, has emanated in various forms of publications concerning humans and other species-life, both living and ‘undead.’ The preceding is where the real problem lies and why I tender that nearly all of what we know are doubtful and untrue. The unknown unknowns are much more than the known knowns, and the known unknowns!
It is admitted that each human, throughout their lives, can only use between 5-10% brain ‘space,’ and in imperfect ways too. Allow me to amplify here! The human brain, by process of sensory gating, sieve out about 400 billion bits of stimuli and presents our consciousness with its capacity of just 2,000 bits. Whereas humans have three types of photoreceptors, pigeons and shrimps have five and twelve respectively, meaning they can detect colours better than we can. Even some plants have as much as eleven types of photoreceptors, meaning they can smell, hear and feel much better than humans. At this juncture, I agree with Ken Anyanwu that when the traditional African looks at a tree within the conventions of his [ethnoscientific?] culture, s/he sees and imagines a life-force interacting with another life-force. He sees the colour of the object (tree), feels its beauty, imagines the life-force in it, intuitively grasps the interrelationships between the hierarchies of life-forces – a version of what Senghor calls Negritude – the ideological springboard for Agada’s Consolationism. Speaking on this cadre of consciousness, William James submits: “our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but a special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different.” Unfortunately, these ‘other types of consciousness,’ explored and original to the ancient Africans especially were pushed aside as primitive, unscientific, to be committed to the River Nile and replaced with the Western outlook whose modern physics ended up admitting that the conclusions of the ancients on the actual world may have actually been correct. This is the case when one considers Quantum Mechanics.
Quantum reality reveals an actual world where there are no distinctions between linear time and local space. Time, therefore, is not a sequence of events. Albert Einstein’s Special theory of relativity reminds that time is relative, and that as the velocity of one observer increases, time slows down and its length contracts. The implication is that if we travel faster the velocity of time slows and if we travel at this speed, our ageing process will decrease, and our bodies would not age as quickly as those relative to us. Time persists simultaneously, which is why quanta (i.e. quantum particles) can exist in several places at once. Incidentally, few people have developed or have been gifted with the capacity to discern the knowledge of the three times (Triple Time Vision). For the sages who are able to transcend the consensual but misleading linear idea of time that passes events within the cadre of past, present and future, everything is warped, fused and indistinguishable. This accounts for Cratylus’s correction of Heraclitus that one cannot step into the same river once when the latter had said twice. Indian and Chinese sages, operating with the ethnoscience of their time had maintained that time is a river, where the past, present and future are not distinguishable. When this fusion was revealed to the mind of the untrained Arjuna by Lord Krishna, as chronicled in the Gita, Arjuna, was benumbed. Of all the implications of the warped idea of time in Quantum Mechanics, death is out of the equation. We merely transform from one form of consciousness into another – what some call reincarnation. This must have inspired the Suffi poet Rumi to write:
I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as a plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was man,
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
An idea that is not limited to Eastern ‘mysticism’ finds a place in Africa too. Specifically, the ancient Yorùbá sage, Ọ̀rúnmìlà, in Odù Ọ̀yẹ̀kú Ọ̀ṣẹ had considered the affair:
The teachings of Ọ̀rúnmìlà were interpreted for the wise ones
Who assembled and invited some Ifá priests to interpret the teaching of Ọ̀rúnmìlà on death
They asked: “Why is it that death kills people and there is no one who does not die?”
One Ifá priest replies that Ọ̀rúnmìlà had said: “It is good that ‘Amúniwáyé’ the One who brought us into the world created death.
Water which does not flow back and forth becomes a pond of polluted water causing disease
Water takes people away freely and brings them back freely
Let the ill go home to receive a new body;
Let the corrupt go home to receive new character;
So they may return to the world.”
The Ifá priest then asked the wise ones: “What is unpleasant about this?”
The wise ones bowed in respect for Ọ̀rúnmìlà, saying:
“The offering has been made; may it be accepted and blessed.”
Then they dispersed and went away.
And they no longer regarded death as a matter of sorrow.
In the Brihad-Aranyaka Upanishad, the position of Ọ̀rúnmìlà is further corroborated thus:
From the unreal lead me to the real!
From darkness lead me to light!!
From death lead me to immortality!!!
Perhaps all these extracts from African and Asian ethnosciences may have actually informed the spirituality of that age, unbeknownst to us, yet cast as esoteric, mystical and mythic. However, these propositions on death, time and many more from the ethnosciences of ancient Africa and Asia have been admitted by the brilliant Quantum physicist, Julius Robert Oppenheimer who surrenders that:
The general notions of human understanding…which are illustrated by discoveries in atomic physics are not in the nature of things wholly unfamiliar, wholly unheard of, or new. Even in our own culture, they have a history, and in Buddhist and Hindu [and African] thought a more considerable and central place. What we shall find is an exemplification, an encouragement, and a refinement of old wisdom [Bold emphasis and addition, mine].
What the entire history of the development of Western science connotes as Oppenheimer affirms is nothing but saying the old things in new ways. And for death? I console myself with One Republic’s assertion in the song ‘Counting Stars’: “Everything that kills me makes me feel alive!”
Call for Papers: 1ST CSP EMERGING IDEAS ON CONVERSATIONAL THINKING CONFERENCE (EICT)
1ST CSP EMERGING IDEAS ON CONVERSATIONAL THINKING
A Collaboration of
The Conversational Society of Philosophy (CSP)
Thinking Africa (Department of Philosophy, University of Pretoria).
Thinking Africa: Glocal Solutions to Glocal Problems
Venue: Future Africa Campus, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Dates: August 26-28, 2020
Call for Abstracts:
The Conversational School of Philosophy (CSP), in collaboration with Thinking Africa, invites scholars to submit abstracts (200 words max) for consideration. Priority will be given to submissions that comply with the eight postulates of the conversational method.
Conversational Philosophy (CP) is a philosophic tradition that promotes conversational thinking. It aims at questioning orthodoxy, unveiling new concepts, opening new vistas for thought and promoting the global expansion of thought. Papers to be presented on the theme and sub-themes of the 1st edition of EICT-2020 must propose new ideas, reflectling an African perspective to knowledge, in line with the eight postulates of CP.We encourage submissions on any of the following sub-themes:
Inequality; poverty; migration; Afrophobia; femicide; rape; infanticide; climate change; suicide; Othering; racism; borders, disability; gender; epistemic marginalisation/injustice; philosophical counselling; ignorance; Afro-communitarianism; personhood; decoloniality;decolonial curriculum studies; Albinism;theory of the human minimum; relational ethics; Ezumezu logic; harmonious monism; Ibuanyidanda philosophy/logic; consolationism; Ubuntu Ontology; Uwa ontology; deliberative epistemology; theories of truth in a post-truth world; complementary epistemology; explanatory models in African philosophy of science; intercultural exchanges; AI and the future of Africa.
 The method of Conversational philosophy (CP) as a philosophic tradition is called Conversational Thinking (CT). Research produced using this method complies with eight postulates, some of which are general to the philosophical method per se while others are specific to CP. Research produced in line with CP as method 1) inaugurates a new idea which is, 2) presented with great clarity while 3) acknowledging similar existing ideas and distinguishing the ‘new’ from the existing ones 4) and there has to be a bold claim about the inadequacy of existing ideas in literature which makes the new ideas being inaugurated relevant and desirable. The claim 5) has to be logically justified using a prototype of three-valued system that admits of truth-glut. Being representative of the liberal arts, the argument must 6) be presented with artistic flair, 7) and in a conversational style i.e. a critical engagement between epistemic agents that addresses a problematique which can be generational or transgenerational 8) and in which arguments presented must be context sensitive.
Submit your abstract to firstname.lastname@example.org. Timeline: Submission Deadline, February 28, 2020; Notification of Acceptance, March 20, 2020.
Publication of proceedings:
- One special issue in an accredited journal would be dedicated to selected papers.
- In addition, two edited anthologies will be published under the Thinking Africa imprint (UKZN Press).
Conference Registration Fees:
- Africa-based students $50;
- outside Africa-based students $100.
- Africa-based academics $100;
- outside Africa-based academics $150;
- Prof. Achille Mbembe, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, Confirmed.
- Prof. Robert Bernasconi, The Pennsylvania State University, USA, Confirmed.
- Prof. Obioma Nnaemeka, Indiana University, USA, Confirmed.
- Dist. Prof. Thaddeus Metz, University of Johannesburg, South Africa, Confirmed.
The conference will be a plenary event in that all presentations will take place in one hall. Acceptance to present a paper at the conference is conditioned on attendance of all sessisons and that a final, reworked paper will be submitted for publication considerations. There will not be parallel sessions.
We are also pleased to announce the creation of a number of Awards –
- Ground-breaking work in African Philosophy and Studies (monographs)
- Outstanding female African Thinker award (monographs and articles)
- Outstanding research on Africa’s intellectual history (monographs)
- Outstanding research on African logic and critical thinking (articles and monographs)
- Radical idea in African philosophy (articles)
These awards will be presented every two years to recognise and celebrate research excellence in African philosophy and studies. The first round of awards will consider peer-reviewed research published between January 2018 and December 2019. Submissions should be made to email@example.com by simply emailing the pdf of your work on or before midnight, April 30, 2020. Submissions received after the deadline will not be considered by the award panel. Authors may submit to multiple categories. Submission email must have a subject, affiliation/address, email and phone contacts of the author.
A cultural event will be organised for the 29th of August 2020. It would most likely be a trip to Marupeng or City tours. Details will be made available closer to the time.
For more information on the Conversational Society of Philosophy (CSP) visit https://cspafrica.org/ and for more information on the Thinking Africa imprint visit https://www.up.ac.za/philosophy/article/2542674/thinking-africa-series
Dr. Jonathan O. Chimakonam, Department of Philosophy, University of Pretoria
President: The Conversational Society of Philosophy (CSP)
For Inquiries, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. Leonhard Praeg, HoD, Department of Philosophy, University of Pretoria
Editor: Thinking Africa Imprint (UKZN
Two New Philosophy Jobs At University Of Kwazulu-Natal
The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) is committed to employment equity with the intention to promote representativity within the Institution. Preference will be given to applicants from designated groups in accordance with our Employment Equity Plan.
COLLEGE OF HUMANITIES
Associate Professor (1 Post) & Lecturer (1 Post) – PHILOSOPHY
SCHOOL OF RELIGION, PHILOSOPHY AND CLASSICS (HOWARD COLLEGE CAMPUS)
The Discipline of Philosophy in the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, University of KwaZulu-Natal prides itself in its high quality of research and teaching. The successful incumbents will complement or enhance the research and teaching strengths of the discipline at the Howard College Campus (Durban). At Associate Professor Level, the incumbent will be expected to contribute to academic leadership and should have a research record appropriate for the level of appointment. Both levels of appointment will be expected to teach philosophy modules at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, as well as actively engage in research and supervise postgraduate students. In addition, appointees will be expected to participate in administrative duties in the discipline and school, and be willing to take on leadership responsibilities where applicable.
Minimum Requirements: Associate Professor (REFERENCE NUMBER: RPC03/2019)
- A PhD in Philosophy
- A record of published research in Philosophy appropriate for an Associate Professor.
- At least five years university lecturing experience in Philosophy.
- Experience in supervising graduate students in Philosophy.
- Teaching competence in at least three the following: African Philosophy, Epistemology, Ethics, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Law, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Science, Political Philosophy, or Social Philosophy.
- A track record in academic administration and/or leadership appropriate at the Level of Associate Professor.
Minimum Requirements: Lecturer (REFERENCE NUMBER: RPC04/2019)
- A Masters degree in Philosophy with evidence of progress towards a PhD.
- Teaching competence in at least two of the following: African Philosophy, Epistemology, Ethics, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Law, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Science, Political Philosophy, or Social Philosophy.
- University lecturing experience in Philosophy.
The short-listed candidate may be required to make a 20 minute presentation on a topic to be provided by the School.
This appointment will be made in line with the University guidelines/benchmarks which are available on the University Vacancies website on http://vacancies.ukzn.ac.za/Academic-Process-Proc-Guides.aspx .
Enquiries and details regarding this post, may be sent to:
Dr Jacek Brzozowski (Academic Leader for Philosophy)
Appointment to this post will be on the January 2018 Conditions of Service.
The remuneration package offered includes benefits. The closing date for receipt of applications is 01 November 2019.
Applicants are required to complete the relevant application form which is available on the Vacancies website at www.ukzn.ac.za
Completed forms may be sent to email@example.com
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In Memory of Prof John Mbiti
Often searching out the graphical symmetry in chaos, while still maintaining the personality and emotion of the subject. The excitement and anticipation as we waited to see the next piece of unpredictable chaos was electric.