In Memory of Prof John Mbiti
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of one of the greats and pioneers in African Philosophy, Rev Canon Prof John Mbiti, whose death occurred on Sunday, October 6 2019. He was 87.
Prof Mbiti’s influence in African Philosophy cannot be overstated. Born in Kenya, Mbiti obtained his doctorate in 1963 at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. He then taught religion and theology in Makerere University, Uganda, from 1964 to 1974. After his stint at Makerere University, he held several visiting professorships at universities all over the world and published some very seminal works on African philosophy and religion
Mbiti’s seminal book, African Religions and Philosophy (1969), continues to influence African philosophers today. This is captured in the widespread acknowledgment of his famous dictum “I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am”. Indeed, this book (which was based on extensive fieldwork) challenged the prevalent notions of traditional African philosophical and religious ideas as primitive juju. Although Mbiti was quick to mention that his examination of these religions was understood from a mostly Christian lens, and although this was criticized, there is no doubt that his work provided a unique perspective on several philosophical notions in African philosophy.
His philosophical works include:
- African Religions and Philosophy (1969)
- Concepts of God in Africa (April 1970).
- Love and Marriage in Africa (1973).
- Introduction to African Religion (1975).
From 2005 up until his death in October 2019, Mbiti was an Emeritus professor at the University of Bern and parish minister to the town of Burgdorf, Switzerland. Beyond his philosophy career, Prof Mbiti was an ordained Anglican priest, and as of 2005 a canon of the Anglican Church. He was married to Verena Mbiti-Siegenthaler and had four children. He will always be remembered as a colossus of the African space. May he continue to live on in our memories. The Conversational School of Philosophy celebrate the life of this great – a true ancestor.
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