Modern philosophy. The African philosophy of Ntu


Essay, 2014
12 Pages

Excerpt

Table Of Contents

INTRODUCTION

DEFINITION OF KEY TERMS
AFRICAN PHILOSOPHY
CONCEPT OF NTU
UNIVERSE

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE AFRICAN PHILOSOPHY AND THE WESTERN PHILOSOPHY

BASIC FEATURES MAKING UP THE AFRICAN PHILOSOPHY OF NTU
BANTU ONTOLOGY (VITAL FORCES)
VITAL HUMAN FORCE AND THE INFERIOR FORCE (BEINGS AND INANIMATE FORCES)
THE EXISTING RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE LIVING AND THE LIVING- DEAD
THE INTERACTION OF FORCES: ONE BEING INFLUENCING ANOTHER
HIERACHY OF FORCES: PRIMOGENITURE
UBUNTU- HUMAN –NESS
COMMENSALITY
COMMUNALISM AND SOCIALISM
BANTU ETHICS

CRITICISMS OF THE AFRICAN PHILOSOPHY

CONCLUSION

Bibliography

INTRODUCTION

African philosophy of Ntu, existed long time ago, and it brought about solidarity and oneness in African society.The importance of this paper therefore is to discuss the African Philosophy of Ntu. The paper will start by defining the key concepts, then differentiating African philosophy from Western philosophy. The paper will go further into discussing the basic features that make up the Ntu philosophy and also, towards the end of the paper the African philosophy will be criticised. At last a conclusion will be drawn up, summing all the main points of the paper.

DEFINITION OF KEY TERMS

AFRICAN PHILOSOPHY

African philosophy is characterised by the harmonious participation between human beings and nature, where everybody takes part in whatever that is being done. The participation is aimed at restoring harmony and it is known as the Ontology of participation (Tempels, 1959, pp. 92-100).

CONCEPT OF NTU

Ntu, when translated to English means a “person” .It is everything we are and everything the world is, it is all that we see around us, everything we do. The presence of Ntu is very important when looking in our every life. It conveys that there is a spiritual essence that underlies and incorporates all material. In a nut shell, Ntu can be said to be a philosophy which sees harmony between physical world and spiritual world. This philosophy is also referred to as the “Bantu” philosophy (Roberts, 1996, p. 335). Ntu entails the basic concept of vital force, of which the source is God. We recognise and conflict this force in all that we do. It is found in many African languages, that is, the Bantu language. This Vital force, Tempels calls it the Bantu Ontology.

In short, Ntu means a human being and it emphasises that there is spirit of oneness and harmony among people and nature. The concept of Ntu emphasises solidarity and oneness amongst Africans.

UNIVERSE

Universe can be defined as all existing matter and space considered as a whole. It is a collection, population or set of entities that exist (Bell, 2002, p. 45).

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE AFRICAN PHILOSOPHY AND THE WESTERN PHILOSOPHY

African philosophy is a philosophy of “We”, while the Western philosophy bases more on “I”. That is, African philosophy is a philosophy founded on consensus, it looks at te broader picture of the society because they believe an individual cannot exist on their own, it is the contribution from other people that keeps them going. That is, they believe or have spirit of oneness while the Western philosophy focuses more on individualism. An African philosophy is founded in their lived historical experiences and not from philosophical abstractions that have very little meaning in actual life like the Western philosophy (Omi, 1981, p. 120).

BASIC FEATURES MAKING UP THE AFRICAN PHILOSOPHY OF NTU

BANTU ONTOLOGY (VITAL FORCES)

According to Tempels, the key to Bantu thought is the idea of vital force of which the source is God. Vital force is viewed as the reality which though invisible, is supreme in man. The Bantu holds the perceptions that all beings in the universe possess Vital Force of their own: human, animal, vegetable and inanimate and these forces are capable of strengthening the vital energy of the strongest being of all creation, the man. Therefore man, can renew his vital force by tapping the strength of other creatures (Tempels, 1959, p. 31).

These forces which exist in all beings, of which man can use to strengthen himself, are discussed under beings and inanimate forces below.

VITAL HUMAN FORCE AND THE INFERIOR FORCE (BEINGS AND INANIMATE FORCES)

The vital human force can directly influence inferior force beings such as animal, vegetable, or mineral in their being itself . The inferior forces have been created by God in order to help man increase his force here on earth. By reason of their nature they have been put at the disposal of men, of living human forces, or of men's vital forces (Tempels, 1959, p. 43).

This is visible in most African societies today such that when performing rituals or ceremonies these inferior forces are being used. For example, it is through these inferior beings that the medicine man is able to give life. That is, the medicine man uses plants and other inferior forces to preserve and protect the vital force. Again, the Sangoma uses the animals’ blood to give life or perform rituals, to fortify himself or the community. Also there are mountains like the Njelele in Zimbabwe, ‘’Lentswe la baratani in Otse, in English called ‘The mountain of lovers’ which are considered to be sacred places and are supposed to be used only for religious purposes, such as consulting the Gods and performing of rituals.

THE EXISTING RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE LIVING AND THE LIVING- DEAD

The whole African society, living and living-dead, is a living network of relations. The Created Universe is centred on man and the present human generation living on earth is the centre of all humanity, including the world of the dead. Africans believe that the dead continue to exist in a spirit form and as such they are recognised as the "living-dead" or ancestors. The Bantu regard the dead as living, but with diminished life, with reduced vital energy (Tempels, 1959, p. 44). The dead are considered to have deeper knowledge as they have in fact been able to learn concerning vital and natural forces .They use these powers to strengthen the life of man on earth. African philosophy holds that the `living dead' can, when called upon by the living, intercede and advise them in certain circumstances. Such intercession is crucial in reconciliation rituals in which the ancestors, invisible beings, play a significant role. Through these invisible forces Africans seek explanations to certain happenings, which cannot otherwise be explained by `normal 'or `rational' means (Marable, 2004, p. 13).

For example, in Botswana Traditional Religion the dead are considered to be living. In most of the times, this is depicted by giving the newly born children the names of those who have passed away. By doing this, Africans believe that the spirits of the deceased are alive, as they continue to live and operate in these beings. Also, some Batswana hold this idea that the Gods can when consulted intervene, for example, when there are mishaps in the family, the Gods can be consulted in order to bring about solution. Traditionally in Botswana, especially in the North east region, dead are consulted when there is a cleansing ceremony, performing of rituals or for family unionisation.

Also, in the Tswapong Region, the dead were consulted regarding the construction of the Botswana International University of Science and Technology and they gave out instructions that each clan must contribute two black cows and the whole community feasted. This on its own shows that the dead can respond or intervene when consulted.

THE INTERACTION OF FORCES: ONE BEING INFLUENCING ANOTHER

According to Placide Tempels, Bantu Ontology is governed by interaction of forces. The relationship between the creator and creature is constant. The creature permanently depends upon his creator for existence and survival. The created beings are known as substances, because they did not come into existence on their own, instead they have a creator. For the Bantu there is an interaction of being with beings, being with the creator and one force can either weaken or reinforce another. The interaction of beings is regarded as ‘magic’ and also the Bantu held the view that older force dominates the younger and that all creatures are found in relationship according to the laws of a hierarchy, and nothing moves in this universe of forces without influencing other forces by its movement (Aliko, 1981, pp. 92-100).

Africans believe that forces just like human beings interact with each other, that there is no force which can exist on its own, on isolation without interacting with other forces. For example the human vital force needs inferior forces to strengthen his force, and also at the same time he depends on God in order to sustain his living on earth.

HIERACHY OF FORCES: PRIMOGENITURE

Being is differentiated into species according to their vital power. Above all force is God, universally acknowledged as Lord of the Universe, Spirit and the Creator (Omi, 1981, p. 127). It is he who has power in himself. He gives existence, power of survival and of increase to other forces. After him come the first fathers of men, founders of clans. They act as intermediaries between men and God. After comes the dead of the tribe and then the living in a hierarchy, according to their superiority (P'Bitek, 1976, pp. 66-68).

This is to say, God is the superior force over all other forces, he is the creator of all forces and these forces comes after him, they depends on him. The first fathers of the clan convey messages between man and God. For example, traditionally in Botswana, this is shown whereby those who have the connections, those who have the spirits such as the Sangomas, Hosannas, communicate with the first fathers and these founders of the clans then sends the message to God.

[...]

Excerpt out of 12 pages

Details

Title
Modern philosophy. The African philosophy of Ntu
College
University of Botswana  (University of Botswana)
Course
Modern Philosophy
Author
Year
2014
Pages
12
Catalog Number
V322629
ISBN (eBook)
9783668262027
ISBN (Book)
9783668262034
File size
531 KB
Language
English
Tags
modern, african
Quote paper
Ednah M Peter (Author), 2014, Modern philosophy. The African philosophy of Ntu, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/322629

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