Ubuntu as African Philosophy and the Ova Herero People


Research Paper (undergraduate), 2020

62 Pages, Grade: 65.00


Excerpt

Table of Contents

CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
Introduction and Background
Motivation of the Study
Statement of the problem
Literature review
Research Questions
Significance of the Study
Objectives
Research Methodology
Structure of the Research

CHAPTER TWO
LITERATURE REVIEW
Introduction
What is Philosophy?
African philosophy
OvaHerero Philosophy and Ubuntu

CHAPTER THREE
WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY
Introduction
Philosophy in western literature
Metaphysics
Epistemology
Logic
Ethics
Aesthetics
Conclusion

CHAPTER FOUR
WHAT IS AFRICAN PHILOSOPHY
Introduction
African Philosophy
Ubuntu
Ubuntu Ontology
Comparative analysis: Western, Confucius and Ubuntu philosophies
Critique on Ethno-philosophy, Professional and Sage philosophies
Conclusion

CHAPTER FIVE
OVAHERERO PHILOSOPHY AND UBUNTU
Introduction
The OvaHerero
-vaHerero Philosophy
African Ancestry of the OvaHerero
Conclusion

CHAPTER SIX
CONCLUSION
Research Weakness
Recommendations

REFERENCES

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Introduction and Background

Western philosophers and anthropologists, for centuries argued that the African was inferior in intellect and was more inclined towards animal-like instincts. For example, Hegel said the African is devoid of consciousness or intellectual awareness and as result was sub-human or could not be said to exist in meaningful sense. He went on to say, “The African is natural man in his completely wild and untamed state” (Hegel, 1837). This is recent history, which has been ground for both dehumanization of Africans in form of slavery, colonialism and dispossessing them of their land and cultural identity. Because the African is not fully developed and incapable of intellectual reflection, this would imply that the African probably cannot philosophize. Therefore, African philosophy cannot exist, in a true sense, except as a hybrid of western concepts simply contextualized for Africa. Therefore, the question of whether there is an African philosophy, should not only be taken for granted, because its subliminal implications carry far reaching consequences. It is an assumption that carries deep political, social, developmental effects regarding the humanity of an entire continent’s people.

Given that background, initially I would like to conceptualize the notion of philosophy from a cultural perspective, re-conceptualize the notion of Ubuntu as a philosophy and further elaborate by application the concept of Ubuntu among the ovaHerero people, as evidence of the existence of African philosophy. The discourse will assume interaction with culture which “which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs” (Harris, 1927). It assumes that given the complexity of developing a culture, it cannot be unless such people engage higher thinking to be able to cultivate such a system of life. The Westerners have overlooked this form of intelligence and thinking, in search for mono-perspectivism and thinking that is grounded in Greek conceptualizations.

To achieve this objective, I will interact with various scholarly experts on African philosophy (P.H Coetzee, A.P. Roux, Johan Cilliers, Pantaleon Iroegbu, Du Bois, and many others), as well as analyze electronic media, videos and sound recordings of the ovaHerero sages and scholars, about the ovaHerero way of life - emphasis on Ubuntu. I will then analyze my findings and compare and contrast them with the debate of the non-existence of African philosophy and work towards a conclusion from the results of pro and anti-African philosophy perspectives.

Motivation of the Study

Western thought has in recent history, especially with the dawn of colonialism dominated the philosophical discourse and a deliberate campaign has been put forward to reduce all other philosophical thoughts in the world to the dustbins of history and African thought has been one of those, that have severely suffered such a consequence. Colonialism did not only oppress Africans but it took away their identity and their humanity, and this was only possible through social and mental engineering campaigns. It is my objective through this paper to reveal some of the truth about the ontology of the African and Africa. A lot of socio-economic ills found in Africa are because of a lack of identity and directions, were Africans now, just go with the flow, because they have lost their true identity and I am hoping that this paper can shed more light on the ontology of the African, in order to liberate the African from the chains of mental slavery, in order for the Africans to stand up for themselves and determine his own destiny, because (Mazrui, 1986) explains that Africa’s reality as it is now, is being realized in the image of the west, mainly due to the legacy of colonialism that exists in post-colonial Africa, and it is only through decoloniality that these damages can be reversed as suggested by the discourse on coloniality and decolonialty.

Statement of the problem

“African philosophy” as a way of life and a body of knowledge has been a bone of contention in the academia, but frankly put, it is not in the academia, rather in the western academia, and this is no surprise because this is done to feed the narrative of a useless Africa independent of western influence. It is my prerogative in this paper to demonstrate that Africa does indeed have an independent philosophy of its own, demonstrate the identity and ontology of such a philosophy as well as to demonstrate the application of such a philosophy on the continent.

Literature review

Considering That my paper seeks to demonstrate the existence and ontological nature of an African Philosophy namely Ubuntu, this literature review will seek to shed more light on the different aspects that will aid in achieving the objective of this paper, namely what philosophy is, what African philosophy is, what Ubuntu is and finally what the ovaHerero philosophy is. Western literature defines Philosophy as an academic discipline that constitutes the five main branches of philosophy that serves as the most fundamental aspects of reality1. There exists a very broad spectrum of accounts on what African philosophy is or ought to be, but they can be narrowed down to only two categories, one is the historical reconstruction2, which focuses mostly on the trends in African philosophy namely ethno philosophy3 and negritude4, philosophical sagacity5, Nationalist-ideological philosophy6 and professional philosophy7.

The second category focuses mostly on the ontological nature of what African philosophy is, what it is, in its essence, rather than its historical development, some explanation by scholars include “A system and coherent inquiry on how an African conceives and interprets the world”, “A body of thought, attributed to the community rather than to the individual”8 “African philosophy is the socio-cultural and economic thoughts of the African people”9. It is however the second category that is of greater importance to my paper. Ubuntu is the African philosophy sought after in my paper, a lot has been written about Ubuntu, however an ontological account of Ubuntu is lacking, I will be looking at some of the explanations provided by scholars for Ubuntu, comparing them to its direct translation from its Nguni derivative “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu10, there are scholars who defined Ubuntu Superficially like (Colenso, 1861), (Jabavu, 1960) and (Kimenyi, 1979). The other group of scholars hold Ubuntu at a much higher status, equivalent to an ideology or a philosophy, these include scholars like (Eze, 2010), (Broodryk, 2002), (Shepherd & Paver, 1947), (Tutu, 1999), (Khoza & Fowarded By, 2006) and (Nkrumah, 1978). A considerable amount of time was also spent unraveling the five branches of philosophy within Ubuntu, in order to shed more light on its ontology, for that we relied on scholars like (Tempels, 1952), (Kaputu J. A., O mara wandjambi kotate, 2018), (Coetzee & Roux, The African Philosophy reader, 2003) and (Udokang, 2014).

There literature on Ubuntu within the ovaHerero people is completely absent and one has to almost completely depend on sages, as well as cultural and traditional practices and oral accounts from the Herero people. But we shall look at their history11, and facts12 13. There are philosophical sages like Kaputu, through his Radio narrations will help us better grasp the philosophy of the ovaHerero14, a great number of literature will come from the Descent system15, linguistic art16, religious rituals and Social organization17 of the Herero people. To figure out their origins we shall look at Kaputu who tells us about the immediate pre Namibian origins of The ovaHerero18, linguistic similarities among the ovaHerero and some Namibians19, the ovaHerero Bantu origins20 as well as the Bantu’s place within the entire continent21 22. Finally, we shall look at the ovaHerero people as a case study, as we attempt to reveal Ubuntu as the center point of their philosophy, as well as to demonstrate their relations to the rest of Africans, by briefly tracing their ancestry.

Research Questions

This paper seeks to answer the question “Does Africa has an inherent philosophy?” if yes, “What is this philosophy and its ontology?” and finally “How does this philosophy relate to Africa and the African on the ground?”

Significance of the Study

The study is very significant, in as such that it contributes to an improved social, economic and political transformation in Africa, through an African populace that better relates to itself. As Stated by (Mazrui, 1986) African reality is westernized, which in turn creates social, economic and political problems for Africa. A study like this will reveal realities about Africa and Africans that have been deliberately erased from society, through mental and social engineering campaigns throughout the world.

Objectives

This research aims to primarily undo the centuries long damages done on the minds of the Africans by revealing to the Africans and the world the true reality of Africa and Africans as opposed to the currently perceived one.

Research Methodology

This paper will be in a form of a thesis, the researcher will not only be looking to synthesize current literature, but to disagree, redefine and add to the current literature. Throughout the paper the researcher will be presenting new definitions, as he analyzes different literatures, a very considerable portion of this paper will focus on theorizing concepts like Ubuntu and philosophy as a way of life from the ground and also use other forms of research papers to achieve his objectives for example by contrast and comparing and critical summaries as well, as application as supporting forms of arguments for my thesis. This paper will also argue against other trends of African philosophy and demonstrate why those trends are not sufficient to qualify as African philosophies.

Most of the data will come from existing literature, the researcher will critically analyze literature on defining philosophy, Ubuntu and African philosophy, and use some of the existing literature on the ovaHerero people to shed more light on the ovaHerero people as well.

The researcher will make use of electronic media technology to get some of the data, several public recoded videos will be used and audio files for its information, these especially on the ovaHerero people. The researcher will use pictures of the ovaHerero people where necessary, photos that are mostly electronically sourced.

As a member of the ovaHerero people, the knowledge and experience of the reseacher about the ovaHerero people will also be used in this research.

Structure of the Research

For a chronological paper, there is a need to establish the ground work for this paper. I will begin by explaining what is philosophy as a culture or way of life, and articulate its conceptualization and its ontology. I then will proceed to identify and define Ubuntu and provide its conceptual background and ontology as the African Philosophy, I will then use this conceptualization of Ubuntu and apply it to the ovaHerero people in my attempt to prove Ubuntu as an African philosophy by application.

CHAPTER TWO

LITERATURE REVIEW

Introduction

Considering That my paper seeks to demonstrate the existence and ontological nature of an African philosophy namely Ubuntu, this literature review will seek to shed more light on the different aspects that will aid in achieving the objective of this paper, namely what philosophy is, what African philosophy is? what Ubuntu is? and finally what the ovaHerero philosophy is? Western literature defines philosophy as an academic discipline that constitutes the five main branches of philosophy that serves as the most fundamental aspects of reality23. There exists a very broad spectrum of accounts on what African philosophy is or ought to be, but they can be narrowed down to only two categories, one is the historical reconstruction24, which focuses mostly on the trends in African philosophy namely ethno philosophy25 and negritude26, philosophical sagacity27, Nationalist-ideological philosophy28 and professional philosophy29.

The second category focuses mostly on the ontological nature of what African philosophy is ontologically, rather than its historical development, some explanation by scholars include “A system and coherent inquiry on how an African conceives and interprets the world”, “A body of thought, attributed to the community rather than to the individual”30 “African philosophy is the socio-cultural and economic thoughts of the African people”31. It is however the second category that is relevant to this paper. Ubuntu is the African philosophy sought after in this paper, a lot has been written about Ubuntu, however an ontological account of Ubuntu is also lacking. The researcher will be looking at some of the explanations provided by scholars for Ubuntu, comparing them to its direct translation from its Nguni derivative “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”32. There are scholars who defined Ubuntu Superficially like (Colenso, 1861), (Jabavu, 1960) and (Kimenyi, 1979). The other group of scholars hold Ubuntu at a much higher status, equivalent to an ideology or a philosophy, these include scholars like (Eze, 2010), (Broodryk, 2002), (Shepherd & Paver, 1947), (Tutu, 1999), (Khoza & Fowarded By, 2006) and (Nkrumah, 1978). A considerable amount of time was also spent unraveling the five branches of philosophy within Ubuntu, in order to shed more light on its ontology, for that we relied on scholars like (Tempels, 1952), (Kaputu J. A., O mara wandjambi kotate, 2018), (Coetzee & Roux, The African Philosophy reader, 2003) and (Udokang, 2014).

There literature on Ubuntu within the ovaHerero people is completely absent and one has to almost completely depend on sages, as well as cultural and traditional practices and oral accounts from the Herero people. But we shall begin by looking at their history33, and facts34 35. There are philosophical sages like Kaputu, who through his Radio narrations will help us better grasp the philosophy of the ovaHerero36, a great number of literature will come from the Descent system37, linguistic art38, religious rituals and Social organization39 of the Herero people. To figure out their origins we shall look at Kaputu, who tells us about the immediate pre Namibian origins of The ovaHerero40, linguistic similarities among the OvaHerero and some other Namibian tribes41, the ovaHerero Bantu origins42 as well as the Bantu’s place within the entire continent43 44. Finally, we shall look at the ovaHerero people as a case study, as we attempt to reveal Ubuntu as the center point of their philosophy, as well as to demonstrate their relations to the rest of Africans, by briefly tracing their ancestry.

What is Philosophy?

The objective of this paper is to present philosophy as a way of life, rather than an academic discipline or any other form, to achieve this we must draw our attention at the western definition of philosophy defined by its constituent branches namely metaphysics, Epistemology, Logic, Ethics and esthetics as explained by (Velasquez, 1991) “Philosophy is the whole, as far as the enquiries of reality are concerned, and the branches make up the parts of the whole”. But to actually get the cultural essence of this branches one must look deeper to see their relations to culture.

Metaphysics is defined by Chaffee in this context as the “the study of the most general or ultimate characteristics of reality or existence”45, which also happens to be the basis of every culture. Moser defines epistemology as “the philosophical study of the nature, origin and scope of knowledge”46, which also makes up a most basic component in the realization of any culture, (Copi, Cohen, & McMahon, 2014) states that “Logic is the study of the methods and principles used to distinguish correct from incorrect reasoning” a fundamental subset of epistemology, which renders knowledge impossible without it, Mackinnon distinguishes between the two kinds of Ethics, normative and meta-ethics47, which also is a fundamental aspect of Social organization and finally Aesthetics defined as the “value judgements we make, based on our experiences”48, another basic component, with regards to our ability to interpret our cultures. It is the combination of this branches of philosophy with the definition of Culture or way of life, that allows (Maritain, 1957) to come up with fitting definition of Philosophy as a way of life or a culture.

African philosophy

To define African philosophy, it was deemed necessary to draw perimeters, such as Geography49, The people their environment and experience 50. Ubuntu was identified by the researcher as the African philosophy that fit all these requirements. Ubuntu has directly been translated as “Umuntu ngumunt ngabantu” 51, from its Nguni meaning. there are scholars who defined Ubuntu

Superficially like, Colenso described Ubuntu merely as “manhood”52, Jabavu refers to Ubuntu as a “human feeling”53 or as described as generosity by (Kimenyi, 1979), there however exist another strand of scholars who define Ubuntu as something more than just a feeling or a quality, promoting it to something philosophical such as Eze who states “Ubuntu is in fact, essentially what it means to be an African”54, while Broodryk on the other hand says Ubuntu defines the person, as it determines what a person says, does or thinks55 or Shepherd and Paver who describe it as an essential human nature56, there are African leaders who have also been vocal about the philosophical nature of Ubuntu and its role in Africa, such as Nelson Mandela who says “Ubuntu ….asserts, we are still all branches on the same tree of humanity”57, (Tutu, 1999) who says Ubuntu means that my Humanity is inextricably bound up with yours, or Nkrumah who indirectly refers to Ubuntu by talking about the importance of the socialist/communitarian nature of African politics58.

One of the main themes of this paper is to explore the ontology of Ubuntu, in order to provide for a justification of why the researcher believes it to be the main African philosophy. For this, the five philosophical branches were sought within Ubuntu, Kaputu says Africans organized themselves based on their religious understanding of reality59, while Tempels presents to us with the hierarchical relationship of the Bantu religious system, as a basis for their social organization60, as they attempt to shed more light on the metaphysical reality of Ubuntu, For the epistemology in Ubuntu we looked at (Coetzee & Roux, The African Philosophy reader, 2003) who states that experience and rationality are the two means of knowledge accumulation by African, while Omotso tells us how Social epistemology61 reveals Ubuntu in the African epistemology, the aspect of logic was argued by the researcher purely using deductive reasoning, as an inherent human character.

For ethics we look at (Udokang, 2014) who says ethics is a multifaceted center point of epistemological, ontological and logical expressions, while Ojomo draws our attention at how African ethics are inclusive of environmental ethics62 and finally the aesthetics in Ubuntu is looked at by Molokwane, who speaks of the deep meanings imbedded in African arts, of either religious, natural or cultural significance63 and (Njiofor, 2018) who tells us How Africans make use of their arts to strengthen social solidarity by making use of Proverbs, dictums or Arts performances. The Researcher seeks to thoroughly exam and reveal this branches within Ubuntu, in an effort to prove Ubuntu not only as the African way of life, but as the most fundamental way of life.

The researcher also briefly spent time comparing and contrasting between western, Confucian and Ubuntu philosophy in order to ascertain common philosophical elements among the three different philosophers. We begin with (Wei-Ming, 2014) who tells us about the factor of group solidarity that exist in the Confucian philosophy, just as it exists with Ubuntu, While Delio Tells us that the only thing western philosophy shares with Ubuntu is only the religiously inspired metaphysics64. Knowledge in Confucianism must be used for the benefit of the entire society65, just as it is with Ubuntu, while Gill warns us about the egoistic approach to knowledge in western philosophy66. The Ethics of Confucianism are defined with the Ren and Li notions67, which focuses on personal excellence for the sake of society, which shares the primary objectives of Ubuntu ethics, while the Ethics of the west are said to be individualistic in nature68. Confucianism observes an Aesthetical order, through their art, which aids with social cohesion69, something that correlates with African Aesthetical values, that are said to be carrying deep natural, cultural or religious meanings, while again in the western philosophy, Art and Aesthetics are personal and individualistic and a private matter.

The researcher also took time to briefly criticize three trends of African philosophy, as he is not convinced that, these trends can be accorded major philosophical status. The work of (Hountondji,

Comments on contemporary African philosophy, 1970) criticizes ethno philosophy, while (Appiagyei-Atua, 2019) Criticizes professional philosophy and (Bodunrin, 2019) criticizes Philosophical sagacity.

OvaHerero Philosophy and Ubuntu

The literature on Ubuntu within the ovaHerero people is completely absent and one will have to conclude from what is said and done within the ovaHerero Society to put together a clear reconstruction of Ubuntu within the ovaHerero people. But we begin with a short background about the ovaHerero people, the history70, and factual statistics71 72. There are philosophical sages like Kaputu, who tells us that “everything the creator has given and done for the ovaHerero, was for the mere purpose of maintaining group solidarity”73, a considerable amount of time will be spent on aspects of the ovaHerero culture that shows Ubuntu within the ovaHerero, things like Descent system74, linguistic art75, religious rituals and Social organization76, as well as undocumented aspects of the ovaHerero way of life.

Finally, we shall look at the origins of the ovaHerero to demonstrate the relationship between them and the rest of the continent, looking at sources like Kaputu who tells us about the Zimbabwean and Angolan origins of the present day ovaHerero77, linguistic similarities among the OvaHerero, Ovambo and Rukwangali people of Namibia78, the ovaHerero Bantu origins79, which speaks of the possible migration from the Niger-Congo area, towards the east and finally towards the south, as well as the Bantu’s place within the entire continent80 81, who speak of the existence of other groups of people in Africa other than the Bantu, for example the Khoe, Cushite’s and Afrasians, highlighting how these groups share linguistic similarities with each other.

It is the objective of the researcher to study all these different literatures and critically analyze them in order to draw a conclusion between them, that indeed Ubuntu is the common denominator across the board in the African way of life. As well as to show that the ovaHerero people are a living example of people who apply Ubuntu philosophy as an African way of life.

[...]


1 (Velasquez, 1991)

2 (Coetzee & Roux, The African Philosophy reader, 2003)

3 (Tempels, 1952)

4 (Coetzee & Roux, The African Philosophy reader, 2003)

5 (Oruka, 1983)

6 (Mbanjo, 1998)

7 (Hapanyengwi-Chemburu, 2013)

8 (Sogolo, 1993)

9 (Jaja, 2014)

10 (Cilliers, 2019)

11 (UNHCR, 2012)

12 (Blench, 25)

13 (Hartmetz, 2011)

14 (Kaputu J. A., O mara wandjambi kotate, 2018)

15 (Gibson, 1956)

16 (Kavari, 2000)

17 (Bollig & Gewald, 2000)

18 (Kaputu J. A., O mara waNdjambi kotate, 2019)

19 (Pollard, Rosenburg , & Tignor, 2011)

20 (Phillip & Randall, 2007)

21 (Bernard, 1988)

22 (Skogland, et al., 2017)

23 (Velasquez, 1991)

24 (Coetzee & Roux, The African Philosophy reader, 2003)

25 (Tempels, 1952)

26 (Coetzee & Roux, The African Philosophy reader, 2003)

27 (Oruka, 1983)

28 (Mbanjo, 1998)

29 (Hapanyengwi-Chemburu, 2013)

30 (Sogolo, 1993)

31 (Jaja, 2014)

32 (Cilliers, 2019)

33 (UNHCR, 2012)

34 (Blench, 25)

35 (Hartmetz, 2011)

36 (Kaputu J. A., O mara wandjambi kotate, 2018)

37 (Gibson, 1956)

38 (Kavari, 2000)

39 (Bollig & Gewald, 2000)

40 (Kaputu J. A., O mara waNdjambi kotate, 2019)

41 (Pollard, Rosenburg , & Tignor, 2011)

42 (Phillip & Randall, 2007)

43 (Bernard, 1988)

44 (Skogland, et al., 2017)

45 (Chaffee, 2011)

46 (Moser, 2010)

47 (Mackinnon, 2015)

48 (Stecker, 2010)

49 (Hountondji, The Struggle for meaning: Reflection on philosophy, culture and democracy in Africa, 2002)

50 (Pauls, 2009)

51 (Cilliers, 2019)

52 (Colenso, 1861)

53 (Jabavu, 1960)

54 (Eze, 2010)

55 (Broodryk, 2002)

56 (Shepherd & Paver, 1947)

57 (Khoza & Fowarded By, 2006)

58 (Nkrumah, 1978)

59 (Kaputu J. A., O mara wandjambi kotate, 2018)

60 (Tempels, 1952)

61 (Omotoso, 2017)

62 (Ojomo, 2011)

63 (Molokwane, 2019)

64 (Delio, 2019)

65 (Rosker, 2014)

66 (Gill, 2006)

67 (Yao, 2000)

68 (Soares, 2018)

69 (Wang, 2016)

70 (UNHCR, 2012)

71 (Blench, 25)

72 (Hartmetz, 2011)

73 (Kaputu J. A., O mara wandjambi kotate, 2018)

74 (Gibson, 1956)

75 (Kavari, 2000)

76 (Bollig & Gewald, 2000)

77 (Kaputu J. A., O mara waNdjambi kotate, 2019)

78 (Pollard, Rosenburg , & Tignor, 2011)

79 (Phillip & Randall, 2007)

80 (Bernard, 1988)

81 (Skogland, et al., 2017)

Excerpt out of 62 pages

Details

Title
Ubuntu as African Philosophy and the Ova Herero People
College
University of Namibia
Course
Bachelor of Arts Honors
Grade
65.00
Author
Year
2020
Pages
62
Catalog Number
V514283
ISBN (eBook)
9783346139580
Language
English
Tags
ubuntu, african, philosophy, herero, people
Quote paper
Paulus Kapepu (Author), 2020, Ubuntu as African Philosophy and the Ova Herero People, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/514283

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