A Short History of African Philosophy

A Short History of African Philosophy

Barry Hallen
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 06/27/2002
ISBN: 978-0-253-10918-7
Bookmark and Share

Available through various retailers


A Choice Outstanding Academic Book of 2003

In this accessible book, Barry Hallen discusses the major ideas, figures, and schools of thought in African philosophy. While drawing out critical issues in the formation of African philosophy, Hallen focuses on the recent scholarship, current issues, and relevant debates that have made African philosophy an important key to understanding the rich and complex cultural heritage of Africa. Hallen builds upon Africa's connections with Western philosophical traditions and explores African contributions to cultural universalism, cultural relativism, phenomenology, hermeneutics, and Marxism. Hallen also examines African challenges to Western conceptions of philosophy by taking on questions such as whether philosophy can exist in cultures that are significantly based in oral traditions and what may or may not constitute philosophical texts. Among the figures whose work is discussed are Ptah-hotep (Egypt, 3rd millennium BCE), Zar'a Ya'aqob (Abyssinia, 17th century), Anton Wilhelm Amo (Ghana, 18th century), Paulin Hountondji, V. Y. Mudimbe, Oyeronke Oyewumi, Kwame Anthony Appiah, and Kwasi Wiredu.
This clearly written, highly readable, and concise work will be essential for students and scholars of African philosophy as well as readers with a wide range of interests in African studies.

Author Bio

Barry Hallen is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy and Religion Department at Morehouse College. He is Associate in the W. E. B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University. He is author of The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful: Discourse About Values in Yoruba Culture (Indiana University Press) and coauthor (with J. Olubi Sodipo) of Knowledge, Belief, and Witchcraft: Analytic Experiments in African Philosophy.


“This essential resource expands the historical perspective, takes account of recent discoveries and new canonical figures, highlights new discussions about gender as a cultural and philosophical phenomenon, clarifies issues regarding indigenous cultures and human rights, and builds on the notion that African philosophy shares methods and concerns of philosophy worldwide. ”

“A great virtue of the brief volume is its method of dividing African philosophy into manageable and provocative categories. . . . Hallen has a gift for knowing what to pick and what to exclude. ”
 — H-Net Reviews

“Hallen's writing is consistently clear and accessible to a general reader, and his knowledge of the subject is wide-ranging, making this an excellent introduction to the vibrant and complex melange that falls withing the category of African philosophy.#71 Winter 2009/2010”
 — Mikel Burley, University of Leeds

“A Short History of African Philosophy is a good read for both the neophyte and the seasoned scholar; it is a helpful guide and beginning for anyone with an interest in African philosophy. ”
 — Dialogue

“This expanded and updated edition of Hallen's work will be a valuable asset as a highly accessible reference, not only for the undergraduate student, but also for graduates and researchers. ”
 — Journal of Africa

“Hallen has provided an immeasurable service to students and scholars of Africana thought by lucidly and concisely chronicling the history, development, and current issues in African philosophies.”
 — Choice, named Outstanding Academic Book

“With this small book, Barry Hallen has opened up the field of African philosophy to the general public, without turning professionals off.”
 — Philosophy in Review

“Provides an excellent orientation to the various approaches and issues which have emerged throughout the history of African philosophy.”
 — International Studies in Philosophy

“While avowedly a short conspectus, the book as a whole is dynamized by a number of recurring debates which make their appearance in most of the chapters, giving the work an internal coherence belying its brevity and simplicity.”
 — Leeds African Studies Bulletin

“The purpose of Hallen's book is to provide professional philosophers, students, and intellectually interested laypersons with both a synopsis and analysis of the field of African philosophy, a scholarly field that is still widely ignored in the philosophical profession and still widely unknown in the public realm. He succeeds quite well in this enterprise. Vol. 43, no. 2, 2010”
 — Intl. Jrnl. of African Historical Studies

Customer Reviews

There are currently no reviews
Write a review on this title.

Table of Contents

Preliminary Table of Contents:

1. The Historical Perspective
2. Twentieth Century Origins
3. Rationality as Culturally Universal
4. Rationality as Culturally Relative
5. Ethnophilosophy and Philosophical Sagacity
6. Phenomenology and Hermeneutics
7. Socialism and Marxism
8. Philosophy and Culture
9. Histories, Anthologies, Introductions to African Philosophy, Journals and Websites