Success and Criticism

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

African Philosophy fulfilled Hountondji’s intention: It revolutionized the subdiscipline. It was recognized immediately as a major statement, and its author became the leader of the “antiethnophilosophers.” In a positive vein, a new school in African philosophy emerged, that of “professional” or “rationalist” philosophers. Hountondji became one of the most prominent African philosophers. Influence was accompanied by honors. African Philosophy shared the Melville Herskovits Award of the African Studies Association in 1984.

African Philosophy also succeeded in a deeper sense. One of Hountondji’s theses in the book is that African philosophy is in fact pluralistic, but that this pluralism is concealed by the ethnophilosophical pretense of unanimity. Hountondji’s clarity on both “real” philosophy and “reality” forced every self-respecting African philosopher to take a position in relation to critical philosophy. Of course, the positions articulated varied widely—which is, no doubt, what Hountondji anticipated. Pluralism became a reality in African philosophy. Soon additional schools that went beyond ethnophilosophy and critical philosophy came into existence.

Because Hountondji took aim so very clearly at ethnophilosophy, not surprisingly, Hountondji’s views were targeted by others. A fair amount of the criticism was, if not strictly personal, directed largely at Hountondji’s sociological...

(The entire section is 401 words.)