Siméon Rajaona on Western ways of thinking and the authentic Malagasy mind

Published in: South African Journal of Philosophy
Volume 37, issue 3, 2018 , pages: 347–360
DOI: 10.1080/02580136.2018.1514244
Author(s): Graziella MasindrazanaDepartment of Anglophone Studies, Madagascar, Zoly RakotonieraDepartment of Anglophone Studies, Madagascar, Casey WoodlingDepartment of Philosophy and Religious Studies, USA


In two papers early in his career, Siméon Rajaona – one of Madagascar’s most famous intellectuals – argues that Westerners have tended to distort the Malagasy worldview by interpolating Western notions into their understanding of it. As a result, the authentic characteristics of the Malagasy mind have been missed by many in the West. He claims that when compared to Westerners, Malagasy have a distinct notion of truth, a different style of reasoning, a different conceptual connection with the world, and a distinct ethical system. His work on this topic is pioneering and insightful. We think that Rajaona is correct on some points but that others are overestimated. In the essay, we explain his work and raise challenges for most of his claims and express agreement with him in parts. While we express scepticism about his claims involving truth, reasoning, and conceptual connection, we agree with him that there is a distinctive Malagasy ethics, though it has analogues in the West. At the end of the paper, we sketch what we take to be distinct elements in the Malagasy worldview relative to Rajaona’s claims.

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