Research Article

Rethinking the aptness of the analytic method in African philosophy in the light of Hallen and Sodipo’s knowledge-belief distinction

Published in: South African Journal of Philosophy
Volume 40, issue 3, 2021 , pages: 290–303
DOI: 10.1080/02580136.2021.1954767
Author(s): Babalola Joseph Balogun, Nigeria


An instance of the use of a version of the analytic method known as the “ordinary-language approach” in African philosophy is characterised by a systematic examination (for the purpose of clarity) of philosophically significant concepts in an African language as used in ordinary discourse contexts among a local linguistic community. Central to this approach is the idea that the meaning of concepts depends on the ways ordinary people use them, and that this may form the basis of a philosophy. This article examines Barry Hallen and Olubi Sodipo’s critical engagements with the epistemological concepts of ìmọ (knowledge) and ìgbàgbọ (belief) as an instance of this analytic methodological orientation in African philosophy. The article finds the resultant analysis of these Yoruba concepts theoretically faulty because it defeats both the rational structure of complex concept formation in Yoruba language and the logical presupposition embedded in every language. The article concludes that in order to correct this, African philosophy needs to evolve its own unique method of analysis, or otherwise reject altogether the analytic method and erect in its place its own peculiar method suitable for what it does, and consistent with the general nature of philosophy.

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