Original Articles

The Ideal of African Scholarship and its Implications for Introductory Philosophy: the Example of Placide Tempels

Published in: South African Journal of Philosophy
Volume 31, issue 3, 2012 , pages: 504–516
DOI: 10.1080/02580136.2012.10751790
Author(s): Patrick GiddySchool of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, University of Kwazulu-Natal,


Thinking of an academic discipline in terms of a ‘social practice’ (MacIntyre) helps in formulating what the ideal captured in the slogan ‘African scholarship’ can contribute to the discipline. For every practice is threatened by the attractiveness of goods external to the practice–in particular, competitiveness for its own sake–and to counter this virtues of character are needed. African traditional culture prioritizes a normative picture of the human person which could very well contribute here to upholding the values internal to scholarship. I argue, contrary to Matolino, that for these purposes Tempels’ notion of the transactional process of becoming more of what you are by virtue of the human insertion in nature, is a useful starting point. But the dominant way philosophy is framed today, the human person outside of ‘nature’, omitting the key notion of presence-to-self, disallows this dialogue between the dominant tradition and African thought culture. I show, by interrogating what I take to be an impoverished understanding of objectivity in the dominant philosophical approach, how the idea of personal, subjective, growth is crucial to introductory philosophy if the project of African scholarship is to find purchase. As an example I look at rival ways of understanding the value of justice, procedurally or, alternatively, substantively and hence foregrounding participation.1

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