if we are to build an epistemological edifice that is unassailable by doubt, it can not be founded on the morally reprehensible principle of exclusion.
African philosophy is a subject that many readers, even in academic spaces are not used to. Philosophy in Africa is so Eurocentric and even some professors of philosophy are not conversant with the subject. Most scholars conflate African anthropology with African philosophy. They do this either because they are ignorant, or simply do not want to admit that there is an “African Philosophy” because philosophy is so Eurocentric and any challenge to eurocentrism and its philosophical ideals is not welcome in the field. It is a tad paradoxical that philosophy as a field which ought to employ the tools of analysis, logic and criticality chooses favorable instances where it deploys these tools. However, the bane of this piece is the patriarchy implicit in academic spaces in the study of African history and philosophy. Male African scholars are guilty against women of what they accuse their European counterparts. of doing against them; EXCLUSION. In the near 100 year existence of the systematized field of African philosophy, it has significantly excluded the epistemological narratives of female writers, and the female experience in African philosophy. Philosophers like Kwasi Wiredu, Innocent Onyewuenyi, Ifeanyi Menkiti,Segun Gbadesin, Mogobe Ramose, Innocent Asouzu, Segun Oladipo, Paulin Hountondji, Kwame Gyekye, Achille Mbembe, Du Bois, Alexis Kagame and recently Jonathan Chimakonam, Mesembe Edet, etc have assumed the role of “gatekeepers” of African philosophy defining what constitutes African philosophy and what doesn’t, according to patriarchal metrics set by them.
However, their accounts do not take into consideration the historical positioning of women in African culture, from which it’s philosophy stems. This erroneous notion draws firstly from the abstract conception of “personhood” in African philosophy. Various African philosophers like John Mbiti and Ifeanyi Menkiti have construed a person in African culture, to be one who has social function and utility in the positioning of the community, thus “I am because we are” implies the existence of the individual in relation to their contribution to the “we” of the community. This consequently implies that personhood is not an intrinsic characteristic but is one that is earned by the social function performed by individuals especially in relation to their society and the broad communal whole. This fundamentally excludes women from being considered as persons with inherent qualities. and should as such be treated, but places a burden on them to earn the status of personhood in deeply patriarchal societies. Due to gender roles, and the limited access to social spaces for the African woman, it is difficult and nearly impossible for her to become a person as much as a man does because her contribution to the broader communal whole is inherently very limited. The abstraction of this principle justifies the abuse of women in the real world and the treatment of women as people who have no inherent worth, hence the need for the worth of African women to be defined by their social attachment to a male, through marriage or reproduction. Women, as a result of gender roles, which. they are made to conform to, do not integrate with the broad society at the same level as men do, thus narrows their claims to be called members of the society in direct comparison to male counterparts. The desirability of male children because of their potentiality to become “persons” which is rife in most African cultures engenders an invidious exclusion of people who fail at “becoming persons” because they integrate and contribute to society in a manner inferior to other members of the society. Such women deductively may be denigrated to the status of “sub-persons” in the larger scheme of things. This conception of personhood also indirectly justifies animal torture, because it takes away every form of inherent considerability amongst living things, and measures living beings by their ability to produce social utility. African philosophy must stop being ahistorical and morally bankrupt in its outlook. The being of a person is what is morally fundamental and not their ability to function. There is an increased role of theoretical academic pedagogy in shaping the lives of people especially in the third world and thus places a moral obligation on African philosophy to create spaces for women and other gender minorities, because it changes the perspectives about how the broad society views women and if we are to build an epistemological edifice that is unassailable by doubt, it can not be founded on the morally reprehensible principle of exclusion.