2006 Conference Papers and Abstracts

CONVERSATIONS II: Western and Non-Western Philosophies

"It is a function, indeed a duty, of philosophy in any society to examine the intellectual foundation of its culture." (Kwasi Wiredu)

Our inaugural meeting held in 2005 was devoted to the theme "Conceptualising Philosophy". We now take a step further: we want to discuss the relevance of different approaches to philosophy to everyday concerns and live problems in human life and thought. We are particularly concerned to promote dialogue between different approaches to philosophy on common problems.

Philosophy is always for life and not life for philosophy. Philosophy is a response to society and to social problems even though some philosophers have attempted to divorce philosophy from society and to study the subject in a vacuum. But this does not rule out the fact that philosophy is a response to social problems. Even to study philosophy in a vacuum is always a way of responding (negatively perhaps) to the social conditions of one's society.

The Cave Hill Philosophy Symposium - Conversations II - is looking for papers from Western and non-Western traditions that seek to address the relevance of philosophy to live questions pertaining to man, society and nature. The papers should focus on specific issues and problems within any of the traditions. We are also interested in papers that will attempt comparative analyses of the underpinnings of the various philosophies or of concepts within the various regional philosophies. The Symposium also welcomes papers of a theoretical nature in the disciplines that share a boundary with philosophy, disciplines such as, critical theory, cultural studies, law, linguistics, mathematics and natural sciences, medicine, political theory, theology, etc. These papers should grapple with the relevance (or contribution) of particular philosophical ideas or approaches to the disciplines in question.

Our keynote is Dr. D.A. Masolo, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, and also Justus Bier Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the same university. He previously taught Philosophy at Antioch College, Northwestern University, and the University of Nairobi (Kenya).

Professor Masolo is a member of the series editorial board (African Expressive Culture), Indiana University Press; President of the Society of African Philosophy in North America (SAPINA); a member of the Editorial Board, The International Journal of African Studies; a member of the Research Committee, Political Philosophy, International Political Science Association; an Associate Editor, Quest: International African Journal of Philosophy; was an Associate Editor of African Philosophy; and Assistant Treasurer, Philosophical Association of Kenya (PAK).

Professor Masolo is author of African Philosophy in Search of Identity (1994), Christian Religious Education (1990), You and Your Society, Book II (1988), You and Your Society, Book I (1987). He is co-editor of African Philosophy as Cultural Inquiry (2000), Philosophy and Cultures (1983). He is currently working on the following titles: (i) Philosophy and Pluralism: Recent Debates and Perspectives, (ii) Living as a Christian, Dying as a Luo, (iii) Self and Agency: The Concept of the Person in an African Culture. Professor Masolo has over fifty published articles in various refereed international journals, and has just completed papers which are forthcoming in the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Dictionary of the History of Ideas, and the Encyclopedia of African Religions and Philosophy.

This page contains all the abstracts accepted for the Symposium, and links to the full text when we have it. The e-mail addresses are given with "nospam" inserted after the "@" so they won't work as shown. Please note that the texts are all in pdf format, for which you may need the Acrobat Reader, which can be acquired at Adobe.

Authors on this page:
Surendra Arjoon Rev. Harold E. Crichlow Sirkku Hellsten Martin J. Schade
Lawrence O. Bamikole Claus Dierksmeier Samuel Imbo Mark K. Setton
John Ayotunde Isola Bewaji James P. Duerlinger Kibujjo Kalumba Dick Stoute
Costica Bradatan Charles W. Ephraim Kahiudi Claver Mabana Onuoha Sylvester
Roxanne Burton Clevis Headley Simeon Mohansingh Michael Thompson
Mejame Ejede Charley Cathal Healy-Singh (1) Mabogo Percy More Xavier Vanmechelen
Richard Clarke Cathal Healy-Singh (2) Deryck Murray  


Common Truths: A Natural Law Perspective
Surendra Arjoon

Complete paper not available. Please contact author.

In recent times, there has been a renewed interest in natural law as no other legal and ethical theory comprehends all the facets of human existence with quite the same appreciation of both the particular circumstances of a person's actions and the abiding truths of his destiny. The greater part of present day philosophy has no positive answer, and often professes to be unable to give any answer to the fundamental questions of human existence and about the ground for human actions. Why be moral? What is law? What are the limits of coercion within a just and free society? Today skepticism about people's ability to know anything for certain suffuses our culture, however unhealthy personal and public consequences follow upon such belief. A person's nature is itself a guide to right and wrong - that is the basic teaching of natural law ethics. The limits and capacities of our nature may be ignored, but never abolished. We therefore forget the requirements of our nature at our own peril. For those who recognize the increasing disarray of contemporary philosophical systems, natural law provides a comprehensive and authentic view of human development as it derives human solutions to the problems confronting contemporary societies.
The Concept of Right(s) in Western (Anglo-American) and African (Yoruba) Philosophies: An Exercise in Comparative Ethics
Lawrence O.Bamikole

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In this paper, the metaphysical, ethical and epistemological foundations of the concept of right(s) will be critically examined from the Western and African perspectives.

It shall be observed that the Western conception of rights grounds the concept on a notion of the self that is atomistic; that is, not other regarding, while the African conception of rights (Eto in Yoruba) is grounded on the notion of the self, on which the self is an integral part of the community of persons. It will also be suggested that the Western conception of rights also derives from the ethical theories of the two philosophies; which are in turn derive from their respective epistemologies. Thus, while Western ethics relies on the Cartesian epistemology where proofs are always required to justify ethical conducts and ethical statements, African ethics relies on the lived day-to-day experiences of the African person.

The paper will observe that the Western conception of rights, (natural and legal) which is also modeled along Cartesian dualism, creates a gap between ethical and social theories on one hand and ethical and social practices on the other. The paper will suggest that this gap can be bridged by the notions of commitment and engagement- notions that do not make a rigid distinction between knowing and doing.

Discoursing Philosophy Through Cultures - Challenges, Opportunities and Dangers
John Ayotunde Isola Bewaji

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In this essay I examine what may be regarded as the peculiarities of philosophy and philosophizing in various cultures. I do this against the background of what has constituted the trajectory of history of philosophy, thinking or reasoning and reflection about fundamental presuppositions of life, reality and being, especially in Anglo-American philosophical tradition by contrast with what is general European, Asian, African, Afro-Caribbean and Latino-American, in deed world, philosophies and the traditions spurned by these.

One immediate outcome of this discourse is the necessary appreciation of the disparities in the levels of commitment that each tradition pays to its constituency concerns, interests, goals and issues in terms of reflection of realities of the thought mindscape, landscape and existential cum eco-spherical circumstances of thinkers. The other is the abilities, inabilities and liabilities of thinkers across the cross-cultural board to transcend the immediate matters of daily realities and exigency matters to aspire to ethereal, trans-cultural and apocryphal issues and "universalisms" even if only in superficial and pretentious terms. This investigation makes possible the realization, on a global format, the distortions and distorting mechanisms of thought and thinking processes and its paraphernalia in various cultures and how these are to be properly understood as representations of human interest, fears, hopes, aspirations and beliefs in various ways and in various formats.

I conclude the discussion with a predictable and unavoidable advisory, that while humanity may remain one, the homogenization of humanity in any form - economical, sociological, technological, religious, cultural, genomical and any other that may take the fancy of temporal centres of power at any given epoch of human her/history - is not practically, scientifically, culturally, socially or philosophically defensible or appealing. Thus, those who may harbour the dreams of a homogenized humanity, living and dreaming the same dreams, need to rethink their position, given the fact that humans resist such efforts to tailor identity and personality in similar or identical ways.

Philosophy as an Art of Dying
Costica Bradatan

Complete paper not available. Please contact author.

It happens sometimes that philosophers need something stronger than words to express themselves. In such cases, their words stop helping them, their arguments do not convince anyone anymore, and their remaining rhetorical tricks only betray their impotence. If these philosophers are not to remain completely voiceless, they must unfailingly appeal to some other means of expression, to some non-verbal or, better, trans-verbal ones. Yet, apparently, philosophy is in a structural way tied to the use of language and the art of writing, to the utterance of words and the production of texts. If philosophers' words and texts become mute, then what is left to them?

Contrary to the pessimistic view, there is something left. Under such radical circumstances, when words irremediably fail and any rhetoric only embarrasses itself, philosophers are still left with a very effective persuasive tool: namely, with their own lives - with their own bodies. True, this would necessarily be their last trick, but, if used properly, it can prove to be a most powerful one. Socrates' death was the most effective means of persuasion he ever used, and over the centuries he has come to be venerated not such much for what he did when he was alive, as precisely for the way in which he died. Of all the books he has (never) written in his lifetime, Socrates' death is definitely his bestseller - his true philosophical masterpiece. Indeed, he set the model for all subsequent "philosophical deaths" in the history of Western thought.

I call these philosophers' resort to their own (dying) bodies as a means of persuasion "philosophy as an art of dying." Jan Patocka (1907-1977) is one of the most prominent practitioners of this rare art to have lived in the 20th century, and most of what follows will be about him. However, before discussing in detail his unique place in the Socratic tradition of the "art of dying," I have to analyze briefly the way in which this art was born - that is, Socrates' understanding of death and dying as Plato presents it in his Apology. After I discuss Socrates and Jan Patocka, I will advance some broader concluding considerations about the significance of martyrdom in the history of Western philosophy.

Philosophy and Literature: Antagonistic Ethnicities or Sisters at Heart?
Roxanne Burton

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Plato argued that the poet should be excluded from the Republic because the work of the poet was not able to provide a path to knowledge, and that knowledge was the domain of philosophy. That distinction, made at the beginning of the Western philosophical tradition, between philosophy and literature, has yielded many arguments as to their relationship and roles. The debate about the relationship between the two subject areas, which intersects metaphysics and metaphilosophy, is one that evidently has a long history and continues today, most likely because it raises the question of the very definition of philosophy, and how philosophy should differentiate itself from related disciplines such as literature. Another of the reasons for the continued debate is that there is actually no clear definition of literature, and indeed, the reach of the term 'text' has been exponentially widened as a result of postmodern criticism; as Arthur Danto condescendingly argues, the term now refers to bus tickets, comic strips, graffiti, weather reports and so on.

The arguments in this discussion can be categorised into three large groups: those which view literature as philosophy; philosophy as literature; or philosophy and literature as distinct areas of human endeavour. The latter has various formulations which argue that the two subjects may or may not complement each other.

The aim of this paper is to interrogate the most dominant arguments in this debate and to identify, if possible, the most defensible position. The paper will also explore the extent to which the debate is a feasible one in the context of the Caribbean intellectual tradition, given that much of the early philosophical thought (and this a tradition which still continues in the present period) in the region has been embedded in what would be considered, by the standards of western professional philosophy, to be non-philosophical sources.

The Urgency of Thought: the Ethical Dilemma of a Respectful Encounter with Others: A Space for Discourse between Africa and the West
Mejame Ejede Charley

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Philosophers from time immemorial have called attention to or revealed the difficulties men have in living together. Jean Paul Sartre, among others, has revealed the necessity of conflict in human relations in opposition to thinkers who have perceived other forms of relations among human beings. According to Edgar Morin, we are in the prehistory of the human mind, signifying that the human mental capacities are yet under-exploited notably at the level of our relations with others. We are, as such, barbarians in our relations with others. In the conflict-relation predominating up to date, and constituting a major pathology, are there other forms of relations envisageable?

The axial point of this paper is to reveal the significant point of convergence between western thinkers (i.e., Kant, Emmanuel Levinas etc.) and the sapential function in African thought (in the unexplorable linguistic corpus subsisting in African culture) regarding a ceremonious experience with others.

Travelling Philosophy
Richard Clarke

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Those who break a tradition first hold it in awe. (Derek Walcott)

In this paper, my aim is to explore the precise nature of the relationship that links post-colonial Caribbean philosophy to its European and American counterparts. To this end, I will examine several paradigms of intellectual history and the 'tradition,' that is, the process by which ideas are transmitted from one generation and socio-historical context to another. Some of the models I will look at include the mimetic / englightenment, the expressive / Romantic, and the Dialogical / Bakhtinian. I conclude by exploring the value in this regard of Said's notion of 'traveling theory.'

Kant and Hegel - Their Religious Philosophies Compared

The Very Reverend Harold E. Crichlow

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Despite the existence of a Promethean strain in the history of western thought from the Pre-Socratics down to the time of Kant and Hegel, it is fair to say that mankind generally had some kind of belief in the gods or in the one God. Even before recorded history began, people felt surrounded on all sides by superior supernatural beings who inspired terror and who could only be placated by sacrifice – human, animal and plant – the stage of animism. Since the time of Kant and Hegel, despite the rapid and growing secularization of society and the decline of overt acts of religion in European societies which lead the world in freedom and material development, census figures show that a large number of people still hold some kind of religious belief.

Eastern Principles within Western Metaphysics

Claus Dierksmeier

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It is broadly known that Schopenhauer's metaphysics was influenced by his studies of Indian thinkers. Less known it is that the inspiration to theses studies came from his Dresden housemate, a connoisseur of Indian thought who was a philosopher in his own rights: the nowadays forgotten German philosopher Karl Christian Friedrich Krause (1781-1832). A follower of Immanuel Kant, a master disciple of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, an able competitor of Schelling and Hegel, Krause wrote a metaphysics of freedom that intended to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western thinking.

Nowadays, Krause's theories are hardly known at all in English speaking countries and only slightly more so in Germany. In the last thirty years, though, his philosophy has been experiencing a renaissance, driven mostly by studies from Spanish speaking scholars. This untypical reception is due to the enormous impact Krause's writings had on Spain in the pre-Franco era, mostly through a somewhat fraudulent disciple. Julián Sanz del Río, in the late 19th century an eminent figure in Spain's cultural life, from personal translations of several of Krause's works compiled a text that he introduced into Spain. This he proclaimed to contain, although influenced by Krause, a philosophy of his own. It held a mayor triumph and was commonly received as the long awaited Spanish contribution to the liberal intellectual movements of the 19th century.

Incorporating many a social postulate from German Idealism, and yet being much more oriented towards experience (both scientific and historic), this 'new' philosophy was an instant success in Spain and in many South American countries. It stood out with its notion of 'harmonic' freedom, emphasizing the need of integrating all marginalized subjects: disabled, senile, and economically weakened persons, for instance. Krause strongly advocated for the rights of the poor, for the protection and furtherance of the autonomy of children and women, for global social justice, and the rights of future generations. Given the time he first proclaimed said ideas, 1803, Krause stood alone against the mainstream (Fichte, Hegel).

The underlying concept of 'harmonic' freedom is rooted in a metaphysics that took its inspiration from Krause's studies of Indian texts. Krause's metaphysics distinguishes itself from other systems of his time by advocating a 'open dialectics', meaning a system of rationalization that offers but does not prescribe certain speculative thought-patterns for conceiving the world. Although not accepted in Germany, Krause's thinking provided an important integrative and reformist platform for the nascent Spanish and South American republics that did not want to go the path of violent revolutions. The talk shall show that this success was not incidental but rests on certain contents of Krause's philosophy that are still of systematic relevance.

Krause's advanced methodology, interweaving analytical and synthetical philosophy, was far ahead of his time. Other than his colleagues who made freedom the principle of their philosophizing only content-wise but not in procedure (where they remained deducing ex cathedra what was theoretically right and what had practically to be done etc.), Krause felt that a true philosophy of freedom would declare liberty also its procedural principle. Said methodology, i.e. the linkage of a liberal and participation-oriented methodology with classical metaphysical contents, generated the at his time starkly uncommon results, which make the harmonic liberalism of Krause so interesting today.

Martin Luther King's Religio-Moral Context: The Struggle for Human-being-ness

Charles Wm. Ephraim

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King’s philosophical and his religio-moral convictions meet as one in his daily practice as a clergyman and a social/political activist. That is, his activism was an implementation of his sermonizing. In the final analysis, he wanted to lead us—America and the world—to a new kingdom, an earthly kingdom, which he has called the Beloved Community, and which he sincerely believed was and is man’s best hope for survival as a genuinely human species. In this sense, King’s conception of the Beloved Community, a truly human community, has a philosophical antecedent worth noting, namely: Immanuel Kant’s idea of a kingdom of ends. Like that of the very great philosopher Kant, King’s “kingdom” is a moral kingdom, in which every man qua individual must consider every other man as an end-in-himself, i.e., as a person, and never merely as a means. King, like Kant, believed that man is essentially a spiritual, moral and rational being, and nothing less. In this particular respect, then, all men are equal in the kingdom of ends, in this moral kingdom, from which it follows straightforwardly that no man can—or should—be used as a mere instrument or tool to further the interest of another. On the same moral grounds, it follows conversely that no one should use another merely as an instrument to further his own ends, whatever they may be. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ancient Greek Philosophy and Contemporary Life

James P. Duerlinger

In this paper I will explain how ancient Greek philosophy is relevant to contemporary life. The form in which I will explain this is by discussing how an instructor of a course in ancient Greek philosophy can teach the course in a way that makes the study of ancient Greek philosophy relevant to how the students in the course live their lives, since this is the most likely way in which its relevance might be realized in practice. The study of ancient Greek philosophy, from this point of view, is pursued for the sake of gaining the wisdom that makes meaningful life possible. The instructor facilitates this process by introducing students to the idea that they use their study to create their own "inner philosophers," who like Socrates, are devoted to self-examination for the purpose of discovering a form of life that makes life worth living. Various ways in which the instructor can implement this process is explained, with special attention given to the thesis that mistaken cognition of the objects of experience causes us to suffer and that the goal of philosophy is to free us from this mistaken cognition.

An Essay in Comparative Ontology
Clevis Headley

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This essay exploits a technical distinction between two conceptions of ontology, and argues the case for Africana ontologies in opposition to the atomistic social ontology of modern political theory. A positive case is made for the acknowledgment of two distinct Africana ontologies of life: (1) Ralph Ellison's idea of the Blues as an ontology of life and (2) the idea of rum as an ontology of life. The underlying assumption is that forms of being or existing, infused with nontraditional root metaphors, can serve as models of existence in opposition to imperial ontologies of existence that are hostile to the heterogeneity of being. Africana ontologies are forms of life that emerge from resistance to the colonialization of being.

"Not Two” - The Mind, Where is It? `“ritam bhara pragyam” (In the Plane of the Absolute): An introduction to David Bohm’s Quantum Theory of ‘Implicate Order’ and Samkara’s Advaita Vedanta, with supporting references to Russel Targ’s research into ‘remote viewing’, and J. Krishnamurti’s dialogues on Truth
Cathal Healy-Singh


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This paper will introduce unique and relatively new work done in Quantum Theory (QT) by leading Western physicist David Bohm, and compare this to the core principles of the ancient Indian Philosophy of Advaita Vedanta (AV) as articulated by 8th Century Philosopher Samkara.

I focus on the implications of Bohm’s ‘Implicate Order’ for human consciousness or the human ‘Mind’, which according to the Oxford Dictionary, is defined as “the seat of consciousness, thought and volition”.

The comparison between West and East, present and past is most instructive to philosophers and indeed each and every one of us who uses the mind to seek knowledge and wisdom of Truth. While QT relies on mathematical methods, complex spatial models, advanced physics and the use of sensitive scientific instrumentation, AV relied not only on observation and reasoning, but also on insights gained through meditation. As we shall see, the conclusions are excitingly similar!

I will also make reference to two other relevant works, that of physicist Russell Targ, from his book Limitless Mind and, from the teachings of J. Krishnamurti taken from his biographical work by Pupul Jayakar. Dr. Targ’s research into extra-sensory perception supports Bohm’s Theory of Implicate Order. Krishnamurti was an extraordinary individual with a ‘quantum mind’.
I quote extensively from these works to demonstrate the commonality between the IO of QT and AV.

While writing this paper I practiced Kundalini Yoga, the Yoga of awareness. The question before emptying my mind at the start of each session was - where is the mind? Appended to this paper are several rough sketches of my own insight into the locus of the Mind (the sketches will be introduced with the paper at the symposium).

"The locus of the Mind, where is it? Advaita Vedanta and the possibility of an alternative model for self awareness and sustainability."

Cathal Healy-Singh

Most people walk around without questioning that their mind could be anywhere else but within their body. They accept that the brain is the seat of all thought. They learn and accumulate knowledge through experience. This information is 'stored' in the head. These people speak of 'learning by doing' and 'concentrating' in order to think more deeply. They accept that their resulting view of the world is necessarily subjective and that 'objectivity' is ultimately not possible.

These people are 'dualists' by definition and accept themselves as 'created beings. They speak of a 'God' who made them as well as all things. Their God is immutable, all knowing. He has endowed them with a 'free will', to do either good or bad and ultimately each is judged according to God's Law. The future lies in 'God's hands'. Somehow, these people have diminished themselves as agents of change, especially in seemingly hopeless situations.

Western civilization is the champion of individual rights. These rights are enshrined in the constitution of the USA, the mantle of secular democracy, the modern nation state under God. However, despite great economic achievements, all is not well in the West. Many people express feelings of isolation, alienation and aloneness. They feel disconnected from their fellow-man, nature and a 'spiritual void'. These feelings have been attributed to experiences in urban metropolises, the 'impersonality' of modern technology, materialism, the 'market place' as social determinant and the growing realization that man has irreversibly damaged natural processes on which his life depends.

Advaita Vedanta (AV) is an ancient Hindu philosophy which offers an alternative 'non-dualistic' interpretation of things. AV affirms that it is the body in fact, which resides in the Mind; that there is one common 'Mind' in which all bodies exist. This Mind is a 'life force', a universal awareness that permeates space, responsible for the 'indivisibility of all things'. The practice of the yoga of 'knowledge' or awareness can awaken us to a state of 'Brahman'. In this state, all subjective yearnings are dissolved. Man can experience a 'timeless, oneness with all things'. Thus, 'Thou Art That' and 'All time is now'.

This paper will examine basic differences between the 'atomized' view of the locus of the mind - one mind per person, located within the body, and how this resultant 'dualistic' interpretation of one's existence can contribute to anxiety, loneliness and exploitation - and the view advanced by the Advaitic tradition. This paper will compare these opposing world views schematically (in simple drawings) and attempt to arrive at an icon or model for 'Brahman'.

One of the most important aspects of this Paper will be to elaborate a process for speaking 'objectively', that is the ability to articulate what is 'actual' - that which would be still True, irrespective of whether or not the observer or speaker ever existed. I intend to do this by practicing a mixture of Jnana and Kundalini Yogas, by reading a specific text "Truth and Actuality" by J. Krishnamurti, and by observing my own breath. Krishnamurti pointed to 'objectivity' by 'emptying' rather than 'concentrating' the mind while remaining in a state of observation. To cease all thought. 'Thought' he saw as an 'action or movement' impeding insight.

In order to develop this model for Brahman, I will also reference mainstream scientific theory - in particular the Laws of Thermodynamics and Einstein's Relativity, and see how they may be applied beyond their standard applications of energy transitions, to include human 'consciousness.'

I wish also to explore links between the 'Gaia Hypothesis' (GH), developed by James Lovelock (1979), arguably the most important 'post-modern' reinterpretation of the world, and Advaita Vedanta. GH proposes that our planet 'functions as a single organism that maintains conditions necessary for its survival'.

The purpose of this paper is to take a step towards cultivating a universal iconography to empower people to 'regain Godhead' - a spiritual commons of Self awareness and sustainability of 'biosphere'.

While all terminology and processes used will be defined, the use of yoga to gain insight means that the resulting icon will be derived from both 'logical' and 'illogical' means.

Philosophy, Culture and Values
Sirkku Hellsten

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This paper discusses the role different philosophical approaches have within various cultural contexts. It analyses whether philosophy can be conceptualized by its method, its contents, by the set of values it promotes or by its influence in our worldview. The author takes the stand that while different cultural approaches to philosophy bring new perspectives to understanding what philosophy is, as well as new topics to be debated within philosophical dialogue, philosophy itself is based on the method of critical reflection and questioning of the truth - whether this truth is based on cultural tradition or in spiritual values. Any culturally or religiously based approach which leaves this reflection behind has turned into ideology, religion, political doctrine or other uncritical set of value and principles.

From this starting point the author critically discusses the scope of philosophical reflection within the various trends of Western tradition as well as within the framework of African philosophy. The paper argues that both traditions, in their various formulations, are guilty of erroneous reasoning and fallacies that show cultural bias and unreflective prejudices. The problem is, however, that it is the philosophers who can argue philosophically to justify these prejudices and thus, enforce them even wider within their own social context. In relation to this the paper analyses, on the one hand, when philosophy turns into a political or religious doctrine, and on the other hand, what is the role that philosophy and philosophical reflection can have in endorsing or obstructing democracy and political participation in relation to cultural understanding of social roles and social interaction.

Situating African Political Discourse
Samuel Imbo

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The usual way to make conference presentations is to choose a very small focus and examine it in detail. I am choosing the opposite approach. I will look at the larger picture in order to better be able to situate the details.

Africans face unique problems arising from their historical circumstances. Africans have had a lot to say about what they perceive as central questions of political philosophy. I wish to offer a framework for organizing the perspectives that have been offered as solutions to Africa's social and political ills. Can we find basic patterns in political discourses?

I propose to approach the project both topically and by case studies of prominent thinkers. The usual way to discuss African social and political thought is to organize around one of the following polarities:
  • Africa versus the West
  • Pre-colonial versus postcolonial Africa
  • Tradition versus modernity
I foresee a broader framework that goes beyond these preferred lenses. Connections between African ideas and their Afro-British, Afro-Caribbean, and African-American manifestations are unavoidable.

Themes include:
  • black consciousness, or more broadly the question of identity (even ethnic identity)
  • negritude
  • feminist discourse
  • alienation and African personality
  • non-violence
  • African socialism and Marxism
  • Pan-Africanism - the reality now is of a continent-wide single political unit
Any political philosophy must address the question of who is human. Closely following must be a poAsition about human nature. Any justification for political arrangements that does not begin here will suffer both in terms of legitimacy and practicality.

Western political philosophy has been dominated by social contract theory. I suspect the issue of identity is going to be crucial for African political thought.

The story of African political philosophy is going to follow that of Olaudah Equiano. Born in 1745 in what is now Nigeria, he was captured by slave traders when he was 10 years old and brought to the American South. He was sold to a planter in the West Indies and worked there and aboard slave ships sailing between the Caribbean and England. This kind of travel not only sparks existential questions about identity but also who ought to rule and what kinds of social arrangements would bring out the best in human nature. These are the issues that have engrossed Africa's thinkers.

The cast of characters will in some cases be familiar, and in some cases not so. The founding fathers Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, Leopold Sedar Senghor; the diasporic connections exemplified by George Padmore, Frantz Fanon, and Aime Cesaire; political martyrs such Steve Biko and Patrice Lumumba; the feminist perspectives of Grace Ogot, Buchi Emecheta, Nawal el Saadawi.

Kagame and Mbiti on the Traditional Bantu View of Time
Kibujjo Kalumba

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Alexis Kagame's "Empirical Apperception of Time and the Conception of History in Bantu Thought," is an incontestable classic of African philosophy. In this essay, Kagame relies on an extensive sample of Bantu languages to advance several important theses about the traditional Bantu view of time. In one of these claims Kagame goes contrary to most leading African philosophers and endorses John Mbiti's famous two-dimensional view of actual time. Mbiti contends that, unlike the Western view of actual time which is three-dimensional, comprising an indefinite past a present and an infinite future, the traditional African concept of actual time is two-dimensional. According to Mbiti, traditional Africans take actual time to be exhausted by the two-tense dimensions that involve experienced events: the Zamani and the Sasa. The Zamani extends from the "now-point" into the Western indefinite past. The Sasa consists of the recently experienced past, the now-point, and the Western future of at most two years from the now-point regarded as its extension. After reconstructing Mbiti's argument for the two-dimensional view of actual time, I examine the Bantu view of time entailed by Kagame's exposition. I then argue that since this view of time is three-dimensional, Kagame cannot consistently endorse Mbiti's two-dimensional view. I contend that, in light of the incompatibility of the two views, it is not surprising that Kagame's stated reasons for endorsing the two-dimensional view turn out to be either irrelevant to it or inconsistent with Kagame's main thesis about the Bantu view of time. This is the claim that, for traditional Bantu, "time is a colourless, neutral, entity as long as it is not marked or stamped by some specific event…" I conclude by observing that the view of time entailed by Kagame's exposition sits well with my native understanding of the Bantu view of time. Why then did Kagame deviate from this view to end up endorsing Mbiti's two-dimensional view? I speculate a possible explanation for this puzzling deviation.

Critical Insights on African Philosophy and Negritude Literature
Kahiudi Claver Mabana

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The founders of the Negritude movement - Léopold Sédar Senghor, Léon Damas and Aimé Césaire - based their statements on philosophical backgrounds related to African (and Caribbean) cultures. They used the knowledge available in various human sciences like ethnology, history, philosophy, sociology, folklore, archeology, etc. Scholars like Frobenius, Griaule, Delavignette and French intellectuals like Sartre, Gide, Leiris were among their main inspirators and supporters. When Bantu Philosophy was published by Fr. Placide Tempels, L.S. Senghor adopted its ethno-philosophical thesis in his works, whilst Aimé Césaire remains very critical. Therefore it would be judicious to start by describing the historical development of African Philosophy from an account of the main figures of African literature and thought.

Negritude stated a lot of theoretical principles that were criticized by the younger generation of African philosophers. Anglophone writers - Mphahlele, Wole Soyinka - toughly attacked Negritude as it was conceived by Senghor along with Francophone philosophers like Stanislas Adotevi, Marcien Towa. Critics state that Negritude became irrelevant after 1969 whereas at the same time appeared different schools of thought in African universities that developed systematic approaches of African philosophy. Eboussy Boulaga, Engelbert Mveng, Paulin Hountondji, Valentin Mudimbe, even the whole movement of ethno-philosophy, all African Francophone philosophers had to deal with Negritude. For instance, Hountondji very severely speak of Senghor's "bavardages". With Mudimbe publishing The Invention of Africa in English, African Philosophy has widened its boarders.

This paper seeks to re-consider the "controversial" relationship between Negritude and African philosophy and thought. As African philosophy has still to define its borders, objects, and objectives, it is time to evaluate the impact, the contribution of Negritude to its development. How deeply has the thought of Senghor and his colleagues been studied? To me, Negritude remains the most important intellectual movement produced in Francophone African thought of the last century. Enlightened by the recent movement of globalization, it would be interesting to examine this point in terms of a plurality of rationality and in terms of identity. Therefore the present movements of Créolité are to be considered as straight epigones of Negritude.

Discourse and Object
D. A. Masolo

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It is pretty safe, and commonsensical, to proclaim that we have always been hybridic! Any consideration of our history suggests that this is not by any means a recent phenomenon. Through our migrations we all have acquired from places and peoples we have transited through as much as we also have lent out to them. Our contemporary kin have only extended and given this hybridity new perspectives. Her portrait is incessantly and far more widely diversified. She is global and, like her ancestors, defies any attempts to essentialize her. In today’s grammar, she is helplessly postpostmodern. Old approaches to comparative thought were built on the assumption that thought systems, like many other things we designate as “cultural”, the kind of things once thought to deeply characterize and define us, belong to systems or traditions that bear or are characterized by strong homogeneity, and that every individual was born into one by virtue of her dominant and metaphysical strings of descent. This view of cultures as “hard” or “natural” systems was rooted in modern European thought, and was imposed upon our perception of society through colonial inducement. Contemporary social theory aims partly to correct the anthropological view of tribes or ethnicities as closed cultural communities by requiring that we adjust not only how we view the constitution of the social circumstances of thought production but also what constitutes comparative thinking and how it is propagated in the socialization of the person as both actor and cognitive agent. In this new picture of things, every moment in the life of the Self is transitory, and therefore contingent.

The Impact of Religion on End of Life Decisions, from Caribbean and European Perspectives
Simeon Mohansingh

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End of life decisions have recently become extremely topical in many parts of the world, while other regions are not very accommodating to these debates. Europe for example, has both The Netherlands and Belgium legalising the practice of Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide as end of life decisions. Even the Oregon State of the USA has legalised the practice. In the Caribbean there is not much 'talk' about the possible end of life options; for the most part people wait for and die a natural death. Could this be because of the fact that as a region we are predominantly of a Christian religion? What therefore are the philosophical thoughts that impact our different outlook on how we die? Could the reason be interred in our different cultures based on our geographical locations?

This paper therefore intends to comparatively analyse two of the underpinning principles that assist in the guiding of end of life decisions from Caribbean and European perspectives. Although this paper looks on end of life decisions in general, there is a special focus on Euthanasia as an option. The Netherlands (of Europe) will especially be targeted, as the Dutch have been extremely liberal with their views, to the extent of being one of the first countries globally to have legalised Euthanasia. Jamaica (of the Caribbean) will be the main island under consideration, because of its relatively large and diversified population, and as opposed to Europe, there is no area in the region which permits mercy killing. The impact of the issues of religion and culture on end of life decisions have been of special interest, as there is a widely accepted perception that these issues significantly influence people's ultimate decisions.

This paper will expose comparatively, the extent to which individuals have been influenced by these issues, and whether people generally are willing to make subjective decisions, seemingly independent of the impact of culture and religion. Also, this paper will attempt to explore whether any particular religion or denomination has a greater impact wherever there is a multiplicity of religious or denominational beliefs.

Social and Political Relevance of Philosophy in South Africa

Mabogo Percy More

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The general criticism of philosophy as a discursive field in South African, whatever that philosophy is, has been that it lacked relevance to the issues affecting that repressive society, especially political and social issues. This critique, expressed much more vehemently immediately after the release of Mandela from prison, is articulated in statements such as: "Philosophy in South Africa has shown a tendency to ignore the urgent socio-political issues…This seemed to imply that South African philosophers were not convinced of either the relevance of philosophy to the issues of South African politics, or the relevance of the issues in South African politics to philosophy" (Hennie Lotter, 1990).Indeed the American Sartrean scholar, Ronald Aronson, even published a text with the title: Stay Out of Politics: A Philosopher Views South Africa (1990), in which he accused the South African philosophers of deliberately staying out of politics despite the fact that the country is one of the most unjust societies in the whole world. "South African philosophers" Aronson declared, "are professionally indifferent to what goes on in South Africa today. Whatever their personal commitments, professionally they have no difficulty staying out of politics". This paper, contrary to this general belief about philosophy in South Africa, and moving from Nkrumah's perspective, argues that every philosophy either conceals or reveals a political or ideological content even when - as presumably happens to be the case with the dominant philosophical traditions in South Africa - it contains notoriously little political or ideological content. The paper seeks to demonstrate that historically, philosophy of whatever tradition (analytical or continental) has been implicated in the promotion, reproduction and sustenance of apartheid ideology or alternatively played a major role in the liberatory process of that country's oppressed. Examples of the former are derived mainly from white professional philosophers and the latter from black philosophers such as Steve Biko. I short, the claim of this essay is that white academic philosophy in South Africa, on the one hand, has in the main sought to affect the (post)apartheid social and political milieu by confirming it. Extra-academic philosophy, on the other hand, especially Black philosophy, has sought to oppose (post)apartheid social and political milieu.

Tukontology: A Transorchestral Approach to Understanding European and African Compositions of Reality
Deryck Murray

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Science claims to be able to uniquely access and objectively know ontological entities. It further asserts that the behaviour of these entities is governed by universal laws that have always existed. Science is therefore believed to be both objective and universal. These claims have been irreparably undermined by the symmetry postulate developed by the 'strong programme' of the Edinburgh school who argues that it is not consistent to attribute scientific truth to a rationality that systematically unveils the state of nature but attribute scientific error to lapses in rationality due to social and political influences. However, realists consistently attacked this programme by accusing it to be a species of idealism. In response to these criticisms, Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) as an approach that is neither idealist nor realist and which maps the hybrid construction of the world while making the ascription of potency to named actors explicit was eventually developed. Its major strength is its symmetrical approach to both modern scientific and traditional ways of knowing that allows scholars from non-western traditions, for the first time, to sit at the same table as scientists, with full and equal access to reality, without being relegated to the unreal world of symbols and rhetoric. Unfortunately, ANT is yet to be presented in a manner that allows scholars to intuitive understand feel its dynamics.

'Tukontology' is an approach to studying ways of knowing and constructing the world that will be elaborated in this paper. It is grounded in Actor-Network-Theory (ANT) and exploits the heuristic strength of orchestral performance. The musical metaphor that the model uses is based on the prevalent manifestation of African triune drum orchestras across the Caribbean with the three drums representing creativity, ways of knowing and hybrid ontology as intuitive tools to symmetrically study cultural encounters without resorting to any hegemonic way of knowing as a privileged resource for analysis.

The Aum, the Tao and the One Love, it's ALL ONE. Introducing Dialectical Incarnation
Martin J. Schade

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From the onset of recorded history of philosophy, both Oriental and Occidental perspectives, humanity has been in search for the one substance which unifies the universe. This quest chronologically began with the Hindu philosophy of the Aum, followed by the Chinese philosophy of the Tao. Together they comprise a philosophy similar to a western philosophy which began with the Ionian Cosmologists' search for the "one stuff" of the universe. This paper will examine the historical development of philosophical explanations offered of this "one substance" of the cosmos. A brief understanding of the principle of the Aum is offered so as to explain how this Hindu metaphysics understands the Divine Ground that is immanent but transcends all duality, being and non-being, and subsumes into the ultimate One. In essence, Aum, is the signifier of the ultimate truth that all is one.

From the Aum, the journey will move to the Tao, briefly explaining how this Chinese philosophy understands the Tao as the One Thing which exists and connects the many things. As such, the Tao, Nature, Reality are One in which there is a dialectical unity of Yin and Yang. This idea that "All is One" and interconnected is not found solely within eastern philosophies but is very present in western philosophy, starting with Thales' explanation of the "one stuff."

The quest continues and briefly moves through various western philosophers with special attention paid to hylozoism, Nicholas of Cusa, Giordano Bruno, Baruch Spinoza, Hegel, Marx, Teilhard de Chardin and Karl Rahner.

In explaining how "All is One" this paper will introduce the philosophy, formally known as dialectical incarnationalism, which serves as the synthesis of Hegel's dialectical idealism and Marx's dialectical materialism. In that the Rastafari adage of "no ism, no schism" reflects the fluidity of this philosophy it is now presented as Dialectical Incarnation or the "Dialectical One Love," where "God is Love and the totality of reality."

After examining eastern and western philosophies it becomes evident that from this diversity of expressions there is a unifying one substance of the entirety of reality. This One Love is the break down of dualism and the dichotomy between matter and spirit, immanent and transcendent, inorganic and organic, inanimate and animate. It is the intention of this paper to bring about greater vision in "seeing" reality, for as Teilhard de Chardin states "Seeing. We might say that the whole of life lies in that verb…Fuller being is closer union…To see or to perish is the very condition laid upon everything that makes up the universe…vision is fuller being."

Philosophy and the Martial Arts: Myth and Reality
Mark K. Setton

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At some point in their histories, many of the martial arts went through a profound change. Originally conceived purely as a means of employing strength effectively and rapidly in self-defense, they were transformed under the influence of various religious and philosophical traditions.

As a result many martial arts today are focused on self-cultivation as much as, or more than, self-defense. The concept of self-cultivation includes the cultivation of mind-body coordination, mental focus, "qi" or vital energy, and a code of ethics governing combat and non-combat situations. In this sense the martial arts could be described as "philosophy in action." This is perhaps one reason why they have become enormously popular in Asia and the West. Consequently one could say that whereas traditional Chinese philosophy has nearly disappeared form mainland China, it is still flourishing in modified forms around the world.

The question we thus pose in this paper is, when did the martial arts acquire such a philosophical dimensions? Recent scholarship reveals quite a few unexpected twists:

To commence with, the tie up between martial arts and philosophy existed much earlier than the emergence of the Shaolin in the Northern Wei dynasty as a center of martial arts activity. Early Han dynasty records reveal a female warrior lecturing the King of Yueh on the relationship of the martial arts to qi as well as yin-yang philosophy.

Secondly, early records indicate that the Shaolin temple turns out to be a place where kongfu, the ancestor of many martial arts, was not practiced as a means of self realization or awakening. Oral traditions indicate that it was utilized as a means of keeping monks awake (in the physical sense) and alert during periods of sitting meditation. Furthermore, the Shaolin was located in an area full of bandits and seething with social instability, and there are written materials stored within the Shaolin indicating that its residents acquired kongfu as a means of self defense rather than self awareness.

In conclusion, the major step towards a philosophy of martial arts was not taken by Shaolin Buddhists, and unfortunately there is no written evidence of the transmission of a martial arts tradition by the mysterious female warrior of Yueh. A fairly systematic martial arts philosophy as such, including the concept of martial arts as a means of self cultivation as well as self defense, was probably achieved through Daoist inspired martial arts practitioners such as Chang Naizhou of Henan Province (near the famous Wudang area south of Shaolin) as late as the Qing, through the incorporation of the concept of qi. Such figures were the ancestors of Taiji as it is known and practiced today, and perhaps other martial arts that strongly emphasize internal cultivation in conjunction with external practice.

Is Reason All It Is Cracked Up To Be?
Dick Stoute

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Western philosophy, in particular analytic philosophy, seems to make the assumption that "giving reasons" is the way to support an argument. It seems almost inconceivable to question this, what else is there besides reason? It could be argued that, without providing reasons for a philosophical view, there is no means of building support for that view. Without reason there can be no philosophical argument, no means of arriving at a consensus on what is correct. But we cannot validate the use of reason, by arguing that there is nothing else, when it is quite apparent that there must be something else. There must be a reason for using reason.

When we try to find a reason for using reason, we immediately run into difficulty. All reason seems to be based on what Popper calls "an irrational faith in reason." Instead of reason being supported on some rational basis, reason has to rely on faith to validate it. This faith may be well placed, with lots of evidence from science to support its application, but it is still a faith and not a reason.

Similarly, we seem to have an irrational faith in causality. Causality is assumed and when we test and find it we feel that it is validated. However when we test and do not find it, we do not question the causality principle, but conclude that we have not been diligent enough in our tests. Again faith shows its ugly head as causality also seems to be based on an assumption, a faith that it applies.

Induction also seems to be faith based. While logic is well grounded in reason, and mathematics follows well-defined rules, induction seems to depend on something else. Induction appears to have the characteristics of faith because we induce relationships between things that are not logically connected. It just "seems right" to make the inductive connection. It is apparent that we first make the connection using something else and then check to see if it is supported by reason, rather than use reason to deduce the connection in the first place.

Proponents of analytic philosophy have developed a healthy suspicion of faith and tend to dismiss it as "irrational," but it must be apparent that understanding the relationship between reason and "irrational faith" is essential even for analytic philosophy. Perhaps these "faiths" are a characteristic of our brain, rather than a characteristic of the world we are trying to understand.

This is a very real "living" question as it invites analysis of how we think and may lead to an understanding of why there is so much disagreement about what we think. It can also help to form links between Western Philosophy and Non Western Philosophy.

The Relevance of Philosophy to Practical Life

Onuoha Sylvester

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It is generally believed that philosophy is an abstract discipline which has no relevance to practical life and influences nothing beyond itself. This is an apparent conceptual error; it is a misconception and I must be quick to point out the fact that the analytic school of philosophy helped to create this misconception of philosophy by reducing it to no more than the analysis and clarification of words. According to the Anglo-Saxon analytic tradition, philosophy is nothing but the analysis and clarification of words. Of course, analysis is part of philosophy but it is only a means to an end, not an end in itself. If I am to speak-matter-of-factly, I would say that philosophy has always played a vital role in the development of society, and this becomes very clear when you look at how it has been conceived and developed in the West through the ages. The philosophy of Socrates was not in any way irrelevant to the Athenian society. The Athenian authorities saw and observed that the philosophy of Socrates was influencing the lives of the Athenian youths and they decided to halt it by killing him. The philosophy of Plato and the Stoics had a tremendous influence on the lives of so many people in the post-Aristotlelian period, especially during the Hellenistic period. It made so many people to adopt an ascetic attitude which involved the renunciation of material possessions as they were regarded as sources of unhappiness. This philosophy made so many people to believe that the more a man amasses wealth and acquires material possessions, the more unhappy he becomes. The philosophies of John Locke, Montesquieu, Jean-Jaques Rousseau, G.W.F. Hegel, and Karl Marx were among the forces that shaped the Western society. For instance, the philosophical theories of John Locke are embedded in the American Constitution, and are to be seen at work whenever there is a dispute between the president and the congress. The British constitution was based upon his doctrines until about fifty-three years ago. The constitution which the French adopted in 1871 was also based on Locke's theories and doctrines. The philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the father of French Revolution, was the moving force behind the French Revolution. As a matter of fact, his famous book, The Social Contract, with its forceful key assertion that "man is born free and is everywhere in chains" was the source of inspiration for the French Revolutionaries. So, it is incorrect to say that philosophy is irrelevant to practical life. The Hegelian-Marxist philosophy changed the structures of socialist countries for decades in our own time. Betrand Russell has rightly maintained that to understand an age or a nation, we must understand its philosophy. This is so because the philosophy of a people does much to determine the circumstances of their lives.

For centuries, the lives of the Indian people were shaped by the Hindu, Budhist, and Janist philosophies. Similarly, the lives of the Chinese people were shaped for centuries by their philosophies - Toaism and Confucianism. If you want to understand the cultures and ways of life of these people, it is vitally important for you to study their philosophies.

It is, therefore, wrong to think that philosophical ideas have no influence on practical life. Philosophical ideas are like dynamites. They have powerful influences on people's lives. In the 4th century B.C., Hegesias, who was a philosopher and a member of the Cyrenaic School, delivered series of lectures at Alexandria in Egypt. After each lecture, a number of people who listened to him went later to commit suicide. As the series of lectures progressed, the rate of suicide began to increase and this made the government of the day to intervene and stop the lectures. As I.M. Bochenski has rightly pointed out, the philosopher is really "a terrifying force and his thought has the effect of dynamite." In short, philosophy is a powerful force in history.

The main thrust of this paper, that is, my central thesis, therefore, is that the view that philosophy is pure abstract speculation about theories that have no bearing on practical life is mistaken. This view is as incorrect as it is unrealistic. Rather, the history of Western philosophy shows that philosophy has been one of the forces that have shaped the structures of Western societies. It has had much to do with influencing men's attitude to life and bringing about changes in societies. Hence, I argue that philosophy has a lot to do with practical life and it is one of the powerful forces shaping men's attitudes and the structures of societies.

An Open-ended Conversation
Michael Thompson

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In this work I examine the possibility of philosophy as a universal discipline. Because of the difficulties between the traditional, Greek originated philosophy of the West and the burgeoning philosophy found in Africa today, one finds a contentious debate concerning the possibility of such a universal discipline. To begin, I briefly trace the history of philosophy in Africa, beginning with Christian missionaries and anthropologists and ending with indigenous author's views on the status of philosophy in Africa. It is in the works of the earliest Westerners that one finds the suggestions of a particularist notion of philosophy, one that is incommensurable with those practices found in the West.

In this paper I address the claims of both the particularists, who claim that absolute incommensurability between philosophies expounded in African scholarship, and the universalists, who claim that no such incommensurability exists. The particularists subscribe to the broadest understanding of the term philosophy. This notion is represented best by the German term Weltanschauung, which implies that any worldview, however uncritical and unreflective it may be represents a philosophy. While this extraordinarily broad conception of philosophy attempts to incorporate the largest number of positions, cultures and individuals into the great conversation of philosophy, it also establishes a line of argumentation that undermines just such a tolerant position. With the incommensurability of particularism, most specifically the problem of translation, particularists, if consistent, must maintain that no such conversation can exist- interlocutors will be talking past one another. I find such a paradoxical and unpragmatic position untenable.

Rather, the universalist position that demands systematicity and reflective rigor provides a definition of philosophy, to which both East and West may subscribe. I largely follow Kwasi Wiredu and the line of argumentation he pursues in his book Cultural Universals and Particulars. In this work Wiredu establishes both conceptual and pragmatic conditions upon which all philosophical considerations are grounded. At the root of his argument is a conceptual framework all people employ in order to exist in the world. This foundation provides a framework upon which we may then establish philosophy as a discipline in which all may engage. Hence philosophy, when pursued in a certain manner, is a universal enterprise.

After considerations concerning the nature, task and methodology of philosophy, I turn to the problem of incommensurability as put forward by the problem of radical translation. I argue, that while a protracted problem, the discipline of philosophy can overcome the problems of translation and hence unite under a common aegis.

Zest for Life
Xavier Vanmechelen

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Sometimes it makes sense to say 'Live!' to someone who lives. This sounds like a koan, but it can be explained quite easily. What we want to express to the addressee by exclaiming 'Live!' is that he or she lacks zest for life.

Western morals as well as mainstream Western normative ethics - consequentialism, Kantian ethics and contemporary virtue ethics - not only underestimate the value of zest for life, they are even hostile to it. Zest of life is considered to be something that should be constrained by moral practice or by the principles of ethics. The endemic state of psychological depression in the West proves that this picture is wrong. It is a matter of prime moral importance to have and to maintain zest for life. That is what I want to argue for.

By zest for life I do not mean life. Many particularist moral traditions value life without valuing zest for life. Zest for life is the attitude of emotionally endorsing life. Or: vitality, the will to live, love of life, the capacity to enjoy living.

I believe that mainstream normative ethics always tried to value zest for life in some way, but never succeeded to give it its due place. A contemporary objection to mainly consequentialism and Kantian ethics is: we do not want to be people who only live according to the principles of ethics (Michael Stocker, Susan Wolf). In my view, what is lacking is the attitude of zest for life in one of the many shapes it can take. In some sense this is a virtue ethical complement to moral theory. However, it is unusual to favour zest for life as a virtuous attitude of prime importance. It is not my aim to undermine the importance of considerations of well-being, of equality, of giving a voice to everyone, and so on. I only want to argue that it makes little sense to go into these considerations without first acknowledging the importance of zest for life as a component of our moral attitude.

Two objections explain the resistance to making zest for life part of our moral attitude. The first is that zest for life tends to be excessive and as a consequence immoral. My answer is that this is due to a flawed, moralistic imagery (the alleged unbridled nature of desires) and that the demandingness of consequentialism and the unconditional nature of Kantian ethics are subject to the same tendency towards excess. The second objection is that zest for life is something that happens to you. So you are not accountable for having it or not. I agree that to the extent that it happens to you, it is a question of (moral) luck. However, to a great extent zest for life is part of the space of reasons. Moreover, it can be cultivated. We can learn our children to dance, to sing, to be adventurous, to be curious, and so on.

I am eager to learn whether these ideas converges with ideas in non-Western traditions.

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