“This book is a step in my intellectual career”

“This book is a step in my intellectual career”

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The students of Abomey-Calavi University were presented with the work of Professor Paulin Hountondji entitled “On “African Philosophy”, Critique of Ethnophilosophy”. It was thanks to the ceremony that took place on Wednesday, December 21, 2022 in the Idrissi Déby Itno amphitheater in the presence of teachers of this university.

Teacher. Paulin Hountondji in the middle of the vice dean and head of the Department of Philosophy

What to take away from the book : One of the 100 best African books of the 20th century, the work entitled “On “African Philosophy”, Critique of Ethnophilosophy”, is a collection of articles, the oldest of which dates from 1970. This book remained from its first publication in 1976, at the center of a lively controversy. The author Paulin Hountondji finds unconvincing many works that, following European ethnologists like Father Tempels, try to reconstruct the concept of the world specific to Africans in general or to a certain African people in particular. A collective vision of the world that refers to the mythical past and is always identical to itself. Such works, in his opinion, are a hybrid discipline that he calls ethnophilosophy. On the other hand, it draws attention to the explicit discourse of African philosophers themselves, such as Alexis Kagame, Léopold Sedar Senghor, Kwame Nkrumah, Marcien Towa, Antoine-Guillaume Amo and many others, and to the reality of African philosophical literature, i.e. written and oral, too often overlooked. African philosophy resides in this plural literature, in the unfinished story of an endless debate between individual thinkers who speak for themselves. The author appeals to the obligation for everyone to think for themselves and responsibly. This return to oneself seems to him a necessary condition for the release of the theoretical creativity of the people of Africa and their full participation in the universal intellectual debate.

What the actors say : In front of a large number of students gathered in the room, the head of the Department of Philosophy Dr. Akodjètin Euloge Franck thanked the participants for attending this activity in his welcoming words. He also congratulated Professor Paulin Hountondja, who, through this book, again offers them the opportunity to enrich their knowledge. The vice-dean of Fashsa, Professor Charles Lambert Babadjidé said that he was happy to attend this event. “He is one of the great people we knew at our university, especially for philosophical thought,” he said. That is why he invited students to follow and learn from the presentation of this book so that the analyzes are now thorough. On behalf of the Dean of Fashsa, Professor Monique Ouassa Kouaro, Professor Charles Lambert Babadjidé thanked the author of the book. For his part, Professor Paul Christian Kiti in his speech paid a vivid tribute to Prof. Paulin Hountondji, author of the book. “The opportunity I had was to observe, listen and have the courage to say out loud what others think is bad,” said Professor Paulin Hountondji, who urges readers to put the book back in context to better understand it. This book questions, the author explains, what we usually call African philosophy. And in this framework, he developed a critique of ethnocentrism. “It is a profound critique of intellectual laziness. There are many people who disagree. African philosophy does not exist anywhere. That’s a bad interpretation. It cannot be a collective thought to which today’s and yesterday’s philosophers will adhere. This is a thought that comes to us far from our ancestors”, said prof. According to him, the real question is to know what to do with the intellectual, spiritual and ethical heritage that our ancestors bequeathed to us. “This book is a step in my evolution, my intellectual career,” he added. This book was translated into English in 1983, in London, into Croatian in 1983 and also into German, and will soon be translated into Portuguese and Chinese. It must be said that the students were given the opportunity to better understand the author’s thought.

Who is Pauline Hountondji : Former student of the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, agrégé in philosophy, doctor of literature, Paulin Hountondji taught successively at the Faculty of Letters in Besançon, at the University of Lovanium in Kinshasa, at the National University of Zaire, campus in Lubumbashi, then at the National University of Benin, where he is now professor emeritus of philosophy. Political openness in 1990 gave him the opportunity to hold high political positions: Minister of National Education (1990-1991), Minister of Culture and Communications (1991-1993), then Head of the Project of the President of the Republic until his resignation in October 1994 to return continue. President of the National Council of Education from 2009 to 2020, and from September 2016 to May 2022, he was also the personal representative of the President of Benin in the Permanent Council of La Francophonie.

Alban Tchalla

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