chapter  1
15 Pages

Peripherality and non-philosophy in African philosophy

Womanist philosophy, environmental philosophy and other provocations
ByBruce B. Janz

In this chapter, I want to think about two concepts: peripherality and non-philosophy. The first of these figured in my 2009 book, Philosophy in an African Place (Janz, 2009a), and designated the concepts and practices that stood in our peripheral rational vision. They were the concepts that scaffolded our intentional consciousness, that is, that enabled our rational gaze to be rational by being related but erased from our attention. Just as our sensory vision does not simply focus on a single thing, but focuses on things in the context of a set of other sensory experiences, both visual and otherwise, and as an experience of an embodied subject in a world, moving through that world and relying on it for the coherence of our object of attention, so too do our philosophical concepts reside in a larger structure of inclusion and exclusion. Non-philosophy, I will argue, is both the limit condition of philosophy and its creative spark (see Maoilearca, 2015 for one version of this). What is not subject to rational inquiry nevertheless exists, at least as a barrier to thought but more positively as a question to thought, as a mystery to be solved. As I have argued before, philosophy is not grounded on sets of propositions to be defended but on questions that open up new areas of inquiry, new problematics. African philosophy has often served as peripheral and as non-philosophy to Western thought, but that is not the central question of this paper. We are here interested in African philosophy’s own peripherality and its own non-philosophy.