Date: 2017-04-13 00:43
The notion of the common good features manifestly in African ethics. In Akan moral thought, the notion is expressed most vividly in an art motif that shows a &lsquo siamese&rsquo crocodile with two heads but a single (., common) stomach. The part of the motif relevant to moral thought is the single stomach, and it is to the significance of this that I wish to pay some attention. The common stomach of the two crocodiles indicates that at least the basic interests of all the members of the community are identical. It can therefore be interpreted as symbolizing the common good , the good of all the individuals within a society.
Most people, including foreign visitors to Africa, often testify, in amazement, to the ethic of hospitality and generosity of the African people. That ethic is an expression of the perception of our common humanity and universal human brotherhood.
The entry makes the African moral language its point of departure, for the language of morality gives insight into the moral thinking or ideas of the society. The centrality of the notions of character and moral personhood, which are inspired by the African moral language, is given a prominent place. The entry points up the social character of African ethics and highlights its affiliated notions of the ethics of duty (not of rights) and of the common good. The humanistic foundations and features of African ethics are extensively discussed.
This debate was between members of Africa’s new crop of intellectual radicals. On one hand, are the demoters and, on the other, are the promoters of African philosophy established by the league of early period intellectuals. The former sought to criticize this new philosophy of redemption, gave it a derogatory tag “ethnophilosophy” and consequently denigrated the African Identity that was founded on it as savage and primitive identity. At the other end, the promoters sought to clarify and defend this philosophy and justify the African identity that was rooted in it as true and original.
The Akan word translated &lsquo needs&rsquo is hia , which, as used in this maxim, has a normative connotation thus, it does more than simply expressing a fact about human life or the human condition. The real meaning of the maxim, then, is that a human being deserves, and therefore ought, to be helped. It also means that a human being must be regarded as an object of moral concern and should therefore be entitled to help by others in the appropriate circumstances. The reason why you should help someone in need is also given in the following maxim, among others:
These rugged intellectual positions supported by evidential and well thought-out proofs quickly heralded a shift in the intellectual culture of the world. But there was one problem George James could not fix he could not prove that the people of North Africa (Egyptians) who were the true authors of ancient art, sciences, religion and philosophy were black Africans, as can be seen in his hopeful but inconsistent conclusions:
It was with this sort of new orientation which emerged from the disillusionment of the protracted debate that the later period of African philosophy was born in the 6995’s. As it is said in the Igbo proverb, “The music makers almost unanimously were changing the rhythm and the dancers had to change their dance steps.” One of the high points of the disillusionment was the emergence of the Eclectic school in the next period called ‘the Later Period’ of African philosophy.
In his attempt to explain the Bantu understanding of being, Tempels admits that this might not be the same with the understanding of the European. Instead, he argues that the Bantu construction is as much rational as that of the European. In his words:
We would begin with an inquiry into African moral language, in search specifically of the word for &lsquo ethics&rsquo in a few African languages. Such an inquiry will give some insight into the basic conception and understanding of ethics or morality. It must be noted right from the outset that a substantial number of Sub-Saharan African languages do not have words that can be said to be direct equivalents of the word &lsquo ethics&rsquo or &lsquo morality&rsquo . Here are some interesting results of inquiries made from native speakers of a few African languages and how statements about a person's ethical or moral conduct are expressed in those languages, including two of the prominent languages in Ghana, Akan (the author's native language) and Ewe.
Statements and references made in the immediately foregoing paragraphs indicate the nonreligious foundation of African ethics. Now, having removed African ethics from its alleged religious moorings, where do we moor it? The answer, based on the foregoing references, is that we moor it to the preoccupations of the African society with human welfare and social harmony, to reflections on the existential conditions in which human beings function.