Has philosophy anything of value to offer contemporary Africa? Has Africa anything of value to offer contemporary philosophy? Philosophy for Africa answers yes to both these questions. It deals with the question of human freedom, and the problem of liberation (in its most comprehensive sense), in the context of contemporary Africa (especially South Africa) and its struggle to overcome the predicament in which European colonialism (and apartheid) has left it. Traditional African thought contains insights into the nature of persons and community that scientific and technological culture has lost, but which could be of the utmost importance in dealing with these issues. They embody a conception of humanity that avoids the materialism and individualism of the dominant forms of contemporary philosophy, but without embracing the opposite extremes of dualism or Marxist collectivism. At the same time, contemporary Africa, and South Africa in particular, needs to articulate these insights in a critical and systematic way, so as to be able to apply them in the struggle for a comprehensive human liberation.
Philosophy for Africa draws from the philosophical tradition associated with the names of Aristotle and Aquinas, and such recent figures as Karl Rahner and Bernard Lonergan. It develops this tradition creatively, to integrate African insights and European philosophy into a philosophy of persons, which could serve as a criterion for liberation in the different spheres of human life. In particular, the philosophy of persons is applied to the question of liberation in the spheres of work and gender. It is also used to throw light on the important role of religion in a liberation struggle.
Augustine Shutte is a member of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Cape Town, where he teaches courses in moral philosophy, history of philosophy, philosophy of religion and philosophy in a South African context. He has published articles in a variety of journals, including the International Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophy, Philosophy and Theology, Modern Theology, The Scottish Journal of Theology, New Blackfriars, Philosophical Papers, The South African Journal of Philosophy. He is also the author of a theological book, The Mystery of Humanity.