P H I L O S O P H Y P A T H W A Y S ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 93
11th October 2004
I. 'In Love With Eternity' by Richard Schain
II. 'Metaphysics of the Ndi-Igbo' by Cajethan Ndubuisi
III. 'UNESCO Philosophy Day' by Jeanette Blom
UNESCO Philosophy Day will be celebrated for the third time at the UNESCO House
in Paris on 18 November 2004. For the benefit of those who might like to attend
the event - which features many well known names in philosophy, as well as jazz
music from Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Diane Reeves and Chucho Valdes - I
have reproduced Jeanette Blom's press release.
Algerian born philosopher Jacques Derrida, who passed away last week, was to
have been one of the contributors to this event. A major preoccupation of
Derrida was with the question of death and mourning. I would welcome
contributions from any Pathways reader who feels that he or she is up to the
task of writing Derrida's obituary.
Today, the Pathways to Philosophy Distance Learning Program is exactly nine
years old. The aims and aspirations of Pathways have expanded in ways one would
never have dreamed of when the first postage-sized adverts for 'an exciting new
development in distance learning' appeared in the London Sunday Times and
It was not until two years later that the first Pathways pages appeared on the
web. Three more years were to pass before the first issues of the Philosophy
Pathways e-journal went sent out, a further year and a half before the
International Society for Philosophers was formed.
It seems strangely fitting that Richard Schain's article should dwell on the
clash between transience and eternity. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries,
we look back on the past with fondness or regret; yet, what is the point of it
all if ultimately everything that happens is swallowed up by a gaping hole of
This intuition of the pre-eminent question of time is arguably the wellspring
of all metaphysical thought. In the second extract from his essay on African
Philosophy, Cajethan Ndubuisi looks at the Metaphysics of the Igbo tribe, and
the philosophical views of the Igbo thinkers on the existence of God, the soul
and the nature of dreaming.
I. 'IN LOVE WITH ETERNITY' BY RICHARD SCHAIN
'In a distant corner of the infinite number of flickering solar systems that
compose the cosmos, there was once a star on which clever animals invented
knowledge. It was the most arrogant and deceptive moment of "world history";
but it was only for a moment. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star
became cold and the clever animals had to die.'
Thus Nietzsche in his essay On Truth and Falsehood in an Extramoral Sense,
unpublished in his lifetime, vividly depicted the central problem of philosophy
from Ecclesiastes to twentieth century existentialism; namely, what is the
meaning, what can be the meaning of human life. Behind all the cognitive
science, the 'brain as computer' theories, the 'neurophilosophy' that
proliferates in the wake of the modern sciences, still lurks the ugly vision of
Schopenhauer that all life is meaningless and the sooner it is finished, the
The spread of this nightmarish thought has been kept at bay in the western
world by Christianity. God has provided the meaning of human life; faith in a
God who underpins the human condition has been the antidote for Schopenhauerian
pessimism. Not human 'progress,' not the pleasure industries dominating western
life, not nationalism or communism, but faith in a metaphysical God has been
the means through which individuals have found their strength to face the
uncertainties of existence. This may be why institutional religion, far from
disappearing in an age of science, has revealed an increasing vitality over
much of the world. Religious fundamentalism is on the rise everywhere, not only
in impoverished third world countries but in the cradle of scientific
technology, the United States.
Nevertheless, along with the will to live and the necessity for a metaphysics
to give meaning to life, there has been since antiquity a desire to know the
truth of things, insofar as this is possible. By truth is meant an
understanding of the nature of the self and of the external world, not merely
accumulation of scientific minutiae. Working out the mechanisms of material
existence has its role in human affairs but it does not satisfy the need to
comprehend one's place in the universe. Atomic science has not and can not
replace preoccupation with the meaning of human life.
The problem of time is the central problem in the quest for understanding this
meaning. Everything seems evanescent, nothing is permanent - neither living
creatures nor the stars of the Milky Way. The life of an individual is as a
millisecond of time in the ocean of infinity. Human beings, the clever animals
who invented knowledge, deal with this perception in different ways. The great
mass of people, the Heraclitean hoi polloi look away from it and live out their
lives following their instincts or their social conventions. They exercise their
mind in coping with life; the rest is left to the doctors of religious
institutions. But more mentally restless types of individuals try to combat
this painful perception by extending their influence beyond their immediate
surround. This may be in the form of mortar and concrete, contemporary pyramids
meant to outlive their lifetime. Others spread their mark in political,
professional or civic circles. Intense relationships temporarily distract from
the problem of self. A few create artwork or literature that they hope will be
a different kind of monument, forever attesting to the fact that they were here
on the planet. The ambition for fame, widespread among otherwise superior
personalities, has been said to be the last defect of the noble soul.
There is a never-ceasing restlessness in homo sapiens, an unwillingness to be
content with tending one's own garden. Nietzsche identified it with a will to
power, which he thought to be a more significant trait in human beings than the
will to live. Whatever its origin, it is an effort to overcome the limitations
and transitory nature of human life. The antique Greeks were highly suspicious
of this trait; there was an inclination in the polis to exile those in their
communities who were felt to be overly ambitious. Most societies, however,
extol ambition and equate it with personal success. Nothing is thought to be
more desirable than to make one's mark in society and the stronger the mark,
the more admirable it is thought to be.
Yet the person with an 'intellectual conscience' is not deceived by societal
success. The transitory nature of all accomplishments and influence is
apparent. Worse yet, what is popularly thought of one's successes rarely stands
the test of time. What seems admirable at one time is often castigated or worse
at another. One's family is more often than not the source of profound
disappointment. The standard criterion for success, accumulation of wealth,
turns out, as Thoreau said, to always be a road leading downward. And, finally,
there is no escape from the oblivion of self that awaits all living beings. Such
thoughts motivated the poignant lines in Ecclesiastes, 'For in much wisdom there
is much sorrow, and he who stores up knowledge stores up grief.'
The pain felt in relation to the death awaiting us all is the pain of imagining
non-existence of the self. Refusal to submit to this fate in western societies
(eastern religions bow to it) has lead to childish ideas about immortality,
largely based on separation of the 'soul' from the body. In spite of all
evidence to the contrary, belief in some kind of immortality for the faithful
is at the basis of both Christianity and Islam, the world's principal
monotheistic religions. It is the preeminent feature separating believers in
God from atheists, although, purely logically, one could conceive of
immortality without a God. The fact that belief in God and belief in
immortality are so closely linked is a clue to what really is at the bottom of
the popular faith that God exists. St. Paul, the effective founder of
Christianity, was explicit in Corinthians I, 'For as in Adam all die, even so
in Christ shall all be made alive [forever].' No belief in Christ, no
immortality; only oblivion - and later on, hellfire. This was strong motivation
to adopt a theistic faith, no matter how much pagan rationalists railed against
The 'death of God' in the nineteenth and twentieth century gave impetus to the
rise of existentialist philosophies. Heine had diagnosed God as terminally ill
in the early nineteenth century; Nietzsche pronounced him dead toward the end
of it. Of course, these were metaphors to accentuate the loss of religious
faith in large segments of the intelligentsia; an inevitable correlate of the
scientific revolution. Heidegger was the first professional philosopher to
attend to certain psychological states of being that exist in individuals
independently of their external circumstances. Dread (Angst), worry or care
(Sorge), estrangement, guilt are intrinsic to the human condition, brought
about by the spectre of non-being. He regarded these moods as existential
states of being for humans, subsumed under the broad concept of being with time
as its 'horizon.' Heidegger's real interest sometimes seems to be more in
philology than philosophy, but he did open up the realization that the
transitory nature of existence has a profound impact on the affective state of
individuals. This was an advance in academic philosophy over former, purely
A less abstract and more coherent discussion of this issue was provided by
Camus who was not a professional philosopher, but a novelist and playwright.
His one purely philosophical essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, was written at the
absurdly young age of 27 years. It contains all of his important ideas. Camus
emphasized the absurdity of human existence, based as it is on invariable
non-meaning and inevitable non-being. His solution: the sole dignity of man
lies in tenacious resistance to this situation. Conscious as the individual
should be of the absurdity of human life, he utilizes his scorn and his
strength to overcome it. For Camus, this revolt is principally expressed in
creating works of art. He ends his essay with a Nietzschean amor fati - 'It is
necessary to imagine Sisyphus happy.'
Paul Tillich is often regarded as the most intellectual theologian of the
twentieth century. In his widely read book The Courage to Be (1952), Tillich
takes much the same tack as Camus in proposing 'courage' to be the key
requirement for human existence. But he does not accept Camus' unswerving
atheism as a necessary condition of an intellectually honest life. Tillich was
a professional Protestant theologian, meaning that he could not dispense with
some kind of belief in God (as well as with many other accoutrements of
Christian belief). He reconciled his Christianity with his intellectual
conscience by regarding all concrete, God-centered religious dogmas as symbolic
of 'an ultimate ground of being.' Tillich concludes, 'The courage to be is
rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of
doubt.' But surely, in this post-Freudian age, one can put forth other
explanations of this phenomenon than that it finally reveals the presence of a
deity. Other thoughtful individuals have arrived at an opposite point of view.
Tillich's struggles with the basis of religion reveal the difficulties in
reconciling a modern intellectual conscience with a theological faith.
Angst over the premonition of individual oblivion is at the bottom of a wide
range of human activities. The belief in immortality, the passion for fame, the
urge to procreate - all are based on the desire to escape nothingness. In
reaction against the fear that death means non-being, people turn from their
own existence to external projections of it. It is a universal feature of the
human condition to combat what has been called 'the arrow of time,' which seems
to lead to oblivion for all. In spite of the enormous effort of individual life
(especially human life) to evade ultimate non-being, the destroying arrow of
time seems always victorious. Thus Camus, who resolutely set himself against
easing Angst through the role of a paterfamilias or acquisition of fame or
concepts of immortality, regarded all human life as absurd.
But another solution has come to the fore in reconciling the intellectual
conscience with the spectre of nothingness and the Angst that this spectre
evokes. This is the idea that the feeling of nothingness is an illusion similar
to earlier illusions that the earth is flat, the sun travels around the earth,
or that our perceptions of our immediate surround provide a valid picture of
reality. Modern physics has revealed the illusoriness of these beliefs. The
'realities' are that the earth is round, it revolves around the sun (our solar
system occupies only a tiny speck of the cosmos), and the sounds and sights we
perceive bear little relationship to the whirling cloud of subatomic structures
underlying our illusory images of reality. Moreover, the advances of the
physical sciences have revealed the illusoriness of the perception of time. It
is remarkable that Kant deduced the necessary illusoriness of these perceptions
well before the observation-based theories of relativity and quantum physics.
Einstein's special and general theories of relativity altered the Newtonian
view of the universe, which was founded on the absolute character of time and
space. The images of spatial extension and temporal duration are relative to
the observer, dependent not only on his perceptual apparatus but also on his
location and motion. The universe is a four- dimensional one (possibly even
more than four) in which the dimension of time is quite analogous to the other
dimensions. Most significantly in the case of time, the idea that time can be
divided into past, present and future is completely illusory. What is future
for one observer may be past for another. These notions completely subvert the
intuition of the inevitably regular progression of time and the absolute nature
of spatial size. Einstein's theories have been fully confirmed by physical
observations and now form the basis of contemporary cosmology.
The worldview of modern physics is cogently elucidated by the distinguished
physicist Brian Greene in his treatise The Fabric of the Cosmos (2004). This
anti-intuitive picture of the universe has profound implications for concepts
of the universe. There is no such thing as oblivion in the universe depicted by
mathematical physics. Every event permanently occupies its place in the
space-time continuum. The existence of the individual is forever part of
phenomenal reality. Every moment is eternal. Greene provides us with the
startling image that 'the flowing river of time more closely resembles a giant
block of ice with every moment forever frozen in place' (p.141). From the
vantage point of theoretical physics, immortality is a physical necessity.
Elsewhere, I have expressed the idea that the totality of things existent in
eternity can be symbolically envisioned as a vast pointillist mural painted by
an unknown hand ('The Pointillist Canvas of Eternity', Philosophy Pathways 79,
There is one troublesome problem, however, in reconciling the human experience
with this new image of the cosmos. Einstein himself was disturbed by the fact
that human consciousness of the now now loses all objective meaning. There is
no place for this experience in his theories and it is not perceived by
observation-based mathematical physics. Greene quotes a conversation of
Einstein with Rudolf Carnap in which Einstein expressed the view that the
experience of the now does not and can not occur within the science of physics.
He was resigned to the fact. This apparently minor problem, however, has a great
deal to do with the difference between physics and philosophy.
One might think that the picture provided by modern physics of a world frozen
in a time-space continuum, a Parmenidean worldview so to speak, would support
Camus' belief in the absurdity of human life and in the futility of thinking
that any meaning can be discovered in the Sturm und Drang of the world. Nazi
and Soviet concentration camps, widespread nuclear weaponry, AIDS,
proliferation of soulless new technologies, over-population and destruction of
the planet, all create an impression of absurdity in human affairs. Camus had
recourse to the myth of Sisyphus to depict the situation. Sisyphus loving his
fate was the ultimate absurdity.
Camus firmly resisted any type of metaphysical thinking since he felt it to be
against 'lucidite'. French thinkers tend to value lucidity above all else. But
since the brilliant advances in physics do not - and cannot according to
Einstein - account for the 'consciousness of now' in which humans live, one
must turn to other modes of thinking in the search for knowledge. This is
heresy in a monistic, science-dominated world of knowledge, yet there is no
avoiding it. Science is king of the physical world, but we humans know
ourselves to be something more than talking machines.
The now can be conceived as revealing a spiritual reality breaking into time.
It is impossible for serious-minded individuals to escape the awareness of this
reality. The Russian philosopher Berdyaev proposed that the now is a
manifestation of existential time, best symbolized by a point rather than a
line (historical time) or a circle (cyclical time) (Slavery and Freedom). It is
not necessary to accept Berdyaev's Christian eschatology in order to grasp his
insight into the nature of time. It may, however, be a semantic error to call
the 'now' a point in time since the now exists outside of historically or
cyclically perceived time. Thus the now may be considered as eternal, a part of
the spiritual aspect of eternity existing on a different plane from a physical
cosmos frozen in the space-time continuum.
It is important to remember that the concept of an exclusively physical cosmos
is entirely based on physical observations, initially made by the unaided
senses, then hugely magnified by the instruments of modern science. There is a
certain tautological element to this situation. Data forthcoming by these
instruments are more efficiently handled by mathematical formulae than by human
language. Here is a clue to the understanding of the nature of the physical
sciences. Mathematical measurement is at the heart of physics and its
derivative sciences. Without measurement, there is no physics. But by
definition, any metaphysical reality could not be measured with physical
The scientific world is also faith-centered; the faith is that all reality is
limited to the physical world as we perceive it. Events that seem to have a
different nature are believed all to be ultimately reducible to physical
phenomena. This is a metaphysical belief founded, as are all metaphysical
beliefs, on the personality traits of the believer. The fact is that all the
phenomena of the universe ranging from gravitational forces to human behavior
can only be described or controlled by science, but not apprehended in a
meaningful manner. One can speculate that the faith in science derives from the
desire of individuals to master nature rather than to understand it.
At the heart of any metaphysical way of thought is the consciousness of self as
opposed to the awareness of the physical world. The great contribution of
Schopenhauer was to elucidate these fundamentally different forms of knowledge.
Like the concept of now, the concept of consciousness is not to be explained by
physical techniques. Since the nineteenth century, when the noted German
neuropathologist Rudolph Virchow denied the existence of the soul saying he had
never encountered one in dissecting hundreds of brains, scientists have been
trying to reduce the metaphysical mind to the physical brain. The story about
Virchow may be apocryphal, but the belief is widespread to this day.
Contemporary thinking on the brain-mind relationship is more sophisticated, but
neuroscientists and philosophers are still obsessed with explaining
consciousness (i.e. the soul) through physical studies. Unlike Einstein, and
before him William James, they do not accept the mind-brain disconnect.
Countless experiences with brain electrodes and neurochemical analyses (and now
brain imaging) have shown that the most that can be accomplished is to ascertain
physical correlates of consciousness and to monitor how its manifestations are
affected by manipulating the nervous system. However, the intrinsic nature of
feelings, thoughts and desires do not emerge from studying neurons and
synapses. Consciousness and neurons appear to exist on different planes of
The history of modern physics may essentially be regarded as a confirmation of
the insights of Kant and Schopenhauer. One of the most significant of these
insights is that it is illusory to think that time flows unstoppably and that
it can be divided into past, present and future times. Like spatial dimensions,
time is a parameter created by the human perceptual apparatus. There is no
reason to think that these parameters irrevocably define reality. The situation
is well illustrated by Thoreau's laconic aphorism, 'Time is but the stream I go
a-fishing in.' His 'I' is not consigned to oblivion by his departing from the
stream, even if it is commonly perceived as such.
A genuine consciousness of the relativity of time and space leads to the
awareness of the eternal nature of existence, including our own being. Whatever
is, is forever. This awareness is liberating; by freeing oneself from the
illusory fear of oblivion, one can develop a healthier relationship to the
surrounding world. No more than the threat of consignment to hell, one is not
threatened with consignment to nothingness upon biological death. It is merely
one more limit set on individual existence. Spinoza's amor dei intellectualis
was a manifestation of this liberation, since God for Spinoza was identical to
the entirety of cosmic being.
There is a certain impoverishment that scientific monism brings to the study of
the human condition. Although most academic philosophers and psychologists have
committed themselves to materialist models of existence, this has not been so
with many eminent figures in neurophysiological research. The Nobel laureates
Charles Sherrington and John Eccles as well as Wilder Penfield, the pioneer
neurosurgeon in the study of brain-mind correlates, all expressed the view that
there was some extraphysical basis to the human mind. The same may be said of
Einstein, who did not think the experience of the now could be grasped by
The concept of eternity is a more fitting framework for the activity of the
mind than is the picture of the world provided by physics, whether it be a
Newtonian fixed space-time continuum or a plethora of Einsteinian relative
space-times. Nor does recourse to the timeworn myths of a deity improve the
situation. Nietzsche's statement of faith expressed in Book III of Thus Spoke
Zarathustra, 'For I love you, O eternity!,' is the goal sought after by the
human mind. Unfortunately, Nietzsche's mental stability was not sufficient to
permit him to live up to this difficult task. He descended into madness. But
the goal is still a worthy one. One can fall in love with eternity.
(c) Richard Schain 2004
Web site: http://rschain1.tripod.com/index.html
II. 'METAPHYSICS OF THE NDI-IGBO' BY CAJETHAN NDUBUISI
Metaphysics, the study of the unseen world, raises questions which put many
philosophers into argument and which many philosophers are still searching for
a solution to. Issues like reincarnation, existence of God and dreams have
really put many great thinkers to work today. We have read and heard the
opinions of some great western philosophers on the existence of God and how
they get along with it. The question here is, what role do Igbo thinkers play
on the issues of metaphysics? I will argue that Igbo thinkers played a big part
in wrestling with the problem of reincarnation, existence of God and dreams.
First let us take a look at reincarnation.
Reincarnation is coming backing to life in another body after death. The issue
of reincarnation has brought much criticism among many philosophers. What were
the views of the Igbo thinkers on reincarnation then? On this issue we will
find out that Igbo thinkers were trying to apply rationality, though none of
them were students of Socrates or Aristotle. For them, without the knowledge of
great Greek thinkers, they knew that reincarnation was a problem to be solved,
they had interest in searching and solving the mystery of the soul, body and
spirit. It shows that Igbo thinkers were searching for the ultimate cause of
all things. Let's view reincarnation in the land of the Igbo.
Reincarnation in the land of the Igbo
The ancient Igbo thinker strongly believes in reincarnation. For him our soul
is immortal. He believes it is a way to share love with his passed brothers and
sisters. He believes that only people who die a good death should be allowed to
reincarnate. He thinks that those that didn't die a peaceful death shouldn't
reincarnate back to life, e.g. a man who commits suicide should not
reincarnate, because it means he was never at peace with himself during his
period of life. He also believes that man has right to choose where he wants to
reincarnate if he is permitted to come back again to live in another body.
Though it wasn't every Igbo thinker who believed in this explanation, an
example given was that of yam planting, by saying that when a yam is been
planted, it dies and still comes back to life again after some period of weeks.
This example may not sound or look very logical but it is. He was trying to find
out what life after death looks like and that brought him to reincarnation. This
will tell us that it wasn't only western thinkers who were trying to solve the
problem of reincarnation.
Existence of God
This is one of the key problems of metaphysics today, whether God does exist.
Many philosophers believe, while many don't, that's where the empiricist and
the rationalist have a problem and lots of criticism. Let take a look at the
African perceptive on the existence of God.
The Igbo thinker took on the challenge in search of existence of God, just like
the western philosophers did. This issue divides Igbo thinkers into two types,
which correspond to the rationalist and the empiricist. Some thinkers believe
that God exists while some do not. For those that believe, though they didn't
state it logically on a paper, the way they lived tells what their opinion is
on the existence of God.
To view the empirical life on existence of God, the Igbo empiricist believes
that whatever really exists should be perceived or experienced. This took them
in search of God's existence. Some saw a particular tree, like the mahogany as
a god, because they can perceive it, and they worship the trees. Some saw a
particular reptile, or mountains, or the sun and thunder as a god, for example,
Payton which is mainly known to be an oracle and as a god too. They don't kill
or harm it wherever they see it on earth and Payton doesn't harm them, which
shows that they experience and perceive the existence of that particular god.
They pray and ask the sun for protection. An Igbo empiricist also believes that
for every clan there is a god and that each god has a representative who hears
and interprets its message.
The African empiricist also believes that, the view on existence of God depends
on the individuals, for him there is no general God like that of the rationalist
but rather that which you decide to be your God.
Igbo empiricists and sacrifice
Sacrifice is one of the elements that proves their faith in a particular god,
in whose existence they believe. Sacrifice helps them to renew their
relationship with their god. They made these sacrifices with animals, fruits
and birds. Different animals and birds represent different spiritual symbols.
These sacrifices are been made in front or inside the shrine of the gods. They
make different sacrifices for different purposes; some are to feed the gods,
some are to appease the gods if someone goes contrary to the laws, while some
are for thanksgiving in appreciation to any good thing the gods may have done
for them, e.g. a good year of harvest. They so much believe that presence of
the gods within the clan proves the existence of what they believe to be god,
that for them any day the god or oracle is not found in the shrine, from that
moment it seems not to be existing within the clan any more.
These thinkers believe that they can see their god and for them there is no
other God but the one they see and worship. If we take a good look on this
philosophy here, we will find out that African thinkers have almost the same
view as some ancient western thinkers on 'what you perceive is what is in
existence', though they didn't have any written logical argument. However, if
we put it in more philosophical, rational terms we will arrive at what their
Igbo rationalists on existence of God
Rationality is arriving to a truth by reasoning. This group strongly believe
that God does exist, though they have not experienced or perceived him before.
But after taking a look on how beautiful the world is, the sun and the moon,
the day and night, rain, winter and summer they were convinced that there is
God; or if not God, then there is a supreme being that has supreme influence
over every thing on earth. God the almighty in Igbo land is called Chineke,
which means God the creator and the supreme being or supreme influence over
whatever exists on earth. An ancient Igbo thinker called it 'chi'.
The Igbo rationalist believes that chi is a personal influence and is unique to
every individual, it determines the success of every person, on this particular
belief we state, they agreed with what Spinoza said, that 'A thing which has
been determined to any action was necessarily so determined by God, and that
which has not thus determined by God cannot determine itself to action'. He
also believes that a man can't challenge his chi, for him chi is a supernatural
commitment that cannot be denied. An Igbo adage says that, he who is greater
than a man is greater than his chi. To show their belief in God or whatever
influence they felt is in control of the world, they were bearing names that
told of their belief in God.
Chinaedu------------------God is my protector.
Chidimma------------------God is good.
Ekene diri chukwu---------Glory be to God.
These names tell that an Igbo rationalist believes that God exists though they
can't perceive his presence, unlike the empiricist who perceives the mountain
he worships as a god.
The empiricist believes he communicates with his god face to face, and
sacrifices lots of things to his god. Most empiricists bear the name of their
gods too e.g.
Agbara-------------------God of the land
Amadi oha----------------God of thunder
Agwu---------------------God of the land
Ezeani-------------------Goddess of the land
These are some of the names borne by the empiricist to show that those are the
only existing god and nothing more. Igbo thinkers were doing all these things
to solve the problem of existence of God. These thinkers really knew what men
where facing then and were trying to find a solution to it, but now it seems
that all these efforts have been silenced by a particular view of philosophy.
If Aristotle, Plato, Descartes and Saint Augustine were seriously trying to
solve the problem of existence of God, we should also know that there were
other thinkers, who were in the black part of the world, thinking day and night
to solve the same problem which the few mentioned great names were trying to
The Igbo thinker was forced by nature to search for the existence of human
soul, which he called 'muo'. For him the soul is an infinite substance that
proves the existence of man. The Igbo thinker believes that the soul is
immortal and that the body can't perform or exist without the soul, which means
that he is trying to say that the body is the property of the soul.
For him we cannot see or physically perceive the soul but through our intuitive
knowledge we can perceive it individually. He believes that is through our soul
that we can reach and communicate in the spiritual realm. For him whatever
action a man carries out must be permitted by the soul. The Igbo thinker
believes that the relationship between the body and soul is a finite
relationship, that is to say that their relationship will always come to a
point of separation, which is the death of the body.
He believes that the soul never dies, it only separates itself from body. The
Igbo thinker believes that each soul has a particular time made eternally for
it to separate from the body, when the body and the soul separate accidentally,
he called it an untimely or premature separation, which is called 'onwu ike' in
Igbo language, and that keeps the soul restless when it leaves the body or when
the body dies. He thinks that the body and the soul should separate peacefully
when is time for it to take place.
Ogbanje is an ancient Igbo metaphysical philosophy. Ogbanje is the process
whereby the soul is internally influenced by the evil spirit or to have a
covenant with the spirit.
For the Igbo thinker dreaming is an act of moving beyond the physical world to
an unseen world or spiritual realm. The Igbo thinker believes that dreams are
where our soul plays more roles in its existence. When a man is dreaming, his
soul appears to have partially separated from the body. For an Igbo thinker
that is not sleeping. He believes that when a man is sleeping his body and soul
should be at peace. When a man dreams and remembers his dreams when we wakes up,
that tells that he wasn't sleeping but rather he moved beyond physical realm. He
who has a pure sleep doesn't remember anything when he wakes up. For example,
having a nightmare and suddenly waking up and finding yourself sweating because
you were running in your dream.
These thinkers believe that whatever happens in our dreams is a preview of what
is about to happen in the physical world. They believe that whatever happens in
the physical world had already taken place in the spiritual world. They also
believe that different dreams or different signs in dreams have different
meaning in the physical world. E.g. The Igbo thinker believes that when a man
saw a confine in his dream, it tells that death is on the way.
Some times, when an Igbo man hears a dream that makes him upset, he goes to a
fortune teller to find out what is the meaning and what the dream represents.
For him a dream is a way to get a message from our subconscious. The Igbo
thinker sees dreams to be real.
(c) Cajethan Ndubuisi 2004
[This is the second extract from Cajethan Ndubuisi's essay, 'African
Philosophy'. The first, 'Suicide' was published in Philosophy Pathways Issue
III. 'UNESCO PHILOSOPHY DAY' BY JEANETTE BLOM
I am writing to you regarding the the UNESCO Philosophy Day, which will be
celebrated for the third time at the UNESCO House in Paris on 18 November 2004.
The event, which attracts approximately 3000 participants from academia and the
general public every year, will include numerous activities: Round tables,
conferences, 'A Day of Study', inter-regional philosophic dialogues, a
'philosophy cafe', art events, book exhibitions, etc. Approximately 120
philosophers from various backgrounds, languages and cultures - including
Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Jacques Derrida, Tomonubu Imamichi, Paul Ricoeur,
just to mention a few - will participate in the debates. These embrace a
variety of topics: Philosophy and Africa, Philosophy and Latin America, Ethics
and International Law, Philosophy and Human Rights: The Practical Aims of
Teaching Philosophy, Philosophical Discussion with Children, The Question of
Bioethics: A Philosophical Analysis...
The end of the day will be marked by a debate and concert with jazz-musicians
Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Diane Reeves and Chucho Valdes, accompanied by
the Thelonious Monk Jazz Ambassadors.
The Philosophy Day is celebrated at UNESCO Headquarters every year on the third
Thursday of November, as well as through parallel events organized in more than
70 countries all over the world, thanks to the cooperation of UNESCO National
Commissions, Universities and other partners. UNESCO is the only UN Agency that
has philosophy and the promotion of philosophical thought in its mandate. The
founding mission of UNESCO, its ideal of culture and peace are inseparable from
the philosophical quest for the universal. The aim of the UNESCO Philosophy Day
is to open philosophical thinking to a wide public and to create a space where
neophytes and academics, 'professionals' and students can meet. The idea is to
spread the love of knowledge and philosophical thought, and to show that
philosophy is not an elitist discipline reserved for the few, but a fundamental
tool for the development of free and critical thinking and a driving force at
the centre of all other disciplines.
The preliminary agenda of the Philosophy Day at UNESCO 2004 is now available
online at http://www.unesco.org/shs/philosophyday2004
We would be grateful if this event, which in just three years has become a
major international philosophical encounter, could be advertised or receive
coverage in the magazine, publication or website that you are responsible for.
I remain at your disposal for any further information that you may need.
Sector for Social and Human Sciences
Tel: + 33 (0) 1 45 68 44 33
Fax: + 33 (0) 1 45 68 57 25
[Message posted on Philos-L by Stephen Clark on 8 October 2004]
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