METAPHYSICAL ASPECT OF AFRICAN PHILOSOPHY AND PHILOSOPHY OF TIME
CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION
Time is one of the age-long and central philosophical conceptsthat is analysed, critiqued and debatedbyphilosophers of all ages. As an indication to the centrality of time, Martin Heidegger writes; ―all ontology is rooted in the phenomenon of time correctly viewed and correctly explained.‖1 Henri Bergson likewise collaborates the above and opined that―philosophical questions are difficult because we do not think about real time.‖2This means that our day to day problems and difficulties will be reduced minimally if philosophers and the likes would conform to time.Time has a powerful and supreme influence in history through the efforts of men because through time their destinies are decided. According to Asukwo:
All the resources committed to the mission of success, the mysterious hand of time is the shoulder to soothe the disheartened in moments of sorrow, the mysterious hand of time alone can lay on the heart to comfort the sorrowful of all medical aids and drugs administered to victims of injury, time is the master healer that treats the scar of every injury. When the oppressed cry out of justice, it is the judge of time that ultimately brings every offender to book. And when our consciousness has borne testimony of all these facts we cannot help but agree that the phenomenon of time is indeed supreme.3
In African ontology, the concept of time also has its overbearing influences.The relevavance of time permeates into all African worldview ranging from their culture, spiritual and economic life. This importance of time led Mbiti that ―in African worldview, time is the key to understanding the African ontology, their belief, practices, attitude and general way of life.‖4
This is not surprising while African book their appointments with the high noon, cockcrow, and sundown. The high moon is a seasonal reminder of imminent planting season and a call to make ready their reasources. The cockcrow awakes them daily from sleep and stimulates them to prepare for the day‘s challenge.Alsothe sundown reminds them that the day‘s activity is gradually coming to a close. Often things were scheduled with human activities like begining or end of market session, the morning, the midday, or evening harvesting of palm wine. Though this type of scheduling lacked the mathematical precision of the mechanical clock, but everyone understood what was meant and complied.5
The nineteenth century western cololonial domination was foisted on hapless Africans through series of cultural conquest and invasions. The intensity of these invasions was so traumatic and psychological that Africans mindlessly surrendered their values which they once cherished and held so dear. So with the arrival of the mechanical clock, it became so difficult for Africans to adjust to this time category. Their inability to combine these seeming novel lifestylesmade some visitors to feel frustrated and lay- back when they come to African. They do not know how things work in Africa and how they conceive time. Mbiti made this observation thus:
When foreigners, especially from Europe and America see people sitting down somewhere without, evidently doing anything, they often remark,…These Africans waste their time by just sitting down idle! ‟another common cry is, oh, Africans are always late!
‟It is easy to jump to such judgments based on ignorance of what time means to African people. Those who are seen sitting down, are actually not wasting time, but either waiting for time or in the process of producing time.6
Ogunbowale decried this sentiment while writing about the attitude of Nigerians to time thus:
An event billed for 10am will happen by 1.pm if the organizers are regular Nigerians, if they are semi-serious Nigerians maybe 12noon, but if they are ‗very patriotic‘ Nigerians with a modicum of the sense of time, the event will kick off by 11am. Rarely does
an event kick off by the time advertised/made public by the organizers. There are cases when an event billed for 10am starts by 3 or 4 pm.7
But it is not a hard thing to jump at this conclusions based on ignorance of what time means for an African. This ignorance may be traced on the difficulty of seeing African culture ‗as it is‘ when one is a foreigner to African culture. According to Wittgenstein ―the whole cloud of philosophy is condensed into a drop of grammar,that is ―to see things as it is.‖8
This divergent ways that people express their culture has led to what this dissertation terms an intercultural crisis of conceptions. Geertzs advice is instrumental here:
The truth of the doctrine of cultural relativism is that we can never apprehend another people‘s imagination neatly, as though it were our own. The falsity of it is that we can therefore never genuinely apprehend it at all. We can apprehend it well enough, at least as well as we apprehend anything else not properly ours; but we do so not by looking behind the interfering glosses which connect us to it but through them.9
Europeansmake unfounded allegations because they did not understand African cultures and worldviews and appreciate Africa‘s mode of time expressions. Also they did not give regard on how Africa‘s time concepts and categories are used and how it can be translated and applied in their own human language situation. They did not even harken to Winch formula of being able
―to see‖ and ―make room for‖ the other‘s categories and concept that give expressions to their life.
Since it is we who want to understand the African category of time, it appears that the onus is on us to extend our understanding so as to make room for theAfrican category, rather than to insist on seeing it in terms of our own ready-made distinction between science and non-science. (Emphasis mine) 10
It is from the backdrop of uncritical conception of time that this dissertation sets out to provide an analytic studyof time.
Statement of Problem
In pre-colonial times, Africans conceive time in a punctual sense but with the advent of the missionaries, the people shifted their idea of calculating time in the modern way. In a way, some have seen this era as one of the evils in the principle of assimilation which was introduced by the colonialists, especially the French. This principle of assimilation encouraged the submersion of the people‘s cultural values, ideas and philosophies into the cultural beliefs and ways of life of the Europeans. In Okere‘s submission:
Our people were regarded as cultureless, as history-less and, if they were accepted as fully human, still toddling at the lowest rungs of the evolutionary ladder. Among the experts on the African way of life, that is to say, among anthropologists, our society earned such epithets as backward, barbaric, pre-logical, primitive, and savage and a whole battery of other derogatory qualifications. Where the European civilization was played up as the apex of human achievement, our religion was dubbed as superstition, our medicine as charlatanism, magic and quackery; our language were qualified as incoherent dialects, our music was termed rudimentary, our arts primitive, our crafts, non-existent.12
The disparity in culture and more especially in regards to time conception made it difficult for easy comprehension of the missionaries to understand the Africanconception and measurement of time.They hurriedly concluded that the African‘s have no idea of time. Achebe clearly demonstrated this view in Arrow of God in the discussion between Captain Winterbottom and Tony Clerk, when Winterbottom remarked about the African especially the Igbo, that ―they have no idea of time.‖14
These outrageous armchair assumptions by missionaries and anthropologist was worsened by African scholars who concluded that time in Africa is diadic; with a long past, present and almost no future and that the only future that exist is what is called a quasi events. This shows that planning for the distant future is foreign to African and they have no belief in progress and does not build castles in the air.
It is in the midst of these ibuaru (heavy burden) borrowing Asouzu‘s term, that this dissertation asks:
Is time real or unreal to Africans?If real, how do Africans measure time?How do Africans transmit time?How does time flow in African culture? Is their any sense of future time in Africa or are they substantivalists? Is time cyclic or linear in Africa?Are Africans fatalists?How conscious are Africans to time?
These questions will guide this work in this philosophical voyage to analyse time in Africa by looking at different cultures in Sub-saharan Africa to determine how these research questions applies to them. These questions will serve as a rudder and guide in this research work.
Purpose of Study
Hegel and Horton had earlier committed an intellectual treason that only the western worldviews were ―rational and scientific‖ representing a logical unity of thinking subject which unfortunately the primitive lack these rational power. Levy-Bruhl compounded this woe by believing that primitive languages were lacking in method of reckoning time and the primitive had no concept of future time and so cannot abstract from occurrences to order.13
Unfortunately the above conclusion was equally supported by some African scholars who helped to give this allegation the last nail in the coffin. Therefore the purpose of this study is therefore to do an analytical study of time in African philosophy.
Scope of Study
This study is limited in scope more especially it is a work on metaphysical aspect of African philosophy and philosophy of time. African philosophy is the critical thinking on the African and his experience of reality.14This experience rangesfrom the quest for self-definition, his concept of God, mind, time, causality, destiny, freedom, and the good. This study is therefore limited in scope Africa. By African this work mean the geographical and socio-cultural entity englobed by the continent of Africa, more especially the Sub-saharan black Africa. This work‘s interest is to do an analytical study in a selected Sub-sahara culture.
Significance of Study
The subject matter of this work is the identity of the African person and his conception of time. The value of time in Africa and the world at large cannot be over-emphasized. It is a fundamental paradigm to our survival and success. This success transcend even the pre-historic times. This is why Jerry Bentley observes that:
All human societies have faced the need to measure time. Today for most practical purposes, we keep track of time with the aid of calendar which is highly and readily available in printed and computerized forms throughout the world. However, long before humans developed any formal calendar, they measured time based on natural cycles: the seasons of the year, the waxing and
waning of the moon, the rising and setting of the sun. It was necessary for human to understand these rhythms of nature so they could be successful in hunting animals, catching fish, and collecting edible nuts, berries, roots and vegetable manner.15
This analysis will position the identity of the African person in a positive light as one who has a unique way of valuing time and its consciousness. But he is not an idler or time waster as he has been tagged. This work will present anew forgotten values Africans attach to timeand bring to their consciousness the original time category of the African. This is very necessary because ―a considerable number of traditional African values must be analyzed anew and made relevant in an integrational stance. Not only should we not let these values be lost but also we must recuperate and make them canons for authentic, dynamic and progressive lives for Africa that is to survive‖.16
Metaphysis as a branch of philosophy benefits from this work because it provides into establishing an insight on the on the nature of time and the existence of future dimension of time in African ontology. This work will wield into the controversies whether Africa operates on a diadic or triadic time orientation. This work attempts tolay to rest this dichotomy and present ample samples on her positions.
Departmentsof history, English, Linguistics, Religion, Physics and Cultural studies will benefit more from this work because it opens up the rich resources of time and within the African context. Perennial topics like poetry, folklores, belief systems, values, songs and riddles, time flow are some useful materials that this dissertation attempts to offer for their utilitarian end.This work will be of help in inter–cultural studies to know how other worldviews perceive and conceive time. An in-depth study of these worldviews will give us an insight and reduce
intercultural crisis of time. So this will make other worldviews to appreciate other people and never to denigrate other worldviews as barbaric or unscientific. Africans, Asians, the Jews have their conception of time conception and the West equally have theirs too.
African philosophy will benefit mainly from this work because it offers a discursive insight into African worldview and her conception of time. Since ―understanding is inseparable from criticism, but this in turn is inseparable from self-criticism‖, this work undertakes to open up a dialogue with African culture and experience. In this conversation some of the traditionally held views about time will be challenged, and some presuppositions about it will be exposed so that a better understanding of our society and its conservations partner will emerge. Also by comparing and contrasting Africans beliefs, values, and self-definitions, this work will unravel some limitations, inconsistencies, contradictions, lacunae or even plain falsehood associated with our own worldview as well as that of others.
The overwhelming scarcity of necessary materials in temporal discourse in Africais a major challenge to scholars; hence, this work becomes relevant and significant not only to students involved in the study of time, but to researchers and teachers as well. From preliminary research carried out, it appears that there are few existing studies or text book on time in African philosophy. This work is expected to present a veritable option to the production of a book on the subject.
The method of Analysis is employed in this dissertation because of its tenets of clarifying of ideas, words and concepts. Analysis entails breaking down complex concepts, ideas, terms and existential data into simpler forms for easy knowledge. Analysis can equally be said to be a breaking down of complexities into simpler forms. This quest for clarification is carried on by sustained, critical teasing out of hidden layers of meaning of words and the analysis of concept. The need for Analysis arose because:
Therehave always been people who have been scared away by the ponderous verbiage of many philosophical systems. Others are put off by their labored attempts to fit unwilling and stubborn facts into their well-wrought cathedral of ideas. Such people have tended to see philosophy‘s main function as that of defining and clarifying notions and refining concepts by removing the cobwebs and clouds of ambiguity and obfuscation.17
It is to be established here that analysis demonstrates the critical character of philosophy. Philosophy thrives in analysis because we start from a confused given and analyse it into its distinct parts: we can recompose the whole in a systematic way. It is also a philosophical method which cuts across every method. The method of analysis perfectly serves the interest of this study because analysis is a kind clarification and dialogue with culture or the explanation of the beliefs of society or culture. So this study is more of clarifications of African culture with the intention of explaning their mode of time conceptions to bring out their underlying meanings.
Major materials used in this dissertation were collected mainly from the library. Besides these, a good number of data was alsosourced from the internet. This work contains a total of Six Chapters.
Chapter one introduces thework.Chapter Two reviews literatureofscholars onAfrican conceptions of time. Chapter Three examines how other worldviews in the quest to demonstrate how they conceive time. These worldviews includes the Western, Judaic and Hinduist worldviews, this is done to give the work a wholesome outlook. Chapter Fourgives an analytical study to time in Africa by having an indept look at some cultures in Sub-Saharan Africa to inquire into the nature of time in Africa and attempt some of the already stated questions. ThenChapter five is a look at the ontology of time consciousness in Africa.Chapter six gives the Evaluation and Conclusions.
1.7 Definitionof Terms
The idea of definition of terms is required in this work to locate and prevent unnecessary ambiguity in this research. Operative terms that require definition in this study include.
Time, African Philosophy andOntology.
Time is ameasured or measurable period, a continuum that lacks spatial dimensions. Time is of philosophical interest and is also the subject of mathematical and scientific investigation.17Time is seen as dialectics of event and non-event. As an event, time features as manifestations of time such as ritual time, harvest time and festive time. As non-event, time is neither of these times or their likes nor a sum of these times. As non- event or ―separate reality‖, time features as the unity of all times.18
As dialectics of events and non-event, time ―individuates and unifies, reveals itself by hiding itself and operates as womb and tomb of everything. Dialectics through which time informs everything without itself being anything explains the absence of African terms for time.
For the purpose of this work, time is seen here as a conceptual expression, as duration of the spread of events that is only covered by the imaginative power because it goes beyond the present state. The conscious concentration does not depend in physical features but reside in the memory of successive perception. Kant agree here that we do not think about time in objective notion of a physical reality, but rather as a form of pure sensible intuition, an inner awareness that does not thrust upon external objective evidence.
African philosophy is simply a critical and reflective incursion/ inquiry into the marvels and problems that beset one in the African world, with the intention of yielding a systematic clarifications and enduring responses to them. It demonstrates on one hand a set of reflective norms grounded in culture and reason, which rigorously and critically explicate a life-world, and on the other a discipline in the university, with a set of codes, standards, recognized practitioners, and customs. As a discipline, it focuses on two aspects: philosophical and African.
As philosophy, it is a critical longing for African wisdom (Afro-zealotism).It is a the reflective and systematic investigation into the fundamental questions that confront human being including his use of time.20
As African, will be treated below
A perennial problem in African philosophy has been the nature of the personhood and identity of the African. Is being African unique in some way, different from other ways of being human or is one human first and African qualitatively (or some other particularization) second? What is African identity- who counts as African, and what does being African entail? Is race a necessary and central feature of being African or is it contingent and incidental? Who can speak for Africa? Damian Opata, a scholar of African literature has outlined four different senses in which the adjective African can be used; geographical, radical/ethnic, ideological and epistemic.21Opata in his discourse, on what is African drew the attention to Mazrui‘s contention that Africa in the geographical and political understanding is a European creation. Also the racial explanation can be seen to be artificial. The ideological contention in his historical development of an Africa made by Europeans is showcased in some studies of Mazrui and Opata. From realities and accidents of history, the traditional classification arose on what is geographically and politically termed African. What is African can be determined in space and time (Historically). What is African at a given point in history can change from what it is in another. This view comes close to the non- essentialist but rather a historically-given definition of what is African.22
Agada, reasons that the question of who the African is may be resolved in favor of the black person, and then any other human being deeply involved or concerned with Africa and its affairs and who has adopted the continent as their fatherland.23
Granted that the predicate ―African‖ technically may not be an appropriate choice to qualify a philosophical tradition from African South of the Sahara, Ozumba and Chimakonam concludes perhaps the term ―Equatorial Philosophy‖ might be better than ―African‖but the historical events
seemed to have placed the used to it and understand the usage as a ―pattern of solidarity‖ rather than in a purely technical sense.24The predicate ―African‖ in Africa philosophy must then be regarded as solidarity taken rather than technical concept but the philosophy itself refers to the tradition of discourse from equatorial Africa.
For the purpose of this study, by African this dissertation means the geographical and socio- cultural entity englobed by the continent of Africa, especially the Sub-saharan black African included in this geographical definition.
Ontology as a branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature of being, reality, or ultimate substance.. Ontology according to Onyewuenyi is the science of ―being as such,‖ ―the reality that is‖.25
According to Onyewuenyi, the concept of separate beings, of substances, to use a researcher‘s term, which are side by side, independent of one another, is alien to African thought. The African thought confirms that created beings secure a bond one with another, an intimate ontological relationship. There is interaction of being with being, that is to say of force with force. In Tempels term;
Is more so among rational beings known as Muntu, a term which includes the living and the dead, Orishas, and God.Muntu is a force endowed with intelligence, a force which has control over irrational creatures known as bintu.Because of this ontological relationship among beings, the Africans know and feel himself to be in intimate and personal relationships with other forces acting above or below him in hierarchy of forces. ―The human being, apart from the ontological hierarchy and interaction of forces, has no existence in the perception of the Bantu.26
The metaphysis of western philosophy has generally been based upon a static conception of being. In African philosophical thought, being is dynamic. Existence –in-relation sums up the African conception of life and reality.
Ontology also is a branch of metaphysics that addresses the nature or essential characteristics of being and of things that exist; the study of being qua being.Ontology is equally seen simply as what there is or a study of the nature of being, becoming, existence or reality as well as the basic categories of being and their relations. Traditionally listed as a part of the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, ontology often deals with questions concerning what entities exist or may be said to exist and how such entities may be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences. As philosophical enterprise ontology is highly theoretical, it equally has practical applications in information science and technology, such as ontology engineering.
Many classical philosophical problems are problems in ontology, like the question of whether or not there is a god, or the problem of existence of universals. These problems deals with whether certain things exist or not. Ontology also bothers on problems about most general features and relations of entities that exist. The problem of how universals relate to particulars is also within the confines of ontology.
We can say here that there are overall two philosophical projects of ontology; first says what there is, what exists, what stuffreality is made out off. The second,ontologysays what the most general features and relations of these things are. Nevertheless, in this work, ontology is used from the perspective of the being of time. The way Africans understand or perceive time influences their thought pattern, their belief system and their general attitude to life
1. M. Heidegger., Basic Writings, David Farrell Krel (Ed) (San Francisco or Harper, Collins, 1977), p.61
2. H.Bergson., Oeu vres (Paris: Presses Universitaires, 1970), p. 534
3. E. Asukwo., Concept and Mystery of Time(Calabar, Triple Star Printing Press, 2006),p.17
4. J.S.Mbiti., African Religions and Philosophy. (Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday & Company. 1969), p.36.
5. M.O, Izu., The Problematic of African time, ( Nsukka, Uche; Journal of the department of philosophy, University of Nigeria Nsukka 16.2010,) p.19-38.
6. J.S, Mbiti., African Religions and Philosophy. (Oxford: Heinemann Educational Publishers, 1969) p.19.
7. O, Ogunbowale., ―Carefree African Time‖ (CAT) 2015 In tunza.ecogeneration.org/worldReportView.jsp. Retrieved on 1/8/2017.
8. L. Wittgenstein., Remarks on Frazer‟s Golden Bough, (The Human World, no.3, May 1971 trans.A.C.Miles and Rush Rhees,).p.36
9. C. Geertz., ―Found in Translation: On the Social History of the Moral Imagination,‖ The Georgia Review 31, Winter 1977,799.
10. P. Winch., Understanding a Primitive Society, American Philosophical Quarterly, 1,1964(New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1970), P.102
11. T. Okere., Philosophy, Culture and Society in Africa, (Uwani VICTOJO productions, 2005), p.87
12. A. Achebe., Arrow of God, (London: British Cataloguing, 1986), p.35
13. L. Levy-Bruhl., Primitive Mentality (Beacon Press, 1923), pp. 123-24, 445-46
14. P. Iroegbu., Enwisdomization & African Philosophy,( Owerri, International Universities Press, 1994), p.134.
15. J. Bentley., Quoted by E. Asukwo., The Concept and Mystery Of Time, Measuring Time: Frameworks for Understanding the Past.
16. P. Iroegbu.,p.137
17. T. Okere., Philosophy, Culture & Society in Africa, (Uwani VICTOJO productions, 2005), p.72
18. Encyclopaedia Britanica.―Time‖ in Encyclopadia Britannica Student and Home Edition. Chicago:
19. A. C. Obi., Being As Duality And African Hermeneutics of Foundation,( Enugu, Snaap Press, 2017), p.77
20. P. Iroegbu., p.116.
21. D. Opata., On what is African in T.U Nwala (ed) Critical Review of the greatest Debate on African Philosophy, Enugu; Hilly Press Ltd, 1982,pp 65-80
22. T.U.Nwala., Critical Review of The Great Debate on African Philosophy,( Enugu, Hillys Press, 1992 ), p.49
23. A. Agada., ―Existence and Consolation, Reinventing Ontology, Gnosis And Values In African Philosophy‖ . J.O Chimakonam (ed) Calabar,3rd Logic option
Publishing, vol,3, 2015,
24. G. Ozumba., and J.O. Chimakonam., Njikoka Amaka, Further Discussions On The Philosophy Of Integrative Humanism”, ( Calabar, 3rd Option Publishing,
25. I. Onyewuenyi., Is there an African Philosophy? In T.Serequeberhan.,(ed) Philosophy: The Essential Readings,( Paragon House, 1991),p.40
26. P. Tempels., Bantu Philosophy (Paris: Presence Africaine, 1969), p. 104.