Poverty, spirits and sommunity : explorations in intercultural philosophy

Hofmeyr, Henry Murray (2009-03)

Thesis (MA (Philosophy))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


The Philosophy of Poverty and the Ethics of Ubuntu The question posed in this article is if and how the ethics of ubuntu could play a role in poverty eradication in a capitalist economic system. I address this question by investigating a specific poverty eradication project proposal called Pela Nambu, aimed at utilising the principle of participation that exists in the “second economy”, combined with the instruments of wealth creation of the “first economy”. After describing and expanding the Pela Nambu approach, I interrogate some of its main assumptions, and find that the ethics of ubuntu does not really have a chance to be mainstreamed as the philosophy of poverty has to reckon with the fact that the multinational corporation is the dominant institution of our time. For Pela Nambu to succeed, “first economy” participation will need to be in the form of partnerships and not charity. The present Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility performance of companies is not encouraging. Yet, the new Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment codes and the increased marketability of differentiated products does offer an opportunity that initiatives like Pela Nambu could fruitfully explore. From hauntology to a new animism? Nature and culture in Heinz Kimmerle’s intercultural philosophy Derrida has proposed a new spectrology in an attempt to deal with the ghost of Marx. Kimmerle shows that Marx has forgotten nature, and enquires about Derrida’s forgetting Marx’s forgetting. With specific reference to African culture he asks whether a new animism should not be explored within the framework of a new spectrology. Derrida uses the concept animism, but not in terms of the being of things in and of themselves, which could positively be thought as animated. Kimmerle proposes a way in which Western philosophy could be opened to African philosophy in order to understand the problem of animated nature more adequately. African philosophy has a concept of the universe of spiritual forces, in which nature and its powers are completely integrated. This paper explores these issues in dialogue with a number of African philosophers, while linking them to certain contestations within environmental philosophy and ethics, especially Murray Bookchin’s critique of spirit-talk in Deep Ecology. Kimmerle’s work on the relationship between Africa and Hegel sets the scene for an elaboration of his re-evaluation of animism which is compared to the ground-breaking hypothesis of Bird-David. A relational epistemology is understood in ethical terms, and it is implied that such an epistemology would be more adequate for a new humanism that would be new in going beyond the western tradition, and in the process gain a more inclusive concept of ‘person’ and ‘community’. The community and the individual in Western and African thought: Implications for knowledge production The tension between the group and the individual is a pervasive condition of humanity that is resolved differently in Western and African knowledge systems. The polarity of “I think therefore I am” versus “I am because we are” does not do justice to the role of the individual in African knowledge systems, and recent attempts in Western philosophy to ormulate a “philosophy of we”. A contextual philosophy of knowledge production is concerned about the we as the carrier of traditions. It is a philosophy of the in-between cultures and knowledge systems that is engaged in dialogues aimed at the formulation of universals. Intercultural (or contextual) philosophy becomes the ‘contemporary idiom’ within which to express ‘the cluster of humanist principles which underlie the traditional African society’ (Nkrumah).

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