African conceptions of the human being: critical readings from the Bantu Philosophy of Placide Tempels

Keywords: African philosophy. Ethnophilosophy. Ontology. Vital force. Human being.


The article discusses the African conceptions of the Human being from the Bantu Philosophy of Placide Tempels, starting from the work African Philosophy: Myth and Reality. We seek to deconstruct and construct advanced criticism, to the ethnophilosophy of Placide Tempels in his work Bantu Philosophy (Philosophy Bantu). Therefore, speaking of Placide Tempels evokes, in a way, a whole series of questions and debates that are closely related to the existence of the first attempt to construct and systematize African philosophy. In fact, one cannot speak of African philosophy without mentioning Tempels in his Bantu Philosophy (1945). Tempels was the first author to bring the “Bantu” philosophy issue to the surface. In this context, the work African Philosophy: Myth and Reality by Paulin Hountondji, created a very strong intellectual movement, which triggered fervent philosophical debates in recent years. In his preface, Hountondji begins the debate by considering Husserl, as the philosopher who would have created some forms, techniques and intellectual ideas that allowed philosophy to be a rigorous science. In the same line of thought, Hountondji evokes René Descartes in his Cogito, where he argued that all doctrines should have a value, an intellectual responsibility and a logical-rational justification. To this end, the work is structured in two parts, where in the first part: I provide a foundation for the thinking of Placide J. Tempels and his theory on Bantu Philosophy, I describe his profile, his conception of Bantu ontology and his vision around Bantu philosophy. In the second part, I present the idea proposed by Paulin Hountondji and his unanimous criticism of Tempels ‘ethnophilosophy, where I present the influences he had, the criticism he makes of Tempels’ ethnophilosophy, here I invoke several African philosophers who address the subject under study, and, finally, the final remarks.

Author Biographies

Tiago Tendai Chingore

Doutorado Filosofia. Professor de Filosofia na Universidade Licungo.

Elnora Gondim

Doutorado em Filosofia pela PUCRS. Professora de Filosofia da UFPI.


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