GIP Lecture 32: Prof. Dr. Angela Roothaan

Tuesday, 23rd January 2024, 12 pm

Prof. Dr. Angela Roothaan, Philosophy, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands: „The Dynamic Web We Live In: Bantu Philosophy as Phenomenology of Human-Nature Relations”



In the much-disputed classic Bantu Philosophy (1945/6), Placide Tempels attempted to critically describe our human being-in-the-world as he understood it from his Congolese interlocutors. To this end he connected the conceptual framework of Bantu languages, rooted in Bantu Life-worlds, to a Flemish-Dutch conceptual framework, rooted in Latin scholastic tradition and modern European phenomenology. As the quote shows, he was aware of the dangers of such a work. He deemed it necessary, however, to a) make Europeans take African thinking serious, and b) to rethink human-nature relations.

I will clarify Tempels' contribution to an African eco-phenomenology by

(i)           discussing letters of Tempels that clarify how Bantu Philosophy should transform static conceptions of being, dominant in scholastic catholic philosophy, into a dynamic and wholistic conception of being as identical with force;

(ii)          demonstrating how the French and English translations of Bantu Philosophy obscured key conceptual choices Tempels made to this end.

The first point will show Tempels Bantu Philosophy to be part of a wider movement of the 1930sand 1940s among catholic philosophers, to adopt concepts from existential philosophy and phenomenology to rethink ontology from the experience of a situated being that participates in this being (“Dasein”).

The second will show a way out of the thicket of transiation / interpretation issues around Bantu Philosophy. The two moves should help to understand Tempels' translated Bantu conceptions as African eco-phenomenological understanding of human-nature relations. For this understanding he chose the image of the spider's web, which transports any movement that occurs in one of the threads through the whole web, as key metaphor.



Angela Roothaan is Associate Professor at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Having a background in continental philosophy, she published on a wide range of subjects such as Philosophy of Nature, Spirit Ontologies, Value Ethics and (early) Modem Philosophy, before turning to African and lntercultural Philosophy. She now supervises multiple PhD projects in these fields. In 2019 she initiated the Dutch Research Network African lntercultural Philosophy and the Bantu Philosophy project, that functions as an international scholarly network for exchange of research findings and sources regarding the 1945/6 work Bantu Philosophy by Placide Tempels. Angela connected her research into Philosophy of Nature and Spirit Ontologies in her book lndigenous, Modern and Postcolonial Relations to Nature. Negotiating the Environment (Routledge 2019). Most recently she published Bantoe-filosofie, the 1946 Dutch original version of Bantu Philosophy, in freshly updated Dutch and with an introduction and explanatory footnotes (Noordboek 2023). She now works on an annotated criticai edition of the same work for a global readership (in collaboration with Pius Mosima). She also co-edited (with Bolaji Bateye, Mahmoud Masaeli and Louise M Oller) two volumes in the field of African Philosophy: Beauty in African Thought. Critical Perspectives on the Western ldea of Development and Well-Being in African Philosophy. lnsights for a Global Ethics of Development (both Rowma n & Littlefield 2023). To bring philosophy out of the ivory tower, Angela also keeps a blog:


GIP Lecture 33: Lawrence Ogbo Ugwuanyi

Tuesday, 6th February 2024, 12 pm

Prof. Dr. Lawrence Ogbo Ugwuanyi, Philosophy, University of Abuja, Nigeria: "The Ala Earth Ethics and Its Potentials"



The focus of my presentation is on how the notion of environment can lead to additional ethical thoughts that serves but goes beyond the environmental good. Ala is an environmental ethics  in the Igbo-African world. My claim is that the extant ethical theories and principles have some challenges which can be overcome through an engagement with the ethical views that are embedded in the notion of Ala. I begin by mapping out some challenges in extant theories and practices of ethics which I consider to be exclusivist, conflicting, alienating and fundamentalist. I explain the conflict of virtues that arise from this scenario and how the notion of ethics harboured by Ala has the potential to lead to a different ethical orientation and outcome. I explore the four principles embedded in Ala namely-peace, power, authority and morality-suggesting how they provide grounds for a fresh ethical thought. I characterize these as comprehensive ethics that makes harmony and equilibrium core ethical principles and how this minimizes the challenges offered by extant ethical theories and principles. To achieve these objectives I: (i) Revisit some challenges of extant ethical beliefs and principles; (ii) Articulate the Ala belief and the ethics emanating therefrom;(iii) Explain how Ala amounts to an environmental ethics with wider and deeper ethical value;(iv) Elaborate this with wider potentials of Ala Earth ethics.

Ugwuanyi’s Bio:

Lawrence Ogbo Ugwuanyi, Ph.D is a Professor of African Philosophy and Thought at University of Abuja (since 2011). He is the current Head of Department of Philosophy and Director, Centre for the Mobilization of Stakeholders of the University of Abuja. He is the founder, Centre for Critical Thinking and Resourceful Research in Africa ( devoted to African Self-understanding.He has 30 years teaching experience in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and The Gambia. Formerly, Visiting Scholar, University of South Africa (2005); Visiting Associate Professor, Great Zimbabwe University, Masvingo-Zimbabwe (2014); Fellow: Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities (IASH), University of Edinburgh (2021); Visiting Scholar Centre of African Studies,  University of Cambridge (2023); Fellow: Multidisciplinary Environmental Studies in Humanities (MESH), University of Cologne, Germany(2023). Professor Ugwuanyi has 60 academic publications. He is published in South African Journal of PhilosophyReligionsTheoriaSouthern Journal of PhilosophyAfrican and Asian Studies and Revista de Estudios Africanos. His research seeks to uncover, discover and recover the relevance and autonomy of African thought scheme and he brings this to engage issues of environment; humour, ethics and modernity.