The Sunday News
Philosophy — the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct.
Broadly speaking, philosophy can be distinctly described as a socio-political and economic collage of intellectual faculties concerned with making explicit the nature and significance of ordinary and scientific beliefs and scrutinising the unambiguousness of thoughts, impressions, beliefs and feelings by means of coherent argument concerning their presuppositions, implications, and interrelationships; in particular, the rational investigation of the nature and construction of reality (metaphysics), the resources and limits of knowledge (epistemology), the principles and import of moral judgment (ethics), and the relationship between language and reality (semantics).
Now that is a faintly erudite meaning of philosophy as a human-science discipline. However, philosophy is attributed to Greece and Latin nativism (philosophia) which modestly means “the love for wisdom”.
This suggests that the ancestries of philosophy must not be limited to the Greek and the Latin experience. Instead, it is essentially prudent to escalate our comprehension of the roots of philosophy beyond the Latin and Greece arrogation of this God-given human discipline. Rather, we need to understand that “love of wisdom” is an integral part of humanity beyond its fencing around the personalities of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates and the rest. Philosophy is human, it forms the basis of each human society’s world-view and that particular community’s contact with other worlds. Therefore, it is a crime against reason to look at philosophy as a commodity which was manufactured in one part of the world and is later generously distributed to other parts of the world — supposedly imagined as beneficiaries of Eurocentricity’s extra-large benevolence.
What of political-science in Africa?
There is a common dread in demystifying the retrogressive aspects of Eurocentricty. This stems from the sacredness of Eurocentric hegemony and its immunity to being contested. This impunity has been further imported into our modern African institutions of thought. From a more Zimbabwean context which is interlinked with my political-science background, this deficit can be noted in the modules of political theory, political philosophy and ideology taught in our universities.
There are attributes of deformation in our curriculum as it scarcely values recent thinkers like Nkrumah, Nyerere, Mbeki, Mugabe and Kaunda to mention but a few.
Philosophy in the classes of political-science is under an intense life-support system of the so-called “modern” Western philosophers like John Locke (1632-1704), Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), René Descartes (1596-1650), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and David Hume (1711-1776). This form of intellectual destitution is not unique to Zimbabwe, but it is uniform across the continent as substantiated by the recent unrest in South-African universities where students are yearning for the unchaining of the systems of learning from coloniality. However, it will be mischievous if I do not mention Karl Marx (1818-1883) whose works influenced other thinkers like Andre Gunder Frank, Walter Rodney and Chancellor Williams to be at the fore of mobilising the under-developed world against its enemies and plunderers.
Frank, Rodney and Williams —now among the leading dependence theorists have significantly contributed in articulating the condition of being of the globally marginalised, mainly the members of the African race. These have exploited Marxism by contextualising it with the entire Global-South crisis — built on Western dismemberment, capitalist cruelty. Hence rendering us to perpetual subjugation by the empire.
This particular extension of Marxism into the psyche of grappling with the condition of coloniality further manifests itself in contesting the fixation of the zone of none-being which was an invention of imperialism through slavery and colonialism in the writings of Fanon and Cabral. It is from this background that the project of African Conscientism was nursed by the intellect of Kwame Nkrumah and his predecessors like Marcus Garvey.
This explains that the confrontation of Global-North and Global-South civilisations — even before the “North-South” chasm produced an inevitable clash of cultures and ontological projections characterised by epistemic wars summarised by Marxists as the struggle to preserve historical materialism of the oppressed of the world. This body of Marxist knowledge found its path into the continent and other parts of the third-world as a fight against the West’s ideological capitalism. Even presently, decolonial scholarship is continuing the path of the much wanted revolutionary thinking to awaken Africa. However, all these efforts to challenge the bigotry of Eurocentric episteme have continued to be suppressed and marginalised in favour of Western philosophy. All sectors of thought are victims — if not culprits of the classical veneration of Eurocentric imagined hierarchies of knowledge.
Thomas Hobbes reigning from the grave
While there is recent reference to Hans Morgenthou (1904-1980) as a new vanguard of the realist theory in International Relations (IR) studies, realism has continued to be traditionally attributed to Thomas Hobbes (1558-1679) who is regarded as one of the patriarchs of the realist theory. Thomas Hobbes (1651) in his publication,
The Leviathan, argues that human beings are by creation selfish, brutish and nasty. Human beings are physical objects, sophisticated machines all of whose functions and activities can be described and explained in purely mechanistic terms. Even thought itself, therefore, must be understood as an instance of the physical operation of the human body. Sensation, for example, involves a series of mechanical processes operating within the human nervous system, by means of which the sensible features of material things produce ideas in the brains of the human beings who perceive them. Specific desires and appetites arise in the human body and are experienced as discomforts or pains which must be overcome.
Thus, each of us is motivated to act in such ways as we believe likely to relieve our discomfort, to preserve and promote our own well-being. Everything we choose to do is strictly determined by this natural inclination to relieve the physical pressures that impinge upon our bodies. Human volition is nothing but the determination of the will by the strongest present desire. As Hobbes acknowledged, this account of human nature emphasises our animal nature, leaving each of us to live independently of everyone else, acting only in his or her own self-interest, without regard for others. This produces what he called the “state of war,” a way of life that is certain to prove “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
Therefore, from a Leviathan perspective every aspect of life is political — who gets what, when and how? (Harold Laswell 1936). As such, everyday represents a fresh awakening to a war of capturing and consolidating power (Machiavelli 1532). It is from this perspective that one can make sense of the problems Eurocentricity has caused to the world and shaping how all thought is constructed in favour of Eurocentric ego and dominance. Now the past and the current state of neo-colonialism has beyond doubt proved that Eurocentricity is there to flirt and adulterate with other wisdoms of world in order to weaken them. Therefore, there is need to understand that this wisdom of the West needs to be treated with hesitancy. It is a danger to modernity and humanity at large.
Dr Tafataona Mahoso and the African revolutionary software
We need to understand that all philosophy is a software of diverse human actions within their respective circumstances and communities. Therefore, as Zimbabweans and the continent at large, we need to establish our own political participation, policy-making and implementation software. This is better explained by Dr Tafataona Mahoso in his instalment titled: “African living law: The neglected software of First Chimurenga” which was published in the 277 issue of the Patriot Newspaper (28 November-3 October 2016). In this article, Mahoso (2016:5) argues:
“The fact that current African leaders are still debating whether or not to pull out of the so-called International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague is a clear demonstration that Africa has neglected the software, the driving ethos for liberation it inherited from the primary defence and resistance movements of our ancestors against imperialism, colonisation and settlerism.”
Dr Mahoso goes further to state that:
“The Zimbabwe version of those primary defence and resistance movements is called the First Chimurenga. The most valuable legacy of that Zimbabwe-wide effort to clear the land of settlers and agents of imperialism is the demonstration of ‘African living law’ in action across the whole of Zimbabwe and in opposition to the encroaching system(s) of Roman Dutch Law and English Common Law.”
This is one perspective which when critically considered can influence a level of thinking which is guided by respect of our modern philosophers and philosophies. As such, we will not need to understand our politics from the narrow wisdom of Eurocentricity based on prejudice. Even in the case of Zimbabwe, we may need to look within instead of looking without. Why validate our political thinking using bygone episteme drawn from Hobbes, Kant, Hume and the endless list of the Western philosophers when we can think within the prism of our locale?
Reflecting on Mugabeism
Today ideological personhood of Robert Mugabe has been aptly summarised as Mugabeism. There are varying definitions of this ideological attribute attached to the person of President Mugabe. To some Mugabeism represents a multi-faceted motif of; decoloniality, redemptive economic epistemology.
This school of thought presents President Mugabe as an intellectual personhood of Africa’s post-coloniality and Zimbabwe’s epitome of not returning to colonial bondage. This is informed by the values that the man has constantly embraced since his first point of commitment in fighting the Western enemies of Africa as indicated in the book. This is why Mugabeism is a prodigious opponent of the neo-colonial regime change project in Zimbabwe. Since the inception of the Land Reform, the West and its proxies have worked hard in silencing the redemptive voice of the masses in the quest for economic Indigenisation.
Though they now celebrate him in death, it must be noted that Mugabe has been projected as one responsible for crafting the immiseration of his own people. This of course is contrary to the adorable disposition Africa perceives in Mugabe(ism). He is six feet under, but his contribution to our persistent anti-colonial fight still stands.