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The Journal

Bernard Matolino

Inaugural Synopsis


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Inaugural Synopsis

1We are very happy to present our first volume and issue of the Journal of Contemporary African Philosophy (JOCAP). The journal is a product of the efforts and dedication of the Dominican vice province of Southern Africa. Rev. Fr. Stan Muyebe, former vice provincial of the order, spearheaded this project with admirable dedication and patience. I am very grateful to Fr. Stan for his patience with this project and dedication to its success. Had it not been for him, it would not have seen the light of day. I am equally grateful to his successor Rev Fr. Myke Mwale for supporting this project. I am grateful to three other Dominicans I closely work with, Rev. Fr. Isaac Mutelo, my former student and current assistant editor, Moses Chanda and Guide Marambanyika (also my former students), responsible for administration and layout. Their dedication has been absolutely fantastic. At JOCAP, we are very grateful to our hosts DOMUNI University. Special mention must go to Rev. Fr. Michel van Aerde for his patience and dedication to the success of this project. A special word of thanks goes to all our editorial board members. They readily agreed to be on the board and we have been able to call upon their wisdom, guidance, and experience. They have assured us of their continued support and we are truly grateful for that.

2The aim of this journal is quite simple. It solicits and seeks to publish quality research on contemporary topics in African philosophy. Anyone familiar with African philosophy will be aware of its heavy burdens. Not only has African philosophy had a torrid time working out its definition, justification and form of reason; it has also been burdened by the history of its place of origin, Africa. Having suffered extreme violence perpetuated in the name of the mission to civilise, African people have had to work hard at finding their own identity, asserting their humanity, and overcoming institutionalised discrimination. Though these topics crop up in a variety of ways and in different forums, at JOCAP, we choose a different emphasis for reasons I will explain shortly. While we acknowledge the importance of topics of our past and forces responsible for it, we are convinced that we could do more for African philosophy if we were to choose a different path. Africa, like any other place, on earth is caught up in the forces of the present movement towards technological advancement, environmental and ecological crisis, and the rise of nationalist politics. Africa is also in a network of global relations born, partially, out of its history and partially out of its own choices of alliances. These fast paced social and political realities place a different sort of burden on today’s philosopher in comparison to the philosopher of the 1980s or 1990s.

3What we think is productive in as far the pursuit of African philosophy is concerned are reflections of the day. The reasons for this choice are as follows; Africa today is faced with crises at various levels of its reality. These crises such as corruption, a lack of political accountability, endemic poverty and underdevelopment, religious extremism and terrorism, migration, and wars; have stunted Africa in very real ways. A disturbing fact about most of these crises is that they appear to be internally generated. Social and political processes that Africans have agency over, have been turned into a spectacle of enduring failure. Ordinary Africans who live on this continent know the problems of this place only too well as they rise, daily, to be confronted and almost be defeated by the burdens of these problems. Yet African and social political philosophers of the day, on the continent, have conveniently and largely shied away from thinking through these problems.

4The second reason for our concern has to do with how philosophers of the day, on the continent, understand their job to be when they begin thinking like philosophers. What is evident are divisions along three lines. There are those who are content with methods adopted from former colonial metropoles. They tinker such methods a bit, to satisfy the African requirement, but still rely on the masters of well-established Western traditions for their theoretical frameworks. The second group is composed of aggressive defenders of traditional modes of thought. They appear in various dress codes ranging from staunch traditionalists to those who seek to revive old modes to make them fit into the present. Their tone also ranges from blind association with traditional ideas to creative re-invention and re-application of those ideas. Yet there are those who seek to find a way between these two extremes. They seek to develop their own methods and at times incorporate both worlds. But at times they come up with fantastical formulations that are rejected as overambitious or ungrounded. These commitments point to issues of method. While we are not overly concerned with methodological wars, we are interested in how these methodological differences influence processes of thought and ultimately ideas that shape philosophical reflections on the continent. The final idea, we believe, is always evidence of its methodology. The methodology, we also believe, says a lot about how the thinker sees the world. Hence our interest is in the idea, the defence of the idea as opposed to the defence of its methodology.

5We hope our insistence on contemporary issues will be of benefit to African philosophy itself, consumers of this philosophy, and to a continent that may believe in the value of philosophy. We hope that we will be able to generate discussions that are relevant to the times we live in, discussions that see beyond past constraints but understand perfectly how we got here and how we can escape some of our current trappings. For this reason, we do not identify ourselves with any methodology or orientation in African philosophy or any other philosophy. We are interested in the relevance of ideas to philosophy in Africa today.

6Last I wish to thank all contributors to this volume. Without the authors, there is no journal. Equally I wish to thank all our peer reviewers. Without them we would not have come this far.

To quote this document

Bernard Matolino, «Inaugural Synopsis», Jocap [En ligne], The Journal, mis à jour le : 19/05/2020, URL :

Some words about:  Bernard Matolino

(University of KwaZulu-Natal)