How really worth are the African endogenous knowledge and know-how? Why and how can we promote this inheritage, while the so-called western scientific model looks like the best means of knowing and mastering the world? This book answers these questions by examining ifa, a West-African system of knowledge and practices which a narrow knowledge reduces to a fanciful divinatory art, an art then logically “perceived as inconsistent and theoretically useless”. Yet, more than a divinatory art, ifa, when we submit it to analysis, appears to be an organized set of knowledge and researches, a science in the making. What makes us really think that way is the intellectual vocation that defines ifa, the rigor of the logical operations that it implies and which recalls in one way or the other the game of implicit mathematics, the objectivity requirement which is valued by the actors of the system and rests on a genuine critical tradition. This opinion is also based on the weight of myths upon which ifa rests and which constitute an important granary where a prominent set of knowledge is packed. Beyond the establishment of the consistency and the limitations of ifa, this book has strived to define a “method” of examination and validation of the knowledge which has emerged out of the official scientific system. In fact, the questions which arise from it are finally intended to give a new foundation to philosophy of sciences and to epistemology.
Desire Medegnon is a Beninese Philosopher from Sado, a village located at about fifteen kilometers from Porto-Novo which is the administrative capital of the country. After a Master's degree at the National University of Benin, he joined the College of Advanced Studies of Paris (EHESS) where he defended in September 2009 his PhD dissertation on "The Anthropology of Knowledges: Scope and Limitations of two Systems of African knowledges." He has, as an educational councilor, advised teachers of secondary schools for several years. Since 2010, he teaches African philosophy and epistemology at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin Republic.
Why hasn’t any philosopher ever been able to bring a certain and final answer to great metaphysical questions, these which for instance ponder the meaning of life ? Do they even have any meaning, isn’t asking them pure insanity ? Wouldn’t a rigorous analysis of the language be enough to make them disappear ? This is what Wittgenstein, in the 20th century, reflects on. Knowing though that he was himself often described as a strange individual, how should we consider his discernment ?
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