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PRIMITIVE MAN AS PHILOSOPHER: DANQUAH & THE EWES

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SECKAGO*
Date:
2007-11-14 08:45:27


PRIMITIVE MAN AS PHILOSOPHER: J. B. DANQUAH AND THE EWES

The book entitled PRIMITIVE MAN AS PHILOSOPHER was authored by Dr. Paul Radin. In it he distinguished two different types of philosophical formulations: the integrated and the unintegrated. Examples of the former include the works of Plato Aristotle and the vast majority of Western European philosophers. The latter can be found in the formulations of Chinese, Indian and primitive peoples. For Radin, both are philosophies, though different kinds of philosophies. My argument has always been that the unintegrated formulations are not philosophies at all, but lower order formulations on the basis of which the higher order formulations of true philosophy can be structured.

Let us take one example. Radin quotes from Dr. J. B. Danquah?s work, THE AKAN DOCTRINE OF GOD, London 1944, p. 27, the following unintegrated formulation:

He went far away;// He went long ago;// He went before anyone came.// Which of them is the eldest?

According to Dr. Radin, this is philosophy. I disagree. According to me, it is witticism if we understand it properly. I do not understand it, so it is not witticism.

Dr. Radin had an unparallel love for Ewe poems and reproduced some of them. Here are five of them:

(1) The world is stronger than anything else;//That is why we say that the world is God.

(2) Verse (i)Sing me a song, a song of death,//That I may guide it by the hand.//Sing me a song of the underworld.//Sing me a song, a song of death,//That I may walk to the underworld.

(2) Verse (ii) Thus speaks the underworld to me,//The underworld speaks thus://?O beautiful it feels in the grave,// O lovely is the underworld!//But yet no palm wine you can drink.? Therefore I take you by the hand// And journey to the underworld.

(3) Death has been with us from all time;//The heavy burden long ago began.//Not I can lose the bonds.//Water does not refuse to dissolve// Even a large crystal of salt,//And so to the world of the dead//The good too must descend.

(4) Large is the city of the nether world//Whither kings too must go//Never more to return.//Cease then your plaint, O mother of an only child!//Your plaint O cease, mother of an only child//For when did an only child//Receive the gift of immortality?//So be it, mother of an only child,//And cease your wail, and cease your wail.

(5) Verse (i) (THE SINGERS APPROACH) A great thing we desire to do,//A KPOSU song, an ADZOLI song//To sing we shall begin://Awute here lies dead,//He now lies on his bier//Death did announce himself to him.//O dead friend, lying on your bier, return once more your bonds to lose.

(5) verse (ii) (THE DECEASED APPEARS AND SPEAKS) You all now know//Within my body the word has perished,//Within AWUTE speech has died.//Who was?t destroyed it in my body?//? ?Twas death drag it away;//A warrior snatched it from my body.

(5) Verse (iii) (DEATH APPEARS AND SPEAKS) Now my turn it is to sing!//I came and thundered,//I had my lightening flash upon the tree//And threw him down!//Come let us go!//Footsteps I hear, people are approaching. An evil brother does announce himself;//Inopportune he comes.

Dr. Radin believed all the above are philosophic formulations because ?Frequently death is faced with philosophic calm and resignation worthy of Socrates.? I am not impressed. Philosophy is second level thinking devoted to the self-disciplined critical analysis of first level thoughts of the kind we see here.
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