African Philosophy

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2, Year 3 of 3 or Year 4
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Religions and Philosophies

Module overview

This module is designed to introduce students to a vibrant and interesting non-Western philosophical tradition, African Philosophy.

An important and highly defensible position of the World Philosophies programme at SOAS is that philosophy is a universal human activity and different human traditions have developed rich, robust and diverse philosophical approaches and theories. in line with this position, this module will examine the historical development of African philosophy focusing on the two key periods or phases: the precolonial period and the postcolonial period of African philosophy as well as the key approaches and trends within these periods.

It will also examine the primary concerns and key themes in African metaphysics, African epistemology and African ethics. The module will also explore some other aspects of African philosophy such as African political philosophy, African existentialism, African feminism, African philosophy of difference and disability.

The African philosophy module will also examine key issues in contemporary African philosophy such as analysing the lived experiences arising from the colonial/postcolonial such as issues of race, loss of identity, double consciousness and trauma and also examine the application of African theoretical philosophy to practical issues such as healthcare, climate change, justice and knowledge production. The student will be able to gain a rich understanding of African philosophy and the key issues involved.

Scope and Syllabus

  • Week 1: Conceptualising African Philosophy: Course Overview
  • Week 2: Two Historical Periods of African Philosophy
  • Week 3: Approaches to (Trends in) African Philosophy)
  • Week 4: Nature and Key Themes in African Metaphysics
  • Week 5: Nature and Key Themes in African Epistemology
  • Week 6: Nature and Key Themes in African Ethics
  • Week 7: Some Key Issues in Postcolonial African Philosophy: Race, Identity, Trauma and Decolonisation
  • Week 8: African Philosophy of (and as) Difference: Femininity, Disability and Queerness
  • Week 9: Importance and Challenges of African Communitarian Philosophy
  • Week 10: Term Highlights, Summary and Feedback

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of this module, a student should be able to demonstrate:

  • solid knowledge of African Philosophy, its history, main topics, and its relationship to other philosophical discourses in the world (European philosophies, Intercultural Philosophy, Latin American philosophy, etc.)
  • the ability of fundamental reflection and critical analysis of central philosophical issues
  • a critical approach to the underlying cultural presuppositions of philosophical discourses
  • oral presentations skills (gained practice for giving conference papers)
  • writing skills (learnt to produce high-quality academic articles)


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week (consisting of a 1-hour lecture and a 1-hour tutorial).

Method of assessment

  • OR1 Oral Presentation (abt. 20 mins) 40%
  • AS1 Essay (2,500 words) 60%

Suggested reading

The following titles provide suitable introductory readings. The full reading list for this module will be made available from the convenor at the beginning of the module.

  • Hallen, Barry. 2009 (20021). A Short History of African Philosophy. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
  • Imbo, Samuel Oluoch. 1998. An Introduction to African Philosophy. Lanham et al.: Rowman and Littlefield.
  • Masolo, Dismas A. 1994. African Philosophy in Search of Identity. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
  • Wiredu, Kwasi (ed.). 2004. A Companion to African Philosophy. Malden, Oxford, Victoria: Blackwell Publishing.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.