Knowledge Cultures

Web Appendix


hamminga, B. (ed.) Knowledge Cultures. Comparative Western and African Epistemology (Poznań Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities, vol. 88) Amsterdam/New York, NY: Rodopi, 2005
Publisher's information
see also Africana

With chapters by
Prof Kwame Anthony Appiah, Princeton University, USA
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of Uganda
Leszek Nowak, Poznan University, Poland

Above: A young Museveni teaching
...Trust in a line of thought without having seen the predicted result was generally considered to be too precarious to base a change of method upon....



Bert hamminga, Introduction

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, The Power of Knowledge

Kwame Anthony Appiah, African Studies and the Concept of Knowledge

Bert hamminga, Epistemology from the African Point of View

Bert hamminga, Language, Reality and Truth: The African Point of View

Leszek Nowak, On the Collective Subjects in Epistemology:
The Marxist Case and a Problem for the African Viewpoint

Bert hamminga, The Poznań View: How To Mean What You Say


Index and Glossary


About the book

This volume compares the western ideas of knowledge with the African. It aims at creating a mirror through which the western knowledge culture can look at itself through an unusual and interesting angle. The culture of Sub-Saharan Africa is the substance from which we, in this book, have tried to construe an epistemological mirror. That was no easy task. Complete precision is even impossible. Like western culture, African culture is on its way. It may, conventionally, be thought to have arisen from a classical tribal state, cherished by anthropologists, the subject of romanticism by westerners (and many a modern African!), to become something that is now evolving rapidly, partly converging to the western world view which itself is in its own revolution, not free of African influences - though usually not identified as such.
But we hope our volume is not only relevant to western, but also to African philosophy. It should be conceded, though, that Africans have a long-standing advantage over westerners in understanding the culture with which they came into contact: both scientific and artistic literature feature a host of accounts, stories and anecdotes about westerners penetrating Africa without the slightest awareness that their own cultural education could be enhanced by the richness of human cultures of the continent, sticking rigidly to their own western cultural values whatever they were confronted with during their stay, even if this was to last the rest of their lives. Africans, however, since the first advent of westerners in Africa, have been motivated the hard way to penetrate the white mans mind. To Africans, learning properly to understand the brutal, powerful white man, quickly after his first entry in the continent, became a matter of life and death.
Yet this volume does not engage in the comparative normative evaluation of the methods of knowledge acquisition of the different cultures, because the fundamental priorities in life and being diverge widely among the cultures and we shall not discuss who has the best ones. There are better things to do than to raise the typical western competitive discussions on whats the best that in western philosophy of science overshadow so many of the more interesting and civilized scholarly questions.
Scientific literature on African thought abounds. A lot of it, written both by western scientists and Africans trained scientifically in the western sense, is so much occupied with the western rituals of knowledge acquisition that it immediately sinks   often never to be seen again   into statistical analysis of data obtained from random samples and their control groups. At the beginning of every attempt to understand, however, is the problem of getting your concepts right. Knowledge, truth, finding the truth, yes, virtually all abstract concepts are bound to leave an African and a westerner talking in such terms in utter confusion. Africans traditionally have a profoundly different use and interpretation, yes, a different idea about the nature of language! This is where this volume comes to its own. It makes two efforts: enhancing the western understanding of the way in which Africans engineer their knowledge, and enhancing African understanding of how this differs from western style of knowledge engineering, that is, what is called science in the western sense of that word. This volume concentrates on these qualitative philosophical questions, on which we think the answers are still astonishingly poor. Especially, we hope to give quite some good samples of what westerners can learn about themselves by trying to genuinely understand the logic of the traditional and modern African ways of thinking.


About the authors

Kwame Anthony Appiah

Kwame Anthony Appiah is professor of Philosophy, at Princeton University, USA. He is the author, with Amy Gutmann, of Color Conscious: The Political Morality of Race (Princeton University Press, 1996), winner of the Annual Book Award of the North American Society for Social Philosophy for the book making the most significant contribution to social philosophy. This book was also the recipient of the Ralph J. Bunche Award of the American Political Science Association for the best scholarly work in political science that explores the phenomenon of ethnic and cultural pluralism. His other books include In My Fathers House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture (Oxford University Press, 1992), winner of the Annisfield-Wolf Book Award and the Herskovits Award of the African Studies Association for the best work published in English on Africa, and of Necessary Questions (Prentice-Hall, 1989), an introduction to analytic philosophy. He has also published two monographs on the philosophy of language, and three novels: Another Death in Venice (Constable, 1995), Nobody Likes Letitia (Constable, 1994), and Avenging Angel (Constable, 1990). He is co-editor with Henry Louis Gate, Jr. of The Dictionary of Global Culture (Knopf, 1996) and he and Professor Gate are now co-editing the Perseus Africana Encyclopedia.
In addition, he has published many articles and reviews on topics ranging from post-modernism to the collapse of the African state. His philosophical work has largely been in the philosophy of language and of mind; his work in African and African-American Studies focuses on questions of race, ethnicity, culture, and identity. Professor Appiahs current projects include Bu Me B: Proverbs of the Akan (of which his mother is the major author), an annotated edition of 7,500 proverbs in Twi, the language of Asante, in Ghana, where he grew up. He is an editor of Transition magazine and of the Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Africana. He has been President of the Society for African Philosophy in North America, and Chair of the Joint Committee on African Studies of the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies.

Bert hamminga, Cultural Research Centre, Jinja, Uganda, is by origin a Dutch economist and philosopher of science (Ph.D. Amsterdam University). He is the author of Neoclassical Theory Structure and Theory Development, Studies in Contemporary Economics, vol. 4 (Springer Verlag, 1983). With W. Balzer he edited Philosophy of Economics, Erkenntnis, vol. 30, nr. 1-2, 1989, reprinted in book form as: Balzer, W. and hamminga, B. Philosophy of Economics (Kluwer, 1989). His main contribution to the Poznań Studies discussions on idealizations is The Structure of Six Transformations in Marx's Capital in Brzeziński, J. et al. (eds.) Idealization I: General Problems (PSPS&H, vol. 16; Rodopi, 1990), pp. 89-111. With N.B. de Marchi he edited Idealization VI: Idealization in Economics (PSPS&H, vol. 38; Rodopi, 1994). His publications on the foundations of labor market theories include Demoralizing the Labor Market: Could Jobs be like Cars and Concerts?, Journal of Political Philosophy, vol. 3, no. 1, March 1995, 23-35 (see also here). He is chief editor of PHiLES. Until the end of 2001, hamminga taught Philosophy of Science at Tilburg University, The Netherlands. Around 2000 this university took the position that the relevance of hammingas research (as presented in this book) to philosophy of science was unclear, and ousted him. For details (in Dutch) click here. End of 2001 this led to a settlement after which hamminga, then 50, decided to finish this work in the very African conditions that are its subject. He now lives at the shore of Lake Victoria and is building a dhow, a traditional ship, on which he intends to live and lead a peaceful sailing life.

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has been president of Uganda since January 29, 1986. In the years before this his party, the National Resistance Movement, gradually built up the socio-political structure of his country from the bottom up, starting by creating Local Committees. This work and his economic achievements since, an unprecedented success story, form the subject of his book Sowing the Mustard Seed (Macmillan, 1997).

Leszek Nowak

Professor Leszek Nowak is one of the founders of the philosophy of idealization and concretization as it has been developed in the past three decades. Its main discussion forum is the book series of which this book is a part, the Poznań Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities. Nowak is its editor-in-chief. His latest comprehensive statement of the present state of the theory is: Izabella Nowakowa and Leszek Nowak, Idealization X: The Richness of Idealization (PSPS&H, vol. 69; Rodopi, 2000).


Weblinks referred to in the book:

Burgman, H. (1998). Western Kenya: Ways Of Thinking

Burgman (1998) on "holding back" and on the concept of "Ng'uono"  in Dholuo language

Burgman (1998) on verb like "to beautiful", "to green", "to cold" in Dholuo language: the African concept of power

Caesar, G.J. ([52BC] (1986). The Gallic war, with an English transl. by H.J. Edwards. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press. Click here for Bello Gallico on Celtic Druids and Writing.

hamminga, B. (2003). Ik heb een fiets in Jinja [I’ve got a bike in Jinja]. Jinja. Naarden: MIND Foundation,

hamminga, B. (ed.) Knowledge Cultures. Comparative Western and African Epistemology (Poznań Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities, vol. 88) Amsterdam/New York, NY: Rodopi, 2005: publisher's information http://www/

Plato ([355BC] 1973). Phaedrus and The seventh and eighth letters transl. from the Greek with introd. by W. Hamilton. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Also here.

Cultural Research Centre (1999). Ensambo edh' Abasoga [Proverbs of the Basoga]. Jinja:

Cultural Research Centre (1999). A Lusoga Grammar. Jinja:

Cultural Research Centre (1999). Reconciliation among the Basoga. Jinja:

Cultural Research Centre (1999). Dictionary Lusoga English, English Lusoga. Jinja:

Cultural Research Centre (2000). Good Luck, Bad Luck in Busoga. Jinja: