05 October 2011


The philosophical design of Western thinking - with its essentialistic focus (getting to the essence of things) - feels normal in a western setting. It utilizes definitions - abstracting qualities of things encountered - and then looks at a reality in light of such definitions. Combining definitions result in theories, mostly within a particular discipline. Theory provides guidance as to the content of the study of anyone wishing to be fluent in the a subject matter. Theory is augmented by techniques, providing exercises to enhance performance and facilitating measurements. This approach seems to work quite well in Western realities, where all is geared towards this approach (e.g. with language and literacy mostly socially constructed within this view of reality), and congruent with a definition of humans being 'rational animals'.

Rural Africa, featuring an existential focus, is not used - nor adapted - to this kind of reasoning. Its view is validated, for instance, by local ability to easily articulate indefinable qualities and humanitarian values of reality. Of course, the definition of humans being 'rational animals' does not stick either, as in rural Africa one regards 'a person is a person through people'.

Clearly, essentialism brings benefits of understanding the World-of-Things, as shown through successful abstractions as literature and mathematics. On the other hand I have found existentialism to benefit understanding the World-of-Humans, as it interacts fluently with context and culture and naturally facilitates, for instance, oration, hearing, feeling, memory, harmony, and rhythm.

In our shrinking world caution is needed for hegonism as it can be destructive to other views of reality, which loss would deprive us all of alternatives and diversity. We must continue to endeavor on innovative ways of interacting, overarching diverse philosophies, as I strongly believe that respectful cross-pollination can support either side to be inspired to face the multifaceted challenges in our complex world.