A Comparative Analysis On Western And African Humanism

Project and Seminar Material for Philosophy

A Comparative Analysis On Western And African Humanism

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

Humanism is the ideological movement in the humanities which foregrounds everything around human beings. Everything is viewed under the guide of the empirical sciences with no room for dogmas and extreme skepticism to every religious values. In the arts it reads everything in terms of human ratification. A humanist ideology in the arts views art works in terms of their significance to the human race and it’s values and projection of its beings. But this extremely secularized perspective of humanism is as far as Western humanism is strictly concerned.

European humanism, which is premised upon a secular naturalism as the only model of humanism. The modern European humanist tradition, which treats Christianity as the model of all religion, is critical of Christianity because it claims that Christianity discourages human beings from focusing on the value of human action on Earth beyond concerns for redemption from original sin in an afterlife.(Encyclopedia.com)

African humanism is much different in particular views from that of European humanism. It does not translate into secularism but grows out of the African sensibilities and ideals of the human persons. The mistake that generalises European humanism with that of African humanism is founded upon the assumption that the latter borrows from the former through and through as far as the ideological movement is concerned.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

It is often assumed among diverse scholars that a singular argument can be made for both African and western forms of humanism; that the same model designed for European humanism can be applied to African humanism. However, studies show quite vividly that while both share a core concentration in the human consciousness and centrality, there are much differences. This is the task the present research work has set for itself: to carry out a comparative study of western and African forms of humanism.

1.3 Research Questions

  1. What are the specific areas and issues that humanism engages.
  2. What are the points of departures of western and African humanism.
  3. What are the core similarities.
  4. What factors inform the differences.
  5. What are the possibilities of globalisation influencing the differences.

1.4 Objectives of the Study

The purpose of this research work is to discuss in details the points of departures between western form of humanism and African form of humanism and establish the major points of each form and how they reflect the political and social culture of the two regions.

The work aims at engaging other arguments on the two forms of humanism seeing that it is arguments on both that show the various intricacies that are the ideology in the different places.

1.5 Significance of the Study

The research is important in that it will close the academic gap created by the different tones of the ideology in the academic discussions. It sheds light on the understanding the autonomy and validity of African humanism being an ideological movement on its own not tied perpetually to the European form.

1.6 Research Hypothesis

The assumption on which this research work is predicated upon is one that recognises a significant difference between the western form of humanism and African form of humanism and sees both cultural and political factors playing into these points of departures.

1.7 Scope of the Study

The study will focus on the most common arguments and peculiarities of each regions. There are different countries in Africa with different ideological specifications and sociopolitical history which informs their understanding and engagement of the humanist movement. The same applies to the western forms of the movement. So that the study will focus majorly on the humanist tenets shared among scholars through both region in the arts and social sciences.

1.8 Limitations of the Study

The major limiting factor of this research work is that of time to go through the tons of interdisciplinary literature on African and western forms of humanism.

1.9 Definition of Terms


This is a system of thought running through the disciplines and bridge disciplines of the arts and also that of the social sciences that gives priority to humans with little or no regard to religious or related issues.

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