International Society for Philosophers

International Society for Philosophers

Wisdom begins with wonder

PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS                   ISSN 2043-0728


Issue number 93 11th October 2004


I. 'In Love With Eternity' by Richard Schain

II. 'Metaphysics of the Ndi-Igbo' by Cajethan Ndubuisi

III. 'UNESCO Philosophy Day' by Jeanette Blom



UNESCO Philosophy Day will be celebrated for the third time at the UNESCO House in Paris on 18 November 2004. For the benefit of those who might like to attend the event - which features many well known names in philosophy, as well as jazz music from Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Diane Reeves and Chucho Valdes - I have reproduced Jeanette Blom's press release.

Algerian born philosopher Jacques Derrida, who passed away last week, was to have been one of the contributors to this event. A major preoccupation of Derrida was with the question of death and mourning. I would welcome contributions from any Pathways reader who feels that he or she is up to the task of writing Derrida's obituary.

Today, the Pathways to Philosophy Distance Learning Program is exactly nine years old. The aims and aspirations of Pathways have expanded in ways one would never have dreamed of when the first postage-sized adverts for 'an exciting new development in distance learning' appeared in the London Sunday Times and Manchester Guardian.

It was not until two years later that the first Pathways pages appeared on the web. Three more years were to pass before the first issues of the Philosophy Pathways e-journal went sent out, a further year and a half before the International Society for Philosophers was formed.

It seems strangely fitting that Richard Schain's article should dwell on the clash between transience and eternity. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, we look back on the past with fondness or regret; yet, what is the point of it all if ultimately everything that happens is swallowed up by a gaping hole of nothingness?

This intuition of the pre-eminent question of time is arguably the wellspring of all metaphysical thought. In the second extract from his essay on African Philosophy, Cajethan Ndubuisi looks at the Metaphysics of the Igbo tribe, and the philosophical views of the Igbo thinkers on the existence of God, the soul and the nature of dreaming.

Geoffrey Klempner




'In a distant corner of the infinite number of flickering solar systems that compose the cosmos, there was once a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. It was the most arrogant and deceptive moment of "world history"; but it was only for a moment. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star became cold and the clever animals had to die.'

Thus Nietzsche in his essay On Truth and Falsehood in an Extramoral Sense, unpublished in his lifetime, vividly depicted the central problem of philosophy from Ecclesiastes to twentieth century existentialism; namely, what is the meaning, what can be the meaning of human life. Behind all the cognitive science, the 'brain as computer' theories, the 'neurophilosophy' that proliferates in the wake of the modern sciences, still lurks the ugly vision of Schopenhauer that all life is meaningless and the sooner it is finished, the better.

The spread of this nightmarish thought has been kept at bay in the western world by Christianity. God has provided the meaning of human life; faith in a God who underpins the human condition has been the antidote for Schopenhauerian pessimism. Not human 'progress,' not the pleasure industries dominating western life, not nationalism or communism, but faith in a metaphysical God has been the means through which individuals have found their strength to face the uncertainties of existence. This may be why institutional religion, far from disappearing in an age of science, has revealed an increasing vitality over much of the world. Religious fundamentalism is on the rise everywhere, not only in impoverished third world countries but in the cradle of scientific technology, the United States.

Nevertheless, along with the will to live and the necessity for a metaphysics to give meaning to life, there has been since antiquity a desire to know the truth of things, insofar as this is possible. By truth is meant an understanding of the nature of the self and of the external world, not merely accumulation of scientific minutiae. Working out the mechanisms of material existence has its role in human affairs but it does not satisfy the need to comprehend one's place in the universe. Atomic science has not and can not replace preoccupation with the meaning of human life.

The problem of time is the central problem in the quest for understanding this meaning. Everything seems evanescent, nothing is permanent - neither living creatures nor the stars of the Milky Way. The life of an individual is as a millisecond of time in the ocean of infinity. Human beings, the clever animals who invented knowledge, deal with this perception in different ways. The great mass of people, the Heraclitean hoi polloi look away from it and live out their lives following their instincts or their social conventions. They exercise their mind in coping with life; the rest is left to the doctors of religious institutions. But more mentally restless types of individuals try to combat this painful perception by extending their influence beyond their immediate surround. This may be in the form of mortar and concrete, contemporary pyramids meant to outlive their lifetime. Others spread their mark in political, professional or civic circles. Intense relationships temporarily distract from the problem of self. A few create artwork or literature that they hope will be a different kind of monument, forever attesting to the fact that they were here on the planet. The ambition for fame, widespread among otherwise superior personalities, has been said to be the last defect of the noble soul.

There is a never-ceasing restlessness in homo sapiens, an unwillingness to be content with tending one's own garden. Nietzsche identified it with a will to power, which he thought to be a more significant trait in human beings than the will to live. Whatever its origin, it is an effort to overcome the limitations and transitory nature of human life. The antique Greeks were highly suspicious of this trait; there was an inclination in the polis to exile those in their communities who were felt to be overly ambitious. Most societies, however, extol ambition and equate it with personal success. Nothing is thought to be more desirable than to make one's mark in society and the stronger the mark, the more admirable it is thought to be.

Yet the person with an 'intellectual conscience' is not deceived by societal success. The transitory nature of all accomplishments and influence is apparent. Worse yet, what is popularly thought of one's successes rarely stands the test of time. What seems admirable at one time is often castigated or worse at another. One's family is more often than not the source of profound disappointment. The standard criterion for success, accumulation of wealth, turns out, as Thoreau said, to always be a road leading downward. And, finally, there is no escape from the oblivion of self that awaits all living beings. Such thoughts motivated the poignant lines in Ecclesiastes, 'For in much wisdom there is much sorrow, and he who stores up knowledge stores up grief.'

The pain felt in relation to the death awaiting us all is the pain of imagining non-existence of the self. Refusal to submit to this fate in western societies (eastern religions bow to it) has lead to childish ideas about immortality, largely based on separation of the 'soul' from the body. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, belief in some kind of immortality for the faithful is at the basis of both Christianity and Islam, the world's principal monotheistic religions. It is the preeminent feature separating believers in God from atheists, although, purely logically, one could conceive of immortality without a God. The fact that belief in God and belief in immortality are so closely linked is a clue to what really is at the bottom of the popular faith that God exists. St. Paul, the effective founder of Christianity, was explicit in Corinthians I, 'For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive [forever].' No belief in Christ, no immortality; only oblivion - and later on, hellfire. This was strong motivation to adopt a theistic faith, no matter how much pagan rationalists railed against it.

The 'death of God' in the nineteenth and twentieth century gave impetus to the rise of existentialist philosophies. Heine had diagnosed God as terminally ill in the early nineteenth century; Nietzsche pronounced him dead toward the end of it. Of course, these were metaphors to accentuate the loss of religious faith in large segments of the intelligentsia; an inevitable correlate of the scientific revolution. Heidegger was the first professional philosopher to attend to certain psychological states of being that exist in individuals independently of their external circumstances. Dread (Angst), worry or care (Sorge), estrangement, guilt are intrinsic to the human condition, brought about by the spectre of non-being. He regarded these moods as existential states of being for humans, subsumed under the broad concept of being with time as its 'horizon.' Heidegger's real interest sometimes seems to be more in philology than philosophy, but he did open up the realization that the transitory nature of existence has a profound impact on the affective state of individuals. This was an advance in academic philosophy over former, purely rationalistic considerations.

A less abstract and more coherent discussion of this issue was provided by Camus who was not a professional philosopher, but a novelist and playwright. His one purely philosophical essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, was written at the absurdly young age of 27 years. It contains all of his important ideas. Camus emphasized the absurdity of human existence, based as it is on invariable non-meaning and inevitable non-being. His solution: the sole dignity of man lies in tenacious resistance to this situation. Conscious as the individual should be of the absurdity of human life, he utilizes his scorn and his strength to overcome it. For Camus, this revolt is principally expressed in creating works of art. He ends his essay with a Nietzschean amor fati - 'It is necessary to imagine Sisyphus happy.'

Paul Tillich is often regarded as the most intellectual theologian of the twentieth century. In his widely read book The Courage to Be (1952), Tillich takes much the same tack as Camus in proposing 'courage' to be the key requirement for human existence. But he does not accept Camus' unswerving atheism as a necessary condition of an intellectually honest life. Tillich was a professional Protestant theologian, meaning that he could not dispense with some kind of belief in God (as well as with many other accoutrements of Christian belief). He reconciled his Christianity with his intellectual conscience by regarding all concrete, God-centered religious dogmas as symbolic of 'an ultimate ground of being.' Tillich concludes, 'The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt.' But surely, in this post-Freudian age, one can put forth other explanations of this phenomenon than that it finally reveals the presence of a deity. Other thoughtful individuals have arrived at an opposite point of view. Tillich's struggles with the basis of religion reveal the difficulties in reconciling a modern intellectual conscience with a theological faith.


Angst over the premonition of individual oblivion is at the bottom of a wide range of human activities. The belief in immortality, the passion for fame, the urge to procreate - all are based on the desire to escape nothingness. In reaction against the fear that death means non-being, people turn from their own existence to external projections of it. It is a universal feature of the human condition to combat what has been called 'the arrow of time,' which seems to lead to oblivion for all. In spite of the enormous effort of individual life (especially human life) to evade ultimate non-being, the destroying arrow of time seems always victorious. Thus Camus, who resolutely set himself against easing Angst through the role of a paterfamilias or acquisition of fame or concepts of immortality, regarded all human life as absurd.

But another solution has come to the fore in reconciling the intellectual conscience with the spectre of nothingness and the Angst that this spectre evokes. This is the idea that the feeling of nothingness is an illusion similar to earlier illusions that the earth is flat, the sun travels around the earth, or that our perceptions of our immediate surround provide a valid picture of reality. Modern physics has revealed the illusoriness of these beliefs. The 'realities' are that the earth is round, it revolves around the sun (our solar system occupies only a tiny speck of the cosmos), and the sounds and sights we perceive bear little relationship to the whirling cloud of subatomic structures underlying our illusory images of reality. Moreover, the advances of the physical sciences have revealed the illusoriness of the perception of time. It is remarkable that Kant deduced the necessary illusoriness of these perceptions well before the observation-based theories of relativity and quantum physics.

Einstein's special and general theories of relativity altered the Newtonian view of the universe, which was founded on the absolute character of time and space. The images of spatial extension and temporal duration are relative to the observer, dependent not only on his perceptual apparatus but also on his location and motion. The universe is a four- dimensional one (possibly even more than four) in which the dimension of time is quite analogous to the other dimensions. Most significantly in the case of time, the idea that time can be divided into past, present and future is completely illusory. What is future for one observer may be past for another. These notions completely subvert the intuition of the inevitably regular progression of time and the absolute nature of spatial size. Einstein's theories have been fully confirmed by physical observations and now form the basis of contemporary cosmology.

The worldview of modern physics is cogently elucidated by the distinguished physicist Brian Greene in his treatise The Fabric of the Cosmos (2004). This anti-intuitive picture of the universe has profound implications for concepts of the universe. There is no such thing as oblivion in the universe depicted by mathematical physics. Every event permanently occupies its place in the space-time continuum. The existence of the individual is forever part of phenomenal reality. Every moment is eternal. Greene provides us with the startling image that 'the flowing river of time more closely resembles a giant block of ice with every moment forever frozen in place' (p.141). From the vantage point of theoretical physics, immortality is a physical necessity. Elsewhere, I have expressed the idea that the totality of things existent in eternity can be symbolically envisioned as a vast pointillist mural painted by an unknown hand ('The Pointillist Canvas of Eternity', Philosophy Pathways 79, 2003).

There is one troublesome problem, however, in reconciling the human experience with this new image of the cosmos. Einstein himself was disturbed by the fact that human consciousness of the now now loses all objective meaning. There is no place for this experience in his theories and it is not perceived by observation-based mathematical physics. Greene quotes a conversation of Einstein with Rudolf Carnap in which Einstein expressed the view that the experience of the now does not and can not occur within the science of physics. He was resigned to the fact. This apparently minor problem, however, has a great deal to do with the difference between physics and philosophy.


One might think that the picture provided by modern physics of a world frozen in a time-space continuum, a Parmenidean worldview so to speak, would support Camus' belief in the absurdity of human life and in the futility of thinking that any meaning can be discovered in the Sturm und Drang of the world. Nazi and Soviet concentration camps, widespread nuclear weaponry, AIDS, proliferation of soulless new technologies, over-population and destruction of the planet, all create an impression of absurdity in human affairs. Camus had recourse to the myth of Sisyphus to depict the situation. Sisyphus loving his fate was the ultimate absurdity.

Camus firmly resisted any type of metaphysical thinking since he felt it to be against 'lucidite'. French thinkers tend to value lucidity above all else. But since the brilliant advances in physics do not - and cannot according to Einstein - account for the 'consciousness of now' in which humans live, one must turn to other modes of thinking in the search for knowledge. This is heresy in a monistic, science-dominated world of knowledge, yet there is no avoiding it. Science is king of the physical world, but we humans know ourselves to be something more than talking machines.

The now can be conceived as revealing a spiritual reality breaking into time. It is impossible for serious-minded individuals to escape the awareness of this reality. The Russian philosopher Berdyaev proposed that the now is a manifestation of existential time, best symbolized by a point rather than a line (historical time) or a circle (cyclical time) (Slavery and Freedom). It is not necessary to accept Berdyaev's Christian eschatology in order to grasp his insight into the nature of time. It may, however, be a semantic error to call the 'now' a point in time since the now exists outside of historically or cyclically perceived time. Thus the now may be considered as eternal, a part of the spiritual aspect of eternity existing on a different plane from a physical cosmos frozen in the space-time continuum.

It is important to remember that the concept of an exclusively physical cosmos is entirely based on physical observations, initially made by the unaided senses, then hugely magnified by the instruments of modern science. There is a certain tautological element to this situation. Data forthcoming by these instruments are more efficiently handled by mathematical formulae than by human language. Here is a clue to the understanding of the nature of the physical sciences. Mathematical measurement is at the heart of physics and its derivative sciences. Without measurement, there is no physics. But by definition, any metaphysical reality could not be measured with physical methods.

The scientific world is also faith-centered; the faith is that all reality is limited to the physical world as we perceive it. Events that seem to have a different nature are believed all to be ultimately reducible to physical phenomena. This is a metaphysical belief founded, as are all metaphysical beliefs, on the personality traits of the believer. The fact is that all the phenomena of the universe ranging from gravitational forces to human behavior can only be described or controlled by science, but not apprehended in a meaningful manner. One can speculate that the faith in science derives from the desire of individuals to master nature rather than to understand it.

At the heart of any metaphysical way of thought is the consciousness of self as opposed to the awareness of the physical world. The great contribution of Schopenhauer was to elucidate these fundamentally different forms of knowledge. Like the concept of now, the concept of consciousness is not to be explained by physical techniques. Since the nineteenth century, when the noted German neuropathologist Rudolph Virchow denied the existence of the soul saying he had never encountered one in dissecting hundreds of brains, scientists have been trying to reduce the metaphysical mind to the physical brain. The story about Virchow may be apocryphal, but the belief is widespread to this day. Contemporary thinking on the brain-mind relationship is more sophisticated, but neuroscientists and philosophers are still obsessed with explaining consciousness (i.e. the soul) through physical studies. Unlike Einstein, and before him William James, they do not accept the mind-brain disconnect. Countless experiences with brain electrodes and neurochemical analyses (and now brain imaging) have shown that the most that can be accomplished is to ascertain physical correlates of consciousness and to monitor how its manifestations are affected by manipulating the nervous system. However, the intrinsic nature of feelings, thoughts and desires do not emerge from studying neurons and synapses. Consciousness and neurons appear to exist on different planes of being.

The history of modern physics may essentially be regarded as a confirmation of the insights of Kant and Schopenhauer. One of the most significant of these insights is that it is illusory to think that time flows unstoppably and that it can be divided into past, present and future times. Like spatial dimensions, time is a parameter created by the human perceptual apparatus. There is no reason to think that these parameters irrevocably define reality. The situation is well illustrated by Thoreau's laconic aphorism, 'Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.' His 'I' is not consigned to oblivion by his departing from the stream, even if it is commonly perceived as such.

A genuine consciousness of the relativity of time and space leads to the awareness of the eternal nature of existence, including our own being. Whatever is, is forever. This awareness is liberating; by freeing oneself from the illusory fear of oblivion, one can develop a healthier relationship to the surrounding world. No more than the threat of consignment to hell, one is not threatened with consignment to nothingness upon biological death. It is merely one more limit set on individual existence. Spinoza's amor dei intellectualis was a manifestation of this liberation, since God for Spinoza was identical to the entirety of cosmic being.

There is a certain impoverishment that scientific monism brings to the study of the human condition. Although most academic philosophers and psychologists have committed themselves to materialist models of existence, this has not been so with many eminent figures in neurophysiological research. The Nobel laureates Charles Sherrington and John Eccles as well as Wilder Penfield, the pioneer neurosurgeon in the study of brain-mind correlates, all expressed the view that there was some extraphysical basis to the human mind. The same may be said of Einstein, who did not think the experience of the now could be grasped by science.

The concept of eternity is a more fitting framework for the activity of the mind than is the picture of the world provided by physics, whether it be a Newtonian fixed space-time continuum or a plethora of Einsteinian relative space-times. Nor does recourse to the timeworn myths of a deity improve the situation. Nietzsche's statement of faith expressed in Book III of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 'For I love you, O eternity!,' is the goal sought after by the human mind. Unfortunately, Nietzsche's mental stability was not sufficient to permit him to live up to this difficult task. He descended into madness. But the goal is still a worthy one. One can fall in love with eternity.

(c) Richard Schain 2004

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Metaphysics, the study of the unseen world, raises questions which put many philosophers into argument and which many philosophers are still searching for a solution to. Issues like reincarnation, existence of God and dreams have really put many great thinkers to work today. We have read and heard the opinions of some great western philosophers on the existence of God and how they get along with it. The question here is, what role do Igbo thinkers play on the issues of metaphysics? I will argue that Igbo thinkers played a big part in wrestling with the problem of reincarnation, existence of God and dreams. First let us take a look at reincarnation.

Reincarnation is coming backing to life in another body after death. The issue of reincarnation has brought much criticism among many philosophers. What were the views of the Igbo thinkers on reincarnation then? On this issue we will find out that Igbo thinkers were trying to apply rationality, though none of them were students of Socrates or Aristotle. For them, without the knowledge of great Greek thinkers, they knew that reincarnation was a problem to be solved, they had interest in searching and solving the mystery of the soul, body and spirit. It shows that Igbo thinkers were searching for the ultimate cause of all things. Let's view reincarnation in the land of the Igbo.

Reincarnation in the land of the Igbo

The ancient Igbo thinker strongly believes in reincarnation. For him our soul is immortal. He believes it is a way to share love with his passed brothers and sisters. He believes that only people who die a good death should be allowed to reincarnate. He thinks that those that didn't die a peaceful death shouldn't reincarnate back to life, e.g. a man who commits suicide should not reincarnate, because it means he was never at peace with himself during his period of life. He also believes that man has right to choose where he wants to reincarnate if he is permitted to come back again to live in another body. Though it wasn't every Igbo thinker who believed in this explanation, an example given was that of yam planting, by saying that when a yam is been planted, it dies and still comes back to life again after some period of weeks. This example may not sound or look very logical but it is. He was trying to find out what life after death looks like and that brought him to reincarnation. This will tell us that it wasn't only western thinkers who were trying to solve the problem of reincarnation.

Existence of God

This is one of the key problems of metaphysics today, whether God does exist. Many philosophers believe, while many don't, that's where the empiricist and the rationalist have a problem and lots of criticism. Let take a look at the African perceptive on the existence of God.

The Igbo thinker took on the challenge in search of existence of God, just like the western philosophers did. This issue divides Igbo thinkers into two types, which correspond to the rationalist and the empiricist. Some thinkers believe that God exists while some do not. For those that believe, though they didn't state it logically on a paper, the way they lived tells what their opinion is on the existence of God.

To view the empirical life on existence of God, the Igbo empiricist believes that whatever really exists should be perceived or experienced. This took them in search of God's existence. Some saw a particular tree, like the mahogany as a god, because they can perceive it, and they worship the trees. Some saw a particular reptile, or mountains, or the sun and thunder as a god, for example, Payton which is mainly known to be an oracle and as a god too. They don't kill or harm it wherever they see it on earth and Payton doesn't harm them, which shows that they experience and perceive the existence of that particular god. They pray and ask the sun for protection. An Igbo empiricist also believes that for every clan there is a god and that each god has a representative who hears and interprets its message.

The African empiricist also believes that, the view on existence of God depends on the individuals, for him there is no general God like that of the rationalist but rather that which you decide to be your God.

Igbo empiricists and sacrifice

Sacrifice is one of the elements that proves their faith in a particular god, in whose existence they believe. Sacrifice helps them to renew their relationship with their god. They made these sacrifices with animals, fruits and birds. Different animals and birds represent different spiritual symbols. These sacrifices are been made in front or inside the shrine of the gods. They make different sacrifices for different purposes; some are to feed the gods, some are to appease the gods if someone goes contrary to the laws, while some are for thanksgiving in appreciation to any good thing the gods may have done for them, e.g. a good year of harvest. They so much believe that presence of the gods within the clan proves the existence of what they believe to be god, that for them any day the god or oracle is not found in the shrine, from that moment it seems not to be existing within the clan any more.

These thinkers believe that they can see their god and for them there is no other God but the one they see and worship. If we take a good look on this philosophy here, we will find out that African thinkers have almost the same view as some ancient western thinkers on 'what you perceive is what is in existence', though they didn't have any written logical argument. However, if we put it in more philosophical, rational terms we will arrive at what their view was.

Igbo rationalists on existence of God

Rationality is arriving to a truth by reasoning. This group strongly believe that God does exist, though they have not experienced or perceived him before. But after taking a look on how beautiful the world is, the sun and the moon, the day and night, rain, winter and summer they were convinced that there is God; or if not God, then there is a supreme being that has supreme influence over every thing on earth. God the almighty in Igbo land is called Chineke, which means God the creator and the supreme being or supreme influence over whatever exists on earth. An ancient Igbo thinker called it 'chi'.

The Igbo rationalist believes that chi is a personal influence and is unique to every individual, it determines the success of every person, on this particular belief we state, they agreed with what Spinoza said, that 'A thing which has been determined to any action was necessarily so determined by God, and that which has not thus determined by God cannot determine itself to action'. He also believes that a man can't challenge his chi, for him chi is a supernatural commitment that cannot be denied. An Igbo adage says that, he who is greater than a man is greater than his chi. To show their belief in God or whatever influence they felt is in control of the world, they were bearing names that told of their belief in God.

     Chinaedu------------------God is my protector.
     Chidimma------------------God is good.
     Uchechukwu----------------God's will
     Ekene diri chukwu---------Glory be to God.

These names tell that an Igbo rationalist believes that God exists though they can't perceive his presence, unlike the empiricist who perceives the mountain he worships as a god.

The empiricist believes he communicates with his god face to face, and sacrifices lots of things to his god. Most empiricists bear the name of their gods too e.g.

     Agbara-------------------God of the land
     Amadi oha----------------God of thunder
     Agwu---------------------God of the land
     Ezeani-------------------Goddess of the land

These are some of the names borne by the empiricist to show that those are the only existing god and nothing more. Igbo thinkers were doing all these things to solve the problem of existence of God. These thinkers really knew what men where facing then and were trying to find a solution to it, but now it seems that all these efforts have been silenced by a particular view of philosophy. If Aristotle, Plato, Descartes and Saint Augustine were seriously trying to solve the problem of existence of God, we should also know that there were other thinkers, who were in the black part of the world, thinking day and night to solve the same problem which the few mentioned great names were trying to solve.

Human soul

The Igbo thinker was forced by nature to search for the existence of human soul, which he called 'muo'. For him the soul is an infinite substance that proves the existence of man. The Igbo thinker believes that the soul is immortal and that the body can't perform or exist without the soul, which means that he is trying to say that the body is the property of the soul.

For him we cannot see or physically perceive the soul but through our intuitive knowledge we can perceive it individually. He believes that is through our soul that we can reach and communicate in the spiritual realm. For him whatever action a man carries out must be permitted by the soul. The Igbo thinker believes that the relationship between the body and soul is a finite relationship, that is to say that their relationship will always come to a point of separation, which is the death of the body.

He believes that the soul never dies, it only separates itself from body. The Igbo thinker believes that each soul has a particular time made eternally for it to separate from the body, when the body and the soul separate accidentally, he called it an untimely or premature separation, which is called 'onwu ike' in Igbo language, and that keeps the soul restless when it leaves the body or when the body dies. He thinks that the body and the soul should separate peacefully when is time for it to take place.

Ogbanje is an ancient Igbo metaphysical philosophy. Ogbanje is the process whereby the soul is internally influenced by the evil spirit or to have a covenant with the spirit.


For the Igbo thinker dreaming is an act of moving beyond the physical world to an unseen world or spiritual realm. The Igbo thinker believes that dreams are where our soul plays more roles in its existence. When a man is dreaming, his soul appears to have partially separated from the body. For an Igbo thinker that is not sleeping. He believes that when a man is sleeping his body and soul should be at peace. When a man dreams and remembers his dreams when we wakes up, that tells that he wasn't sleeping but rather he moved beyond physical realm. He who has a pure sleep doesn't remember anything when he wakes up. For example, having a nightmare and suddenly waking up and finding yourself sweating because you were running in your dream.

These thinkers believe that whatever happens in our dreams is a preview of what is about to happen in the physical world. They believe that whatever happens in the physical world had already taken place in the spiritual world. They also believe that different dreams or different signs in dreams have different meaning in the physical world. E.g. The Igbo thinker believes that when a man saw a confine in his dream, it tells that death is on the way.

Some times, when an Igbo man hears a dream that makes him upset, he goes to a fortune teller to find out what is the meaning and what the dream represents. For him a dream is a way to get a message from our subconscious. The Igbo thinker sees dreams to be real.

(c) Cajethan Ndubuisi 2004


[This is the second extract from Cajethan Ndubuisi's essay, 'African Philosophy'. The first, 'Suicide' was published in Philosophy Pathways Issue 79.]



Dear Editor,

I am writing to you regarding the the UNESCO Philosophy Day, which will be celebrated for the third time at the UNESCO House in Paris on 18 November 2004.

The event, which attracts approximately 3000 participants from academia and the general public every year, will include numerous activities: Round tables, conferences, 'A Day of Study', inter-regional philosophic dialogues, a 'philosophy cafe', art events, book exhibitions, etc. Approximately 120 philosophers from various backgrounds, languages and cultures - including Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Jacques Derrida, Tomonubu Imamichi, Paul Ricoeur, just to mention a few - will participate in the debates. These embrace a variety of topics: Philosophy and Africa, Philosophy and Latin America, Ethics and International Law, Philosophy and Human Rights: The Practical Aims of Teaching Philosophy, Philosophical Discussion with Children, The Question of Bioethics: A Philosophical Analysis...

The end of the day will be marked by a debate and concert with jazz-musicians Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Diane Reeves and Chucho Valdes, accompanied by the Thelonious Monk Jazz Ambassadors.

The Philosophy Day is celebrated at UNESCO Headquarters every year on the third Thursday of November, as well as through parallel events organized in more than 70 countries all over the world, thanks to the cooperation of UNESCO National Commissions, Universities and other partners. UNESCO is the only UN Agency that has philosophy and the promotion of philosophical thought in its mandate. The founding mission of UNESCO, its ideal of culture and peace are inseparable from the philosophical quest for the universal. The aim of the UNESCO Philosophy Day is to open philosophical thinking to a wide public and to create a space where neophytes and academics, 'professionals' and students can meet. The idea is to spread the love of knowledge and philosophical thought, and to show that philosophy is not an elitist discipline reserved for the few, but a fundamental tool for the development of free and critical thinking and a driving force at the centre of all other disciplines.

The preliminary agenda of the Philosophy Day at UNESCO 2004 is now available online at http:---

We would be grateful if this event, which in just three years has become a major international philosophical encounter, could be advertised or receive coverage in the magazine, publication or website that you are responsible for. I remain at your disposal for any further information that you may need.

Best regards,

Jeanette Blom Communication Officer Sector for Social and Human Sciences UNESCO
Tel: + 33 (0) 1 45 68 44 33 Fax: + 33 (0) 1 45 68 57 25


[Message posted on Philos-L by Stephen Clark on 8 October 2004]

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