“Man know thyself” is a phrase inscribed at the entrance of the ancient temples found in Egypt. Knowledge is power because it gives you tools to know what to do and how to navigate life. In African systems, every developmental stage was marked by rituals and education to equip one with information not just on what is expected of them but also handy tools to know what to do. With the erasure of most of the wisdom and knowledge however via imposition of another’s culture, a legacy of colonization, we are left with a foreign system that has so many gaps in knowledge. And therefore our task becomes that of reconstructing our identities, learning what works and what doesn’t then handing that knowledge to the next generation.
Now there are key things to note in this quest of knowing ourselves that is vital:
What are they? Axiology has to do with one’s value system, epistemology deconstructs how you know what you know and logic is the way you reason out situations, circumstances and eventually make decisions. This three are core to how one learns and interacts with the world and is handed over by the culture one is born into. It’s wisdom that is embedded in the DNA, a gift from one’s ancestors.
As an African then what is your axiology, epistemology and logic?
Axiology – Relationship, that is you are guided by a value system of preserving relationship. This may give some insight as to why family is paramount and Africans strive to preserve this unit. Also most would rather give an unwinding story why they can’t make for a certain event instead of outrightly saying no, a saying goes hearts are sensitive take care of them.
Epistemology- Your way of learning is through symbolic imagery and rhythm. That is you look at a situation from a Wholistic stand point, a good example to illustrate this is our oral history where teaching for example of not walking alone in the dark was illustrated by telling a story of how a person who walked in the dark ended up having a tragedy.
Logic – Our way of reasoning is diunital. That means when we are presented with two opposing sides we always try to see where we can find a consensus instead of one party feeling they have lost. When you link our axiology, which is relationships, our way of knowing, which is looking at the whole picture, you can see why our logic system involves balancing opposite as opposed to taking hard stances.
Other cultures have a different axiology, epistemology, and logic:
European: axiology – object that is the highest value lies in the object or acquisition of an object. Some may talk about it as materialism. Epistemology – the way of knowing is counting and measuring therefore if it can’t be counted or measured it does not exist. And their logic is dichotomous that is it’s an either or situation, eg one is good or bad, sad or happy etc.
Asian: axiology – the highest value lies in the cohesiveness of the group. Epistemology- one should strive for transcendence, that is work for the greater good of the group. Nyaya is their form of logic which postulates that the objective is conceived beyond thought and mind.
This puts into perspective how different cultures shapes how different groups see and shape their reality. And therefore by virtue of belonging to one group, your worldview differs significantly from another. This information is useful in giving one tools to understand themselves first and to know how to interact with the world.
Adopted from the works of Dr Edwin Nichols