A Critique of the Concept of Quasi-Physicalism in Akan Philosophy

by Hasskei Mohammed Majeed


One important feature of recent African philosophical works is the attempt by writers to interpret some key concepts from within the context of specific African cultures. The interpretations of such writers, however, particularly in connection with Akan thought, have not been without problems. One such concept is the concept of a person. From the largely general position that a completely physical conception of the person is inconsistent with Akan cultural beliefs, the precise characterization of the non-physical constituent of the human being has been a source of great controversy. An expression that has of recent times been put forward as descriptive of that constituent is the “quasi-physical.” The notion of quasi-physicalism is the brainchild of an Akan philosopher, Kwasi Wiredu, and is strongly held also by Safro Kwame, another Akan philosopher. This article attempts an explanation of the notion and argues that it is conceptually flawed in diverse ways, and as such philosophically indefensible.

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Hasskei Mohammed Majeed lectures in philosophy at the University of Ghana. With a strong interest in traditional and modern African philosophy, his research interests include personal identity and supernaturalism. His most recent publications “God Is Not a Referee” and “Supernaturalism and the Philosophical Character of the Traditional African Thinker” bear testimony to his interest in African metaphysical thought. The Universities of South Africa and Ghana supported the doctoral research on which this article is largely based.


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