African Personhood

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Menkiti lays forth two areas of contrast in order to prove the plausibility of the African conception of personhood as his thesis. Initially the first contrast aims to support the basis of African communitarianism where three features are involved; Linguistic commonalities- that emphasise the classification of individuals in a collective manner through languages used in a community, which essentially characterizes the individual through accepted societal norms, psychological identity- creates a sense of self-actualization through the various identities incorporated in communities, which essentially broadens ones knowledge of personhood, and biological essence- which proposes that individuals derive from a ‘common gene-pool’ which distinguishes…show more content…
The Western view of personhood according to Menkiti, characterises the function known as individualism or ‘qua-individualistic thoughts’ which saw fit to define personhood on the basis of physical and psychological traits of the individual, specifically- ‘personal qualities, experiences, mental and cognitive abilities, and self-knowledge.’ (Menkiti, 1984) This idea had stimulated Menkiti to draw this Western notion of personhood as a minimalist or thin-like conception due to the fact that individualistic principles see for no inputs from the extrinsic conceptions, instead from the intrinsic aspects of the individual. (Menkiti, 1984) In this sense, the individual is seen as independant and self-centric, lacking the ability to consult with their communal backgrounds which in actual fact causes a sense of restriction in terms of acquiring…show more content…
In other words, the African view had established fundamentals of communitarianism instead, where one’s personhood is defined along the lines of communal association and societal features, or as per reference from Menkiti as an; ‘environing community’ (1984). He subsequently summed this notion of African personhood with the support of John Mitibi’s (1970) ‘contra cognito’ statement which phrases; “I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am”, which stands hand-in-hand with his thesis of African communitarianism as the plausible factor in defining an individual’s personhood. Menkiti expresses this notion as a maximalist or thick-like conception, where it (the African view) offers a broader spectrum of personhood which touches on the extrinsic values of ‘social and communal attachments’ (Menkiti, 1984). Menkiti see that this notion effectively goes further than the value that of the intrinsic and individualistic nature as seen in the thin-minimal conception of the

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