Who is Henry Odera Oruka?

Who is Henry Odera Oruka?

June 25, 2021 Off By Felso

Kenyan philosopher who lived from June 1, 1944 to December 9, 1995.

He was born on June 1, 1944 in the Nyanza region of Kenya. After his advanced studies in Kenya, he went to Uppsala University in Sweden. He studied Meteorology, Geography and Geodesy at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences there. Later, he became interested in philosophy and studied philosophy. After completing his master’s degree at Wayne State University in the United States, he received his doctorate and became a doctor of philosophy.

He became the head of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, which opened at the University of Nairobi in 1969 and most of its students were priests and theologians. This school then, under the leadership of Odera, separated the fields of philosophy and religion from each other and opened philosophy as a separate department autonomously. Odera also continued to work at the university as the head of this department. He continued his studies in philosophy in the fields of socio-economic deprivation and cultural race mythology.

Henry Odera Oruka was interested in metaphysics, that is, philosophizing about philosophy. In his book “Arif Philosophy” (1994), he examined why sub-Saharan Africa is being ignored in philosophy and concluded that this was mainly due to the fact that it was an oral tradition, because philosophers generally tended to work with written texts. Some argue that philosophy must necessarily depend on written records, but Oruka does not take this view.

To explore philosophy in the oral traditions of Africa, Oruka offers an approach he calls “philosophical insight.” For this, he uses the ethnographic approach of anthropology, that is, he observes people in their daily environments and records their thoughts and actions in this context. He goes to the villages and talks to people considered wise by the locals. Its purpose is to find out whether these people have systematic views that support their point of view. According to Oruka, who can critically examine their ideas in traditional philosophical topics such as God or freedom and find rational grounds for them, they should be considered as philosophical sages. These systemic views also deserve to be explored in light of broader philosophical concerns and questions.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook