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Philosophy and the Third World



When dominant and subordinate groups exist in
close relation to each other, the dominant group which
usually has control of the centres of intellectual
orientation will set about constructing a world-view
in which the subordinate group has its submission
ontologically determined, and will begin systematically
indoctrinating members of that group into believing
this. As Cesaire wrote:

“He was a very good nigger
And it did not occur to him that he might ever hoe
and dig and cut anything except the insipid cane.”


When the subordinate group is relatively distant
their subordination need not be so systematically
integrated into the dominant world view but will
become part of a new study that is relatively obscure
and exotic from the point of view of the dominant
group. Anthropology – that bastard son of the
illegitimate union of the academic profession and the
colonial administrator – in the recent past perfoemed
this function among others. Karl Mannheim write:

Even the western marxist theoreticians. whma it
must be admitted were not averse to a bit of racisa
on their own part. fell for the bait. In spite of the
fact that Marx nowhere committed himself to such views.

they began propagating the view that the Third World
must sit still and wait till the European revolution
which will put them in power and then. in a syabolic
reenactment of Abraham Lincoln. they will free the
slaves. This doctrine is still in favour aaong white
American Communists against black radicals.

“Ideologies coexist in an antagonistic
relationship to one another. The most radical
form of this antagonism consists of the unspoken assumptions and the suggestive framework
of thought by which dominant groups inhibit the
independent self-awareness of subordinate
strata. ”

Anthropoligical theories based on the distinction
between primitive and civilized reduced the natives to
imperfect replicas of western man, somehow stunted. (3)
The self-image of the western man is thrown at the
Third World as the image of man himself, with the
implication that in so far as we fail to measure up to
this model so also are we less than truly men. Whenever this self-image undergoes a violent reconstitution,
a bold face is still kept to the Third World such that
in most cases the image which peoples of the Third
World have of the West is at least ten years out of
date regardless of the veracity of image.

Modesty compels the admission however that the
anthropological edifice was not created solely to
confuse the natives, whom it might be irrelevantly
argued never read such works, but mostly as a factor
to reinforce social control within the metropolitan
countries. The discovery of social orders completely
different to the ones existing within the metropolitan
countries might suggest to suppressed elements and
social classes within those countries that what they

Aime Cesaire, Return To My Native Land, p.87


K Mannheim, Essays On the Sociology of Knowledge,


I once asked Professor Friedman of Oxford what
the difference between anthropology and sociology
was, and he replied that antrhopology studied
foreign societies. This has the beautiful
consequent that if I and an English friend were
studying English society, I would be doing
anthropology while he would be doing sociology.

Also see A Montagu, The Concept of the Primitive,
for an intelligent discussion.

had taken to be the natural and inevitable order or
things was entirely alterable and that other arrangements were not only possible but could be seen to be
workable. Anthropological theory solved this problem
with a neatness that has haunted all discussion about
the Third World ever since. The western world, they
Claimed, was the paradigm of social progress which
naturally issued forth from western man as he was
innately the most creative. and his social systems
ensured the rapid progress of mankind. while the
diversity of social orders among peoples of the Third
World were just so many examples of experimental
failures. due in part to their innate inferiority.

with their failure so to speak demonstrated by their
political and physical subjugation.

This leads to the realization that the true
meaning of the revival within the very centres of
western intellectual activity of racist ideologies.

the theories of Ardrey~orris-Jensen-Eysenck. is the
reflection of the fact that the Third World has
impinged upon the internal self-consciousness of the
West. These theories reinforce within the metropolitan
populations a high tolerance for sheer brutality acted
out before their eyes upon meabers of the Third World.

In this respect the theories about agreession of
Konrad Lorenz. who. as reported in 7 Days. was
advocating race-health in Germany at the time that
organized race-murder was going on. are particularly
disturbing not least for their current popularity.

It will not be surprising if there is a wide-scale
re-emergence of torture~and brutality within the
capitals of the West as occurred in Paris in the
fifties. but on a scale to make Ulster child’s play.

What is suggested here is that assaults upon and
denials of fundamental human dignity are almost invariably preludes to or attempts to perpetuate forms
of human enslavement. The struggle against such
actualizations of inhumanity as’ the Viet Nam war must
be carried on along intellectual as well as political

If there is to be an intellectual struggle it is
unacceptable that we. the peoples of the Third World.

should be entirely dependent upon the western liberals
or radicals to speak for us. to argue for us. to present
our case. For what they have done and are doing. we
are grateful. but this is something which we ought to
be doing ourselves. for in the debates about the Third
World experts from those countries are usually
conspicuous by their absence.


In contrast to the issues that are usually
associated with the Third World in western discus$ions.

such as birth control. more or less aid. communist
infiltration etc. two theaes can be said to occupy the
major part of intellectual activity in the Third World:

Ca) A developing country does not need clear and
ordered thinking.

How to counter racist imperialist aggression
emanating from the West but often mediated by
a local bourgeoisie.


Cb) A developing country does not need critical

The ends and means of developing a wholesome
and independent society where each man is free
to fulfil himself.

In order to discuss, analyse and examine the
various alternatives that present themselves,
philosophy is a crucial tool. Not only must there be
an exposure of the revision of history that followed
the era of imperialism, a revision that concealed the
fact that:


Certainly Gellner would have a case if he meant
that a developing country does not need philosophy as
presently carried on in Britain, but then who does?

Such a philosophy is ‘an attempt to combine the
appearance of being in earnest and taking trouble
about the subject with an actual neglect of the subject
altogether’. In Consciencism, one of the best books
on general philosophy from contemporary Africa, we

“/is late as the early seventeenth century India
was more advanc~ economically than Europe.”

“Whereas the great philosophers, the titans,
have always been passionately interested in
social reali ty and the welfare of man, many
of their twentieth century descendants in the
West serenely settle down to a compilation of
dictionary of sentences as opposed to a
dictionary of words; engulfed in their
intellectual hermitage, they excuse themselves
from philosophical comment on social progress
or social oppression, on peace or war. While
they thus pursue ‘the exact sense of the word’,
all authority, political or moral, passes ever
more firmly into the hands of the politicians.”

and the theories which buried the consciousness that:

” ••. it was a combination of Europe’s military
superiority and her relative material poverty
which shaped events in the early phase of
European expansion.”

but it is essential that new theories of man be
developed, theories that encompass, as Fanon demanded,
the whole man.

But we must not neglect, as is now fashionable,
the cultural problems of the Third World; Anthropology
left the Third World with a theory of acculturation,
but Marx was far closer to reality when he wrote of


It might appear that the argument so far has been
pointless for there are departments of philosophy in
the Third World. But the essential point is to know
what exactly is the true need for them and then to
ask whether they are fulfilling this need. The negative
answer shouts itself resoundingly back. Not only have
they failed in the task of reviewing the accepted
theories and histories of Man, but they have also
totally neglected the future of Man. This should not
be surprising for the relationship between the two
tasks is dialectical. One cannot review the given
theories unless one is dissatisfied with them and one
cannot reconsider the future if one accepts the
present theories which define the future as a process
of ever closer approximations to the West.

“England has broken down the entire framework
of Indian society, without any symptoms of
reconstitution yet appearing. This loss of
his old world, with no gain of a new one,
imparts a particular kind of melancholy to
the present misery of the Hindoo, and separates
Hindustan, ruled by Britain, from all its
ancient tradi tions, and from the whole of its
past history.”

The alienation of the native from his own culture
is a problem that hangs over much of the cultural
activity in the Third World. Western experts are not
reluctant to fill the debate with the most ludicrous
philosophical rubbish – like the idea of converting
the entire Third World to Protestantism in order to
foster economic growth. Philosophy in the heroic
sense provides the key to the reconstitution of
national cultures, the necessity for which Marx
clearly saw.

It would be entirely mistaken to view the argument
presented here as merely ideological, i.e. political.

Philosophy in the heroic sense is an intrinsic part of
man’s self-fulfilment, and the case argued for here
is that the Third World develop its philosophical
resources in order to help its societies flower
creatively and intellectually, to become instances of
humanity fully becoming itself.

Yet philosophy is often regarded as an unnecessary
luxury in the Third World. The bourgeois economists
who never tire of accusing Marx of reducing man
entirely to economic relations, happily reduce the
peoples of the Third World to homo economicus, pure
and simple. Philosophy should be abandoned for more
useful economic pursuits, they say. Professor Ernst
Gellner was asked by a Nigerian University on the
advisability of setting up a philosophy department and
he replied that a developing country does not need
one. [7] But such an answer attains its plausibility
entirely through the mystification of words. Replace
‘philosophy’ with a synonym like ‘clear and ordered
thinking’ (or ‘critical understanding’) and we get:


All this, it might be thought, is not much concern
to the West. “If the Third World wants to develop its
own philosophy let it do so, but we are concerned with
our own problems.” Not only is this wrong because the
problems which obsess western intellectuals closely
affect members of the Third World, but also wrong
because the search for a vision of the whole man,
proclaimed by Fanon and Soyinka, is a matter concerning
all men. We do not intend to replace a Western
chauvinism by a Third World chauvinism.

Take for instan5e the growing interest in the
social responsibili~ of science, Skolimowsky has

“From Bacon’s time Nature has become a doormat
which we tread upon, exploit, plunder and use
to whatever purpose we think right and suitable
for us… All things seem to be going about
man’S-business and not their own – this
presumption has been one of the main causes
of our ecological plight.”

K Griffin. Underdevelopment in Spanish America,



F Fanon, The wretched of the Earth, see especially
the conclusion.


Karl Marx On Colonialism and Modernization, ed.

S Avineri, p.90; alternatively New York Daily
Tribune, June 25, 1853.


Private communication from a Nigerian Professor



Kwame Nkrumah, COTl$ciencism, p.54


Skolimowsky, Cambridge Review, Vol.93

The expulsion of spirits from science, he argues,
led to the ‘purification’ of the entire universe
expelling all elements not capable of mechanistic
explanation, and this notion of a ‘purified’ universe
became built into the notion of the scientific enterprise. If we tie this in with Robert Y~ung’s arguments
about the ideological orientation of the scientific
paradigms which a society adopts [10], it is clear
that what is needed is that the conceptual structure
of science be reconstituted and a humanism established
within its very centre, for it is inadequate merely to
humanize science: there must be the creation of science
as a humanism. In the Third World where science
departments are not heavily encrusted by a tradition
and where sciences are often just being established,
such a vision has great and urgent relevance.

c~on~sti~ p~ilosophical presuppositions and reconstitut1ng ~t w1th1n a broad humanistic framework, (ii)
c:eat1ng science as a humanism, as a technology at one
w~th the whole spirit of Man [llJ, (iii) a reconsiderat10n of the whole phenomenon of Man and the
development of an anthropology of the Spirit [12],
any Th~rd World philosopher not participating in these
tasks 1S wasting his own and everybody else’s time.


op. cit.


Any Third World philosopher who does not participate in the tasks of (i) liberating the study of Third
World societies, economies and cultures from ana10

Skolimowski is aware that the essentially
impersonal and manipulative ethos of natural
science spills over into social relations, so
that as he wrote, “What we need is not an
objective science, but a compassionate one”,

R Young, “Anthropology of Science” – BBC talk.

An anthropology of the Spirit that would destroy
the tearing apart of man from himself, that has
epitomized both the West and its imitators in
the Third World, and restore to man his essential
unity, having as its purpose the increased awareness of what makes man fully human, and the
exploration of the nature of man’s fulfilment.

liearge lirettan
In the discussion of drug-effects there exists
a hiatus.: the heads/hippies/freaks, call them what
you will, haven’t as a rule had the benefit of an
education in philosophy, and conversely, the philOSOphers are ignorant of the drug-experience. The psychologists have discussed the subject from their point
of view, yet it is one that also cries out for
philosophical interpretation; the hippies are
constantly talking bad metaphysics in the attempt to
make sense of their experience. And the LSD
experience is certainly remarkable; feelings of
solipsism, or that the subject himself does not exist,
the sensation of stepping out of the usual continuums
of space and time, are relatively common under strong
doses of the drug. The acid experience used to be
called “LSD intoxication”, but this expression is seldom
used today because there is really very little
similarity with alcohol or hashish intoxication; the
acid experience immediately impresses itself as being
sui generis, at least under the aspect of being a drug.

The psychotomimetics – LSD, mescaline, psilocybin etc.

have less in common with other drugs than with madness
and mysticism. This is expressed in a vague way in
the proverb “acid isn’t a drug; people who have taken
it tend to feel that they have entered a reality that
is in some way ontologically prior to ordinary reality,
rather than simply a confused version of it. I myself
can confirm this, and in this article I hope to make
a few suggestions as to the lines along which these
phenomena can be interpreted. In particular it strikes
me that the work of Kant and, to a lesser extent, that
of Wittgenstein, provide valuable suggestions. Much
of the Critique. of Pure Reason can be seen as an
analysis of the structure of normal consciousness,
and in undertaking this analysis Kant throws out ideas
about what possible deviations from this norm would
be like. Kant, it should be said, would not have used
the word “possible” about such deviations. It has
often been noticed that his use of the words “possible”
and “necessary” does not strictly conform with the
usual acceptation. The LSD experience can be regarded
as empir:cal confirmation of at least one of these
deviant states of consciousness.

“Experience rests on the synthetic unity of
appearances, that is, on a synthesis according to
concepts of an object of appearances in general.

Apart from such synthesis it would not be knowledge,
but a rhapsody of perceptions that would not fit into
any context according to rules of a completely


interconnected (possible) consciousness, and so
would not conform to the transcendental and necessary
unity of apperception.” (C.P.R. -B195)
I cite this quotation at the beginning of my
discussion because of the remarkable phrase that occurs
in the middle of it – “a rhapsody of perceptions”
that is a disturbingly sharp hint at the LSD experience.

“Experience” will be a “rhapsody of perceptions”,
Kant tells us, if we take away “the synthetic unity
of appearances”. I do not wish to get bogged down
in Kantian terminology and the exegesis of it;
fortunately this is not necessary, for the burden of
Kant’s argument in the area with which I am concerned
is reasonably clear – this area being the relation
between our experience of space and time to the
categories of substance, causality and community, and
between the synthesis of appearances and the unity of

“Clock time has very little meaning when one is
under the influence of the drug”, wrote one experimenter, R.H.Ward (A Drug~Taker’s Notes, Gollancz, 1957),
and elsewhere he expresses himself more strongly,
speaking, for instance, of “the absence of time”.

This is not simply a question of time passing quickly
or slowly, as we feel, in the ordinary way, when we
are exited or bored. What is interesting (from a
philosophical angle) is a much more basic phenomenon
that sometimes takes place under large doses. It is
the sensation of being “out of time”. Ex.perimenters,
when they have returned to ordinary reality, seem
unable to describe this experience in terms which
make sense to the uninitiated, for they get caught
up in unintelligible metaphysics, giving the appearance of self-contradiction; thus they claim to have
been altogether “outside time”, and yet agree that
their experience did not cease to be successive in
nature. What are we to make of this? Having myself
been through this experience, it strikes me that it
can be cogently fitted into a Kantian (or neo-Kantian)
schema, and it is possible, through this schema, to
relate it to other phenomena of the LSD experience.

Kant sometimes refers to space and time as
“intuitions” and sometimes as “forms of intuition”.

This does not necessarily indicate a confusion. As
Ewing says (Short Commentary on Kant’s Critique of
Pure Reason):

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