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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #49 of 52: Can There Be an African Political Philosophy? | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #51 of 52: A Synopsis of Igbo Religion – Transcendent, Creative and Immanent God »

April 04, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #50 of 52: Can There Be an African Psychology?

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- Can there be an African psychology? To answer that question requires us to ascertain whether human beings are the same all over the world or are different? If human beings are the same all over the world it follows that their psychology is the same. But if they are different then they must have different psychologies.

Empiricism suggests that human beings are the same all over the world. Human beings are equal. Human beings have the same psychology.

Therefore, there can be only one psychology, the psychology of human beings. Psychology must be universalistic and not particularistic in scope. There can be no such thing as African Psychology.

Nevertheless, human beings are cultural animals. Each group of human begins evolved in isolation from others. Each group tends to have particularistic view of phenomena. It is appropriate to study how the different groups conceptualize who they are and how they see their world.

Therefore, it is necessary to have cultural psychologies. We can study how Africans see themselves and their world and that is their cultural psychology. Within Africa itself we can study how each ethnic group adapted to its environment, its cultural psychology.

Cultural psychology does not detract from universalistic human psychology. As human beings from all over the world come together and live together their cultures tend to become similar. Their converged culture plus their underlying same human traits makes it necessary to study them as a universal group of human beings.

Until recently, what was called academic psychology evolved in the western world? That makes psychology, as we knew it, a Western enterprise. Any one reading Sigmund Freud knows that he is reading Jewish fables…along the lines of the fables found in the Old Testament Bible; any one reading Alfred Adler knows that he is reading a modern Jewish rabbi, a prophet telling his people to behave ethically and care for one another least their Jehovah god strike them dead (lest the state, the modern god, punish them). What is Eric Fromm but an erudite Jewish rabbi? What is B.F Skinner and his behaviorism but an English logical positivist along the line of Francis Bacon? The behaviorist movement is really a re-articulation of English empiricism.

What is neuroscience but Greek efforts to understand man as he is without reference to external gods, to see man as his body?

The point is that what we currently call academic psychology is rooted in the Western tradition. It is not necessarily a universal psychology of man.

In that sense every conclusion posited by western psychologists must be reexamined by non Westerners.

Of course, those non-Westerners are doing the reexamination from the cultural parameters they bring from their own cultures.

Asians look at the world from the prism of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zen Confucianism, etc. This methodological approach to phenomena shapes how they see things.

Africans see the world from their respective tribal cultures perspectives. This is fine, provided that they understand what they are doing.

No human being is ever totally objective in his perception of things, but we all must strive to be objective.

In sum, there is only one human psychology; however, there are many cultural psychologies.

As an African, it is my duty to understand African cultural psychologies, as well as what, for lack oaf better name, I would call a universal scientific psychology.

Neuroscience is offering us the possibilities of finally transcending our cultures and seeing human beings from a physical perspective.

In the meantime, I am glad to study African cultural psychologies, as well as scientific psychology (provided that the West is not defining what constitutes science).


Ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

Posted by Administrator at April 4, 2006 01:48 AM

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