1.4 The Supremacy of reason (logos) as an Instrument of development and renaissance

According to Plato in the Philebus, the world (read the whole cosmos) is seen as the work of mind rather than chance as the Dialogue proceeds:

Socrates: Whether all this which they call the universe is left to the guidance of unreason and chance...or, on the contrary, as our fathers have declared, ordered and governed by a marvellous intelligence and wisdom

Protarchus: Wider asander are the two assertions...for that which  you were just now saying to me appears to be blasphemy; but the other assertion, that mind orders all things, is worthy of the aspect of the world...and never will I say and think otherwise.[20]

This is also to be seen in the context of Hegel who in his extreme Idealism sees the World as a manifestation of the Absolute Idea.[21] The Absolute brought down from heaven to earth, the invisible idea made visible in physical and concrete terms of the cosmos and all that it entails.

In John's Gospel, the metaphysical concept of that which is basic and original and thus the foundation of all that is and came to be is alluded.[22]

The author had a good grasp of Greek  philosophy. The word (logos) had varied connotations including wisdom, mind, ratio, order and dynamism. Thus that which is/was invisible (mind, word, wisdom, ratio...)  is the original metaphysical basis of the reality that is now visible. This notion is Plato`s to a wider extent when he talks of the world of shadows (phenomena) and the world of Forms which cannot be known in itself.[23]

Immanuel Kant takes this line of thought by labelling it as the phenomenon (transcedental aesthetic) and noumenal world (transcendental dialectics). We need hence to understand man as a product of logos and the image of logos is typified within him. Man is the proper manifestation and the embodiment of the word/logos which is analogically embodied in other realities which comprise the environment of man.

Hence the logos in man creates a dynamism for change and development in the same way  the original logos did.  Man can thus be seen as an agent of change and development, he becomes a microcosm in the cosmos[24].

This dictates that, in order for man to be an effective instrument of change, his mind (reason) ought to be enlightened enough so as to be able to shed light where there is ignorance, darkness, chaos and nothingness. Thus for renaissance to take root, ideas must be used as instruments of change, dynamism and civilization as Popper asserts;

  Indeed, the possibility of fighting with words instead of swords is the very basis of our civilization, and especially of all  its legal and paliamentary institutions...to see how powerful ideas have become since the days of the Greeks, we only need to remember that all religious wars were wars of ideas, and that all revolutions were revolutions of ideas. Although these ideas were more often false and pernicious than true...there is perhaps a certain tendency for some of the better one's to survive, provided they find sufficiently powerful and intelligent support.[25]

African renaissance is to take such ideas seriously because, there are far too many civil strives in the Continent to allow actual and real development to take place. Peace and stability is a prerequisite for development; and it were far much better if the protagonists in the various conflicts in Africa transcended the sword war into  war of words with no blood letting. Popper adds a word of caution when dealing with ideas, they must be handled properly, otherwise they can turn against those who generate them. 

...although ideas are dangerous we may learn from our mistakes how to handle them; how to approach them critically, how to tame them, and how to use them in our struggles, including our struggle to get a little nearer to the hidden truth.[26] 

Man (The African person in this case) has the obligation to release himself from the self imposed tutilage of prison of war of swords and use words cautiously in search of the hidden truth through a process of trial and error. This is a sure way to humble the searcher of truth so as to avoid the myth of absolute certainity and hence dogmatism. This path will lead to enlightenment as Popper quotes Kant;

  Enlightenment is man's emanicipation from his self-imposed tutilage. Tutilage (Unmündig­keit) is man's inability to make use of his intelligence (Verstand) without direction from another. It is self incurred when its cause lies not in lack of intelligence but in lack of resolution and courage to use one' s intelligence without direction from another. The motto of enlightenment was; have courage to exercise your own intelligence.[27] 

The life of Kant was a life of emanicipation through knowledge, the idea of self liberation through knowledge. In later years he used to look back with horror to what he called the slavery of childhood, his period of tutilage. One might well say, that the dominant theme of his whole life was the struggle for spiritual freedom. Kant was a pluralist, who believed in the variety of human experience and in the diversity of human aims, he asserted;

  Dare to be free, and respect the freedom and the autonomy of others, for the dignity of man lies in his freedom, and in his respect of other people's autonomous and responsible beliefs, especially if these differ widely from his own...he saw in intellectual self education...a task demanding of every man immediate action here and now and always. For only through the growth of knowledge can the mind be liberated from its spiritual enslavement...by prejudices, idols and avoidable errors[28]

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a portion of mankind, after nature has long since discharged them from external direction, nevertheless remain under lifelong tutilage, and why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as their guardians. It is so easy not to be of age. If I have a book which understands for me, a Pastor who has a conscience for me,  a Physician who decides my diet and so forth, I need not trouble myself.

Thus the initiative towards independence and majority is held to be very dangerous by the far greater portion of mankind, so is the notion held by the self imposed guardians. After the guardians have first made their domestic cattle dumb and have made sure that, these placid creatures will not dare take a single step without the harness of the cart to which they are tethered, the guardians then show them the danger which threatens if they try to go alone. However, this danger is not so great, for by falling a few times, they would finally learn to walk alone. But an example of this failure makes them timid and ordinarily frightens them away from all further trials. For any single individual to work himself out of the life under tutilage which has become almost his nature is very difficult. Laziness and idleness are enemies of progress which ought ot be gotten rid of if African renaisssance is to take shape

According to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, in his analysis of the transcendental dialectics[29], human mind seeks complete knowledge, a coherent  understanding of the entire universe. Man' s experience however provides him with phenomena only, yet his mind informs him that there is an ultimate ontological reality, a real thing-in-itself (noumena). But the human mind is not equipped to sense ultimate reality, the thing-in-itself, because, man cannot transcend the bounds of his experience, hence he remains to be content with being agnostic in so far as the ultimate reality is concerned.

For Kant, the metaphysically real is beyond the reach of human knowledge, his system is one of metaphysical agnosticism. In effect Kant postulated three kinds of reality, thus the world of phenomena from which all our sense experience comes, the world we live in and perceive, the world of understanding in which we discern all our scientific knowledge and the laws of science and the ultimately real world which transcends all our ability to sense it, a supersen­sible world which must remain unknowable to the human mind.

The real world hence becomes the domain of the thinker such that  he reconstructs it the way he believes it be. Thus like Schopenhauer, the world is the representation, thus the image, or form of the thinker, the real world made by the pure reason of the thinker.

The mind realizes that, it has incomplete knowledge and cannot settle until it has the totality of the world at its grasp. Not satisfied with incomplete knowledge, the mind errs in its application of its categories as a means of achieving perfect knowledge of the entire universe.

In the African context, this is the spot where the mind having reached a sackgasse, dead end, has at hand loose ends (missing link) of a thought process that cries for connecting link in order to be seen as complete whole. Such missing links include, attributing them to imaginary gods, spirits, witchcraft and other unexplained forces within the universe which are explained through mythologies.

Eventually, man realizes the futility of this method, and he attempts to create ideas about the universe which transcend the bounds of experience and in this way to unify knowledge into an integrated coherent whole. This is the stage of transcendental dialectic. The ideas of reason spring from the very nature of reason itself, they are transcendent, in as much as they overleap the limits of all experience. 

The aim of pure reason is absolute totality of synthesis. These ideals of pure reason pos­sess regulative function. The ideal of the supreme being is nothing but a regulative principle of reason, telling us to view all connections in the world as if it has proceeded from an all sufficient necessary cause. It is impossible to arrive at the ultimate reality of the universal because phenomena are endless and the accumulation of phenomena is interminable, the task cannot be fully accomplished by reason, which must deal with insoluble problems and transcendental illusions accepted by reason as if they were settled truths.

In the African context, there is need hence to civilize, educate and tame the mind so that it can stick within its boundaries and not to be a harlot meandering in the world of illusions that have no relevance to enlightenment.

1.5 From Ontological Darkness towards Renaissance and Development

The concept of development ought to be understood in the integral context of spiritual, cultural, social, political religious and economical spheres of a human person, whereby a dynamic progression towards a better qualitative life in view of freedom and pursuit of happiness in the realization of one's goals in the temporal and sublime contexts.[30] Taking only a part of the whole as development is an abberation or slavery that cannot see the birth of the true liberating force of renaissance.

Renaissance hence is the coming to birth of  the ideas of (reason, wisdom) development in concrete human situations, whereby whatever comes to birth is viable and not fantoms of human imaginations that have no basis in reality. One is to avoid subjective analysis of the notion of development and renaissance because it is possible that, enslavement of the mind may distort the vision of the proper objective of the enlightened mind.

Our subject of concern is Africa. In view of the European thought, it is a continent that is greatly misunderstood, exploited, raped (neo-colonialism) and fit  only to be wished away from the world history and thereby ought to vanish into the oblivion of nothingness or darkness which it epitomizes in view of the structure of the so called informed European mind as represented by one of their modern and influential philosopher's called Hegel.

Since Hegel exposed his ignorance of Africa, his ignorance represents a sterio-type of a biased and extremely subjective Eurocentric thought process in matters to do with Cultures that are not European. Strange enough, the darkness in the mind structure of Hegel in his judgment of Africa represents a reflection of the ontological darkness in the very continent. This ontological darkness is what the continent ought to liberate itself from.

Acccording to Hegel, Africa stands as the epitome of darkness, lack of consciousness or sense of direction, idol worship, slavery and tyranny, cannibalism, superstitions, magical practices.[31]

In many African countries, the cultural diversity is seen as a liability instead of as an asset, the age old habit of tribal cattle raids against other tribes as an assault against development and eco/socio/political take off. The other anachronistic tendencies include beliefs in witchcraft and superstitious attitudes, in the society, there are people already liberated from such attitudes, but the majority are still fettered. Africa is a reach continent in terms of its good cultural values, this richness is reflected in the richness of the vast mineral resources found within; both are valuable resources in making Africa a superpower in cultural and technological development 

For centuries, the Continent provided the bulk of slaves for the economical or physical development of Europe and America. Having improved their economical status through slavery and African labor, the European Nations used their economic muscle to continue the enslavement of Africans in their home continents. When African Countries got independence through their liberation struggles, the Colonizers had tested the forbidden fruit and continued his slavery in form of neo-colonialism.

Having been brain washed by his so called master, the African has never come out of his hang-over of being a slave, whenever one attempts to liberate him from his fetters, he thinks that, the liberation is itself an enslavement. Africa, wake up from your slumber! Use your intelligence which is indeed your liberation!

1.6 Renaissance in Context: Towards the New Partnership for African Development (Nepad)

Nepad takes note of  the cycle of Africa's underdevelopment. There is a renewed determination among political leaders and civil society in Africa and the world to build a humane world of shared prosperity, tolerance and understanding. The momentam of this initiative is founded on the basis of the fact that, it is possible to trigger the revival or renaissance of poor nations in Africa based on mutual benefit. There is a resolve in the Continent to get rid of Africa's  Achilles heels (Dark Continent) and allow the dawn of renaissance to take place, Africa does not want to be seen as a perpetual begger but rather as a partner in development in cooperation with the rest of the world. A sign of dawn in African renaissance is already visible. In the past ten years most African States have held multiparty elections that were basically free and fair. 

The imminent formation of African Union to replace Organization of African Unity is a step in the right direction, not to mention the various trading blocks in Africa which hopefully will merge as one trading economic block for Africa. This socio-economic potential has given a lot of hope for Africa, a sign that all is not darkness and that light is visible at the end of the tunnel. Africa appeals for partnership in development from the highly industrialised economies of the world so as to propel Africa into rapid growth rate. This partnership will encourage improved economic management , democracy, human rights and good governance that will encourage political stability for Africa and the world and the enhancement of the quality of global relations. Such might be the outcome if the developed nations work with Africans in redefining assistance, fashioning a fairer trade regime and treating Africa as an investment destination.[32]

1.7 Conclusion

If African renaissance is to become a reality, there is need to acknowledge the many deficiencies that ought to be corrected and rectified The mental attitude which is a key to any kind of development or progress ought to be less subjective and emotive and  more objective in the search of truth. The movers of African renaissance may borrow a leaf from Popper when he says;

...standards of objective truth and criticism may teach him to try again and to think again, to challenge his own conclusions to apply the method of trial and error in every field and thus may teach him how to learn from his mistakes, and how to search for them may help him to discover how little he knows, and how much there is he does not know may help him to grow in knowledge, and also to realize that he is growing may help him to become aware of the fact that he owes his growth to other people's criticisms, and that reasonableness is readiness to listen to criticism this way may even help him to transcend his animal past, and with it that subjectivism and voluntarism in which romantic and irrationalist philosophies may try to hold him captive. This is the way our mind grows and transcends itself.[33]

Any traces of dogmaticism in matters concerning the claim of truth ought to be dismantled in favor of a subdued attitude that accepts criticism and reasonableness. The mythological past in view of anachronistic mannerism is to be transcended as the light of reason takes control. The destiny of Africa is in the hands of its people who are to be instruments of change and dynamism towards shared prosperity in the dawn of renaissance.



Cassiere, E., Substance and Function and Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Dover Publications, New York 1953
Coplestone, F., A History of Philosophy. Bk I&II Vol I-VII. Doubleday, New York 1985

Hegel, G.W.F. The Philosophy of History.  Dover Publications, New York 1956

Hegel, G.W.F. Phenomenology of Spirit. Oford University Press, Oxford 1977

Jowett, B.M.A., (Transl.) The Dialogues of Plato. Vol. II. Random House, New York 1937

Kant, I. Critique of Pure Reason. Translated by A.D. Lindsay. J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, London 1991

Kiruki, J.K. Insights Into African Philosophy. Gicama Publications, Kitale 1997

O'Hear, A. Karl Popper: The Arguments of the Philosophers. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1980

Olson, A.M. (edit), Myth Symbol and Reality. Vol. I. University of Notre Dame Press, Norte Dame 1980

Popper, K., Objective Knowledge. Clarendon Press, Oxford 1972

Popper, K. Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge. Routledge, London 1989

Popper, K. Unaided Quest: An Intellectual Autobiography. Routledge London 1993

Popper, K. The Open Society and its Enemies Vol. II. Princeton University Press, Princeton 1963

Popper, K., In Search of a Better World: Lectures and Essays from Thirty Years. Routledge, London 1992
Russel B., A History of Western Philosophy. Simon and Schuster, London 1972


Daily Nation. No. 13065,  Nairobi 26/06/2002

Moi University,
P.O. Box 3900,
Eldoret, Kenya.

e-mail: jkkiruki@africaonline.co.ke


[1] Popper, K. Objective Knowledge. P.23-24

[2] Popper, K. Conjectures and Refutations. P. 46

[3] Cf Ibid., p. 5

[4] Ibid., P. 50

[5] Cf. Ibid., P. 51

[6] Ibid.,P. 37

[7] Popper, K. Conjectures and Refutations.  pp. 37-38

[8] Cf. Ibid., p. 374

[9] Cf. Ibid, p. 375

[10] Copleston., pp. 16-17

[11]Cf. Olson,A.M. (edit), Myth Symbol and Reality. Vol. I.  p.64

[12] Russel., p. 10

[13] Cf. Ibid., p. 16

[14] Cf. Ibid.pp. 16-17

[15] Cf. Ibid., pp. 535-540: Newton (1642-1727) defined force as the cause of change, thus of acceleration; he was thus able to explain his law of gravitation:

"Every body attracts every other with a force directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them"

From this formula everything in planetary theory could be deduced, thus the motion of the planets and their satellites, the orbits of comets, the tides and so on, there was no need of a mythical god could to cause about the motion. Force in Newton is the cause of change of motion, whether in magnitude or direction Force is conceived imaginatively as the sort of thing that we experience when we push or pull. Observation shows that planets have at all times an acceleration towards the sun, which varies inversely as the square of their distance from it. To say that this is due to the force of gravitation is merely verbal. The modern physicist, merely states formulae which determine accelerations and avoids the word force altogether. Force was the faint ghost of the vitalist view as to the causes of motions, and gradually the ghost has been exorcized.

[16]  Cf. Ibid., p. 11 All over the world, at a certain stage of religious evolution, sacred animals and human beings were ceremonially killed and eaten. Fate exercised a great influence on all Greek thought, and perhaps was one of the sources from which science derived the belief in natural law.

[17] Russel, p. 502`

[18] Cf. Russel., pp. 3ff

[19] The arrogant dogmatism is a product of pessimistic epistemology as a tool of subjugation of the masses in order to keep ruling a people against their wishes; a wrong assumption that, the ordinary person cannot think for himself in a constructive way.

[20] Plato, Philebus, 28

[21] Hegel, Phenomenology of the Spirit C (BB), VI 438ff

[22] John 1:1ff In the beginning was the Word, the Word was in God...no one thing came had its being but through him...a light that darkness could not overcome..the word was made flesh.

[23] Cf. Plato., Parmenides

[24]Cf. Genesis1: 28: man was commanded...Go and sub­due the earth, here, the power to develop  and make use of the world for the benefit of man is alluded

[25] Popper, K. Conjectures and Refutations. P. 373

[26] Ibid., p. 376

[27] Cf. Popper, K., In Search of a Better world: lectures and Essays from thirty years. P. 137

[28]Ibid., p. 138  See also Popper, K. Conjectures and Refutations. pp. 176 ff

[29] Kant, I. Critique of Pure Reason. Pp. 217ff

[30] Cf. Kiruki, J.K. Insight Into African Philosophy. Pp. 56ff

[31] Cf. Hegel. G.W.F. The Philosophy of History. Pp. 91ff

[32] Cf. Mbeki, T. Nepad a Turning Point for the Continent: New realism. Daily Nation. No. 13065 26/06/2002

[33] Popper, K. Conjectures and Refutations.  p. 384

Father Joseph Kahiga
Rafe Champion's Rathouse more on Popper & other philosophers
The Relevance of Karl Popper's Philosophy in African Renaissance
continued...                                                                                                    Joseph Kahiga
the Rathouse