Living (with) Art: The African Aesthetic Worldview as an Inspiration for the Western Philosophy of Art

  • Heinz Kimmerle
Part of the Einstein Meets Margritte: An Interdisciplinary Reflection on Science, Nature, Art, Human Action and Society book series (EMMA, volume 9)

In the thought of the African peoples south of the Sahara, art is not something that can be dealt with as a separately existing subject. In the daily life of these peoples, art is not an autonomous area of its own, but it permeates all areas of life and more specifically, moral behavior. This is due to the fact that in these societies, as far as they stick to their traditional way of life, a separation of art from other areas of life has not — or as Jürgen Habermas would put it: not yet — taken place.2 The conception of Habermas is more adequate to the traditional way of life in those societies than the earlier position of cultural anthropologists, but also his conception cannot do right to this specific way of life. In a confrontation of mythical and modern conceptions of the world, Habermas tries to overcome what he calls the former discussion (between L. Lévy-Bruhl and E.E. Evans Pritchard and others) in which for the mythical understanding of the world in general more simple, primitive concepts were presupposed. Habermas differentiates within the mythical understanding an objective, socially cultural, and subjective relation to the world. However, he maintains the evolutionist basic idea of the former discussion. According to Habermas' opinion, the rationalization of the conception of the world (Weltbildratio-nalisierung) in the sense of Max Weber leads to progresses in differentiation between things and persons and within the latter sphere between the socially cultural and the individual area. Through these progresses, the animistic and mythical conception of the world, which was not able to make these differentiations, has been overcome.


Individual Person Moral Education Moral Action Western Philosophy Cultural Life 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes and References

  1. 1.
    This article is based on earlier texts in German: Ästhetik und Moral in der afrikanischen und in der westlichen Philosophie, in: H. Kimmerle, Die Dimension des Interkulturellen, Amsterdam: Rodopi 1994, pp. 169–186 and in Dutch: Esthetiek en moraal in de Afrikaanse en in de westerse filosofie, in: same author, Mazungumzo. Dialogen tussen Afrikaanse en Westerse filosofieën, Amsterdam: Boom 1995, pp. 134–149. Especially the last part has been rewritten to a large extentGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. Habermas, Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1981, Part 1, Chapter 2: Einige Merkmale des mythischen und des modernen Weltverständnisses, pp. 72–113Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    K.C. Anyanwu, The idea of art in African thought, in: ed. G. Floistad, Contemporary Philosophy, vol. 5: African Philosophy, Dordrecht: Nijhoff 1987, pp. 235–260, see especially p. 246 and p. 249Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    P.J. Tempels, La philosophie Bantoue, Paris: Présence Africaine 19612, p. 30–32Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Anyanwu, loc. cit., p. 248Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Op. cit., pp. 250–251Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Op. cit., p. 253Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Op. cit., pp. 255–257 and 259Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    C.A. Ackah, Akan Ethics, Accra: Ghana Universities Press 1988, pp. 25–27Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    J.B. Danquah, The Akan Doctrine of God, London: Cass 19862, see especially Chapter 3: Ethical canons of the doctrine, pp. 78–103; cf. Ackah, op. cit., pp. 8–19Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Danquah, loc. cit., p. 84 (The remark within brackets in the quotation is mine, HK)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    G.E. Lessing, Die Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts, in: Lessing, Auswahl in drei Bänden, Leipzig: VEB Bibiliographisches Institut 1952, vol. III, pp. 465–484Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    K. Gyekye, An Essay on African Philosophical Thought. The Akan Conceptual Scheme, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1987, pp. 127–146Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Ch. Achebe, Things Fall Apart, London: Heinemann 1958Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ackah, loc. cit., p. 62 (Italicized words in the quotation are mine, HK)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    I. Kant, We r k e, Akademie Textausgabe, Berlin: De Gruyter 1968, vol. VII, pp. 117–334, see especially pp. 285–295Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    G. Böhme, Anthropologie in pragmatischer Hinsicht. Darmstädter Vorlesungen, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1985, pp. 113–138Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    M. Scheler, Die Stellung des Menschen im Kosmos, Frankfurt: Klostermann 1927; N. Hartmann, Ethik, Berlin: De Gruyter 1925; and Das Problem des Geistigen Seins, Berlin: De Gruyter 1933Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    F.D.E. Schleiermacher, Kritische Gesamtausgabe, sect. I, vol. 2: Schriften aus der Berliner Zeit. 1796–1799, ed. G. Meckenstock, Berlin: De Gruyter 1984, pp. 185–326, see especially p. 264Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Schleiermacher, Kritische Gesamtausgabe, sect. I, vol. 3: Schriften aus der Berliner Zeit. 1800–1802, ed. G. Meckenstock, Berlin: De Gruyter 1988, pp. 1–61, see especially pp. 19–21Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Op. cit., p. 37; cf. H. Patsch, Alle Menschen sind Künstler. Friedrich Schleiermachers poetische Versuche, Berlin: De Gruyter 1986 (Schleiermacher-Archiv, vol. 2)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Schleiermacher, Brouillon zur Ethik (1805–1806), ed. H.-J. Birkner, Hamburg: Meiner 1981, pp. 105–113Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Schleiermacher, Ästhetik (1819–1825). Über den Begriff der Kunst (1831–1832), ed. Th. Lehnerer, Hamburg: Meiner 1984Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Gyekye, Tradition and Modernity. Philosophical Reflections on the African Experience, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1997, pp. 205–215: The Concept of Moral Revolution; J. Kudadjie, Moral Renewal in Ghana. Ideals, Realities and Possibilities, Accra: Asempa 1995Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    H. Marcuse, Der einimensionale Mensch. Studien zur Ideologie der fortgeschrittenen Indust-riegesellschaft, Neuwied: Luchterhand 1967, pp. 11–20Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    G. Gamm, G.Kimmerle (eds.), Ethik und Ästhetik. Nachmetapysische Perspektiven, Tübingen: edition diskord 1990Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Hegel, Ästhetik, ed. F. Bassenge, Berlin: verlag das europäische buch 1985, vol. I, pp. 498–509Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Marcuse, Versuch über die Befreiung, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1969, pp. 43–76: Die neue SensibilitätGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Böhme, Aisthetik. Vorlesungen über Ästhetik als allgemeine Wahrnehmungslehre, München: Wilhelm Fink 2001, p. 8Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    K.A. Appiah, Cosmopolitanism. Ethics in a World of Strangers, New York: W.W. Norton 2006, pp.124–130: Living with Art, for the quotations see p. 127Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heinz Kimmerle

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations