Paulin J. Hountondji (1942-2024)

Paulin Jidenu Hountondji, an influential African philosopher, died earlier this month.

Paulin Hountondji was known for his work in African philosophy, and especially on the topic of what African philosophy is and should be.

He rejected a conception of African philosophy as inward-facing ethnophilosophy as well as the romanticization of folk widsom,  and emphasized the importance of universalism, logic, and argument. Souleymane Bachir Diagne (Columbia) puts his view this way:

A people do not philosophise. Philosophical reflection is the business of a subject who takes responsibility for the assertions he or she makes and the arguments used to defend them.

He is the author of, among other works, African Philosophy: Myth and Reality and The Struggle for Meaning: Reflections on Philosophy, Culture and Democracy in Africa. You can learn more about Hountondji’s work here.

Hountondji was the director of the African Centre for Advanced Studies in Porto-Novo, Benin. He had long been a professor of philosophy at the Université Nationale du Bénin in Cotonou, and also had held appointments in France, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the United States (at the University of Louisville). He earned his doctorate at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris.

In addition to his academic work, Hountondji served as Minister of Education and Minister for Culture and Communications in the Government of Benin in the early 1990s.

He died on February 2nd, 2024.

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