Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Education and career
Wiredu was born in Kumasai , Ghana in 1931, and began his education at the Adisadel Secondary School from 1948 to 1952. It was during this period that he discovered philosophy, through Plato (which weaned him from his interest in Practical Psychology) and Bertrand Russell, and he gained a place at the University of Ghana, Legon . After graduating in 1958, he went to University College, Oxford to read for the B.Phil..
At Oxford Wiredu was taught by Gilbert Ryle (his thesis supervisor), Peter Strawson (his College tutor), and Stuart Hampshire (his special tutor), and wrote a thesis on 'Knowledge, Truth, and Reason'. Upon graduating in 1960 he was appointed to a teaching post at the University College of North Staffordshire (now the University of Keele), where he stayed for a year. He then returned to Ghana, where he accepted a post teaching philosophy for his old university. He remained at the University of Ghana for twenty-three years, during which time he became first Head of Department and then Professor.
He has held a number of visiting professorships:
- U.C.L.A. (1979–1980)
- University of Ibadan , Nigeria (1984)
- University of Richmond, Virginia (1985)
- Carleton College, Minnesota (1986)
- Duke University, North Carolina (1994–95; 1999–2001)
He was a member of the Committee of Directors of the International Federation of Philosophical Societies from 1983 to 1998. He has also been a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (1985) and the National Humanities Center , North Carolina (1986).
He is Vice-President of the Inter-African Council for Philosophy, and has been Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Florida since 1987.
Wiredu opposes the ethnophilosophy and philosophical sagacity approaches to African philosophy, arguing that all cultures have their distinctive folk-beliefs and world-views, but that these must be distinguished from the practice of philosophising. It's not that 'folk philosophy' can't play a part in genuine philosophy; on the contrary, he has acknowledged his own debt to his own (Akan) culture's history of thought. Rather, he argues that genuine philosophy demands the application to such thought of critical analysis and rigorous argument. From this it will be clear that his own work is in the professional philosophy (and the Anglo-American) mould.
His influences include, apart from his tutors at Oxford, David Hume, and Immanuel Kant, and the pragmatist John Dewey, and the epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical resources of the Akan culture. The result is philosophy that is at once universally relevant and essentially African.
His main works
- Philosophy and an African Culture (1980: Cambridge, Cambridge University Press) ISBN 0521227941
(this won him the 1982 Ghana National Book Award)
- Cultural Universals and Particulars: An African Perspective (1996: Bloomington, Indiana University Press) ISBN 0253210801
- Person and Community: Ghanaian Philosophical Studies [edd] Wiredu & Kwame Gyekye (1992: New York, Council for Research in Values and Philosophy) ISBN 1565180046
- A Companion to African Philosophy (2003: Oxford, Blackwell) ISBN 0631207511
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