Expressions of traditional wisdom: what Africa can teach the world today

Wisdom is initially defined as creative practical knowledge that allows one to negotiate the contradictions of human life, thus accepting that human life is social and finite. This article begins by noting the resilience of wisdom as a topic in modern thought and science and then deals with the dilemma of expression of wisdom: while scholarship thrives on specialist explicit language use, wisdom is often secret and risks being destroyed by expression and translation. The next section offsets expressions of traditional wisdom against modes of ‘tacit modern unwisdom’ in such fields as corporality, conflict regulation, the concept of mind, and myth. These four modes of tacit wisdom are then contrasted with African perspectives, where the human body is the recognized focus of wisdom, conflict management stresses practical wisdom over impersonal and divisive rules, the human mind is considered to be porous hence accessible through extrasensory means, and where, in the deep history of Anatomically Modern Humans, up to 60,000 years ago the foundations were laid for all the myths we live by today. Bibliogr., notes, ref. sum. [Journal abstract]

Title:Expressions of traditional wisdom: what Africa can teach the world today
Author: Binsbergen, Wim van
Year:2009
Periodical: Bulletin des sances = Mededelingen der zittingen (ISSN 0001-4176)
Volume:55
Issue:3
Pages:281-305
Language:English
Geographic term:Africa
Abstract:Wisdom is initially defined as creative practical knowledge that allows one to negotiate the contradictions of human life, thus accepting that human life is social and finite. This article begins by noting the resilience of wisdom as a topic in modern thought and science and then deals with the dilemma of expression of wisdom: while scholarship thrives on specialist explicit language use, wisdom is often secret and risks being destroyed by expression and translation. The next section offsets expressions of traditional wisdom against modes of ‘tacit modern unwisdom’ in such fields as corporality, conflict regulation, the concept of mind, and myth. These four modes of tacit wisdom are then contrasted with African perspectives, where the human body is the recognized focus of wisdom, conflict management stresses practical wisdom over impersonal and divisive rules, the human mind is considered to be porous hence accessible through extrasensory means, and where, in the deep history of Anatomically Modern Humans, up to 60,000 years ago the foundations were laid for all the myths we live by today. Bibliogr., notes, ref. sum. [Journal abstract]