The Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa (MIASA) at the University of Ghana, in collaboration with the Department of Philosophy and Classics and the Institute of African Studies, has organized the maiden edition of the Anton Wilhelm Amo Lecture and Symposium.
The Lecture is aimed at celebrating the life, work, and legacy of Anton Wilhelm Amo, a renowned 18th century Ghanaian Philosopher who became the first African-born university lecturer in Europe at the universities of Halle and Jena (now Germany).
The two-day commemorative Lecture and Symposium held from December 7 to 8, was organised with the support of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research as well as the German Embassy in Accra.
Ahead of the maiden lecture, there was the unveiling of a renewed Anton Wilhelm Amo commemorative plaque at the Department of Philosophy and Classics.
Vice-Chancellor, University of Ghana, Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, and the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Ghana, Daniel Krull, unveiled the plague and also presided over the first lecture held at the great hall of the University of Ghana, Legon.
In her brief remarks ahead of the main lecture, Vice-Chancellor Professor Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, noted that the institutionalisation of an annual lecture to honour the life and memory of the Ghanaian Philosopher is historic.
She added that the annual lecture will serve as a catalyst to showcase the example and achievements of Anton Wilhelm Amo, to motivate future Philosophers in their work and studies.
The maiden Anton Wilhelm Amo Lecture was delivered by Professor of Philosophy, of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University and past President of the Nigerian Philosophical Association (NPA). Professor Fr. Obi Oguejiofor.
Professor Fr. Obi Oguejiofor is also a member of the Catholic Theological Association of Nigeria (CATHAN), the International Society for African Philosophy and Studies (ISAPS) as well as a research fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Volkswagen Foundation.
His Lecture themed “The Significance of Anton Wilhelm Amo in Contemporary African Philosophy” discussed Amo’s life and intellectual legacy on contemporary issues such as race, migration, and the philosophy of mind.
“50 years after he (Amo) was brought to Africa’s philosophical terrain, he (Amo) is yet to be widely received in most departments of Philosophy in Africa. It shows that one is a generation hero and does not solve the problem of exclusion or of inhumanity” Professor Oguejiofor said during the lecture.
Anton Wilhelm Amo
Anton Wilhelm Amo is an exceptionally fascinating and important figure in history and philosophy both for his philosophical works and for his life, and the changes he lived through, including during the changing views of Africa and Africans in Germany during his lifetime.
He was the first African known to has studied in a university in Europe: A Ghanaian emancipated former slave who studied philosophy and law at the University of Halle, was fluent in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Dutch, and German, and taught at the Halle and Jena (where he moved as faculty in 1739) and returned to Ghana in approx. 1750.
He wrote at least three significant works of philosophy, engaging with issues including the mind-body problem and the immorality of slavery. That a black African received degrees and became faculty in Germany in the mid 1700's is not widely known, and Amo's work has of course suffered enormous neglect.
In 1734 Amo was granted the title of philosophioae ac liberalium artium Magister and awarded the status Magister legens for a dissertation on De humanae mentis apatheia" (On the Impassivity of the Human Mind).
This text represents an original contribution to the debate concerning the mind-body problem, for he denies the possibility that the human soul can have sensations or even has the ability to sense on account of the soul's immateriality.
In his text "Treatise on the Art of Soberly and Accurately Philosophizing" (1738), Amo unfolds his doctrine, which is based on the one hand, on Aristotelian syllogistic logic, and on the Stoic principle of humility. on the other.
In this document, Amo is critical of sophistic-type knowledge and excessive activity (in the sense of bustling activity), and makes an appeal to our humanity.
Amo's philosophical ideas especially his critique of Descartes solution to the mind-body problem has been hailed by African nationalists and philosophers who consistently referred to Amo as the 'eighteenth-century African philosopher.
In his Consciencism, Kwame Nkrumah writes that "Descartes was assailed by the critical acumen of the Ghanaian philosopher Anthony William Amo".
Kwasi Wiredu (2004) surmises that Amo's rejection of Cartesian dualism and his concept of the mind might have been influenced by the Akan culture he absorbed in his early life.
Wiredu, therefore asks, "May it not be that some recess of Amo's consciousness was impregnated by the concept of mind implicit in the language and thought of the Akans?"
The Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa (MIASA) was created in 2018 at College of Humanities of the University of Ghana (UG).
It collaborates with four German partners: The University of Freiburg, Coethe University Frankfurt, the German Institute for Global and Area Studies, and the German Historical Institute Paris.
MIASA has two directors, one from UG and one from the German partners. Both UG and its partners are represented in MIASAS Executive Council.
The institute is part of the Maria Sibylla Merian initiative in the Social Sciences and Humanities, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF).
It is one of five Merian institutes around the world. MIASA is a member of the UBIAS network (University-based Institutes for Advanced Studies)
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