Amo: African Contributor To European Enlightenment

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What can be brought forward hitherto is that Amo wrote about the "Thing in itself". However, Kant, who came later after Amo, and was born in 1724, is nowadays credited with having coined and evolved the concept of the "Thing it itself", which he termed noumenon.

[Notes From The Archives]

He was a prodigy of learning.

He demonstrated in the 18th century in Europe that brilliancy does not depend on skin color. That Black scholar from Ghana was born around 1700 in the region of the Gulf of Guinea. He was shipped to Europe as a slave boy. He worked in Germany as a lackey.

His masters afforded him the opportunity to attend schools and universities. He attended the German universities of Halle, Wittenberg and Jena. He became famous. He then lectured at the universities of Halle and Jena.

When his backers departed this life, his opponents started pulling him through the mill. He eventually sailed back to his native region of the Gulf of Guinea, precisely to Ghana in Africa. And his memory and works were wittingly consigned to oblivion so that nobody would remember his brilliancy and his contribution to the Age of Enlightenment in Europe.

His name is Anto Wilhelm Amo Afer, but he signed himself "Anton Wilhelm Amo, of Guinea in Africa, master and lecturer of philosophy and the liberal arts". Guinea here means the region of the Gulf of Guinea. This intellectual Black Star was fluent in German, Latin, Greek, Dutch and French. He read Philosophy, Law at the University of Halle, and Physiology, Psychology and Medicine at the University of Wittenberg.

His magnum opus – his main work – is: "Treatise on the art of philosophizing soberly and accurately." Although his works had been ignored for more than 200 years, they were translated and released, allegedly at the prompting of former African leader Kwame Nkrumah, by the University of Halle – Wittenberg.

Though philosophers and twelfth-graders in some African countries hear about him, they´re not really conversant with his thought, and don´t know exactly which contribution he made to the Age of Enlightenment in Europe. They mostly know him as someone who grappled with the topics other philosophers of that age broached and labored on. Moreover, some students and scholars are aware of the fact that Amo wrote about the rights of Black people in Europe.

But this situation is changing as some black scholars in Europe have started to systematically analyze his works. Even your faithful columnist is submitting the main work of Amo, his "Treatise on the art of philosophizing soberly and accurately", to "philosophical discourse analysis" – not to "media discourse analysis.

What can be brought forward hitherto is that Amo wrote about the "Thing in itself". However, Kant, who came later after Amo, and was born in 1724, is nowadays credited with having coined and evolved the concept of the "Thing it itself", which he termed noumenon. The "Thing it itself" refers to the thing as it is beyond and beneath its appearance.

Kant even borrowed the concept of "impartial spectator" from Adam Smith´s "The Theory of Moral Sentiments" to coin and to evolve his concept of "Categorical Imperative".

In addition, Amo discussed "hermeneutics" as the art of interpretation and of translation. But most scholars world-wide never refer to Amo when they write their books on and about "hermeneutics". They would certainly mention Schleiermacher, who came after Amo.

The man from the Gulf of Guinea region thought that a human constructs his world-view and his cluster of values out of his interaction with his environment: that is the idea that underpins cognitivism, constructivism and socio-constructivism Jean William Fritz Piaget is credited with in pedagogy and in educational psychology; Piaget died last century.

Amo is oftentimes pigeonholed as a thinker who belonged to the "School of Thought" of Christian Wolff. Wolff continued during the Age of Enlightenment the tradition of scholasticism, the philosophy of the Middle Ages which attempted to reconcile the truth proceeding from reason with that springing from religious faith. These pursuits were conducted by Schoolmen – theologians who delved into philosophy -- in the then medieval schools, which are regarded as the first universities.

The hotchpotch of contemporary philosophical trajectories is in part due to the fact that scholasticism and classical philosophy are no longer parts of mainstream philosophical pursuits and practices today.

But the life of Amo and his works were always hidden, buried, burked and downplayed so that nobody might be aware of the fact that he made significant contributions to the Age of Enlightenment, and that skin color has nothing to do with "Intelligence Quotient" and with brilliancy.

Any brilliant Black who repudiates, through his personality, his potential, his talents, his gifts and his performances the surmise of Darwin, the ranking of human beings according to their skin color, always incurs the asperity and the victimization of racists, who hate equality between and among humans.

It´s noteworthy that the German scientist Ernst Haeckel assigned Black people a rung just above that of apes; that´s why Hitler and many racists across the globe address Black people as "half apes".

Brilliant Black scholars, who queried the supremacy of Europeans, and fight for equality, were often ostracized. Their writings are more often than not boycotted and their ideas at times stolen. At the same time, Black duffers and walkers-on are regularly roped in so that they may fit in with and confirm the fiction of Haeckel on human beings and races.

The great scholar and scientist Cheikh Anta Diop experienced ostracism in France. Anton Wilhelm Amo went through the same raw deal in Germany after the death of his German backers.

The election of Barack Hussein Obama to the "White House" by the American people has just confuted once for all that "tactical" footwork and that "strategical" codswallop.

So if one comes across some wistful racists, one ought to commiserate with them on their insanity and immediately refer them to good psychiatrists. This would also give those professional mind shrinks the opportunity to earn their livelihood by showing their mettle.


Black Star News columnist Mathias Victorien Ntep is a PhD candidate at the Goethe-University of Frankfurt/Main, Germany.

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