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The Philosophical Foundation of Kom Proverbs

Mbih Jerome Tosam


In this paper I argue that proverbs are one of the main sources of philosophy in all cultures. A people’s philosophy is intimately linked to their language. Language, the carrier of thought and culture, helps to transmit the values and ideals of all cultural orientations. Proverbs which are an important component of language use are the depository of the thought, knowledge and wisdom of a people. In this light, a careful examination of the proverbs of any society may expose important insights into some core areas of philosophy like metaphysics, ethics, logic and epistemology. I attempt to illustrate that proverbs are at the foundation of African traditional philosophy by examining the proverbs of the Kom people of the North West Region of Cameroon. The aim is also to show that all cultures, written or oral, have always been concerned with philosophical problems. Moreover, the contemporary approach to development in Africa is driven by Euro-American approaches which do not take African indigenous knowledge and values into account. There may never be any genuine development in Africa, if these indigenous forms of knowledge are not taken seriously. Hence, as we search for ways to take Africa out of underdevelopment, it will be useful that while borrowing some positive aspects of Western culture, we also critically appraise indigenous forms of knowledge, values and practices which have shaped and influenced the lives of the people for many centuries. There are elements of Kom proverbial wisdom which may instruct us in many areas especially in this era of globalization with its increasingly diverse and unfamiliar problems; problems some of which mainstream North Atlantic philosophy has proven deficient in proffering solutions.


Kom; Proverbs; African Philosophy; Language; Thought; Culture; Indigenous Knowledge

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Journal on African Philosophy. ISSN: 1533-1067 (online).
Editor: Olufemi Taiwo.

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