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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Anton Wilhelm Amo, Ghana’s greatest philosophical genius 1 | Modern Ghana

"Our honored Professor Hollman, while he was still in Wittenberg, conferred the degree of Doctor of Philosophy on a Negro [Anton Wilhelm Amo] who proved his great talent both in his writings and in his lectures, and who later came to Berlin as counselor to the King." according to Columnist: Francis Kwarteng.

Anton Wilhelm Amo Statue at the
University of Halle, Germany

I have two of his treatises before me, of which one especially contains much unexpected and well-digested reading in the best physiological works of that time” (Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, the Father of Physical Anthropology; see the latter’s “Observations on the Bodily Conformation and Mental Capacity of the Negroes,” Philosophical Magazine 3 (1799): 141-146; see also Andrej Krause’ “Anton Wilhelm Amo’s Ontology,” Philosophia Africana, Vol. 12, Issue 2, Fall 2009, p. 141-157).

Firstly, let us make it clear that it was through Kwame Nkrumah’s influence and efforts in the 1960s that compelled the Germans to begin to recognize Anton Wilhelm Amo, the Gold Coast’s/Ghana’s pre-eminent philosopher and polymath, and his intellectual achievements. Put simply, we owe the revived memory of Amo due to Nkrumah’s personal interventions, influence, efforts and vision. Of course both were Nzemas, two of Ghana’s and Africa’s foremost philosophers. Nkrumah, just like William E. Abraham, wanted the man and his achievements celebrated.

Secondly, Kwame Anthony Appiah delivered this year’s Reith Lectures, part of it in Europe and one in particular in Accra, Ghana. Ex-President John Kufour and poet Atukwei Okai, one of Ghana’s and Africa’s greatest poets, attended the presentation.

The title for Appiah’s presentation is “Mistaken Identities: Creed, Country, Color, Culture,” a talk centered on Anton Wilhelm Amo (1703-1759), his person, academic training, professorship, academic writings, importance in and to Enlightenment thinking, and the like.

Last but certainly not the least, a Ghanaweb commentator,, drew our attention to this year’s Reith Lectures featuring Appiah (what we present here in a two-part series is an excerpt from the lecture series, four parts). In this learned and informed presentation, Appiah mentions a racist satirical play directed at Amo (but he did not mention racist satirical poems about Amo. The German jurist and professor at University of Halle Johann Ernst Philippi authored those poems; Amo also spoke English though Appiah also failed to mention this).

Finally, Amo was elected to the prestigious Dutch Academy of Flushing and other learned societies and his works covered all the important questions of the 18th century from epistemology, psychology of knowledge, political philosophy, ethics and ontology, philosophy of language, and hermeneutics to logic. In sum, he contributed significantly to “the findings of German and European Enlightenment.” As well, Gottfried Achenwall of Elbing, Amo’s friend and originator of statistics in Germany and one of the inventors of statistics, put together an album containing “personal memorials of eminent men of science and learning” including his [Amo’s] (May 5, 1740). 

Additional resources
“Anton Wilhelm Amo's most devoted researcher and biographer, the East German scholar Burchard Brentjes, writes in his generally excellent 1977 study, “Anton Wilhelm Amo: Der Schwarze Philosoph in Halle,” that were it not for the peculiarities of Amo's life and identity, there would be little reason to study his work… 
Anton Wilhelm Amo, Ghana’s Greatest Philosophical Genius 2 - By Columnist: Francis Kwarteng. 

Source: Modern Ghana