Philosophy before philosophy. The Dogon cosmology reconsidered

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Oesterdiekhoff G.W.
Weiß J.
Papcke S.


Historians of science have applied Piagetian stage theory to the history of sciences and philosophy. It was found that central parts of ancient metaphysics such as animism and magic have to be accounted to certain stages well-known in developmental psychology. Greater parts of ancient physics or of Plato´s theory of ideas could be successfully illuminated by the same tool. Accordingly, the historical emergence of the formal operational stage gave birth both to the rise of the early modern philosophy and of the new physical sciences. Piagetian theory is also helpful to describe the very beginnings of philosophy, especially the transformation from mythical to philosophical reasoning. Piaget himself saw the concrete operational stage as the start of philosophy, namely as beginning of the Ionian philosophy. However, there is a stage of philosophy between the myth and the Ionian philosophy. This archaic philosophy shares main patterns both of the myth and of early philosophy; it is the philosophy of illiterate seekers. The Dogon cosmology, documented by Griaule and Dieterlen, represents this kind of archaic philosophy, which was once probably prevailing throughout the world. The French research group did not find the key to this form of philosophy, according to their own frank confession. It will be shown here that it is possible both to explain this kind of philosophy and to earmark their historical role in the history of mind and philosophy.

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How to Cite
Oesterdiekhoff , G., Weiß, J., & Papcke, S. (2021). Philosophy before philosophy. The Dogon cosmology reconsidered. International Journal of Anthropology, 36(1-2), 13-29.
Author Biographies

Oesterdiekhoff G.W., Karlsruhe Institute for Technology

Department of Sociology
Karlsruhe Institute for Technology
Karlsruhe, Germany.

Weiß J., University of Kassel - Department of sociology

Weiß J.
University of Kassel
Department of sociology
Kassel, Germany