African Philosophy & the Enlightenment | Philosophy Tube | Summary and Q&A

February 23, 2018
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African Philosophy & the Enlightenment | Philosophy Tube


Zera Yacob, an Ethiopian philosopher, predates many European Enlightenment thinkers with his ideas on religion, morality, and equality.

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Key Insights

  • 💡 Zera Yacob predated European Enlightenment thinkers in his ideas on miracles, the role of God in morality, and the critique of slavery and racial hierarchy.
  • ❓ Yacob's faith-oriented approach to philosophy challenges traditional Christian beliefs and emphasizes skepticism and rational inquiry.
  • ❓ The erasure and misattribution of philosophers of color, like Yacob, highlight the biases in philosophy curricula.


I'm really excited about today's episode. Because not only is this a first for PhilosophyTube and me, it's also I think a first for Anglophone YouTube. We're going to be learning about a philosopher called Zera Yacob, who came up with a lot of the ideas that we attribute to the European Enlightenment, way before anybody else. So, let's get cracking... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Who was Zera Yacob and what were his major ideas?

Zera Yacob was an Ethiopian philosopher who wrote the Hatata in 1667. His major ideas include arguments for the existence of Heaven and an afterlife, the problem of evil, and deriving ethics from natural desires.

Q: How does Yacob's approach to religion differ from traditional Christianity?

Yacob describes himself as not fully Christian, although he is religious. He critiques the blind acceptance of beliefs and emphasizes the importance of skepticism and rational inquiry.

Q: How does Yacob challenge the European Enlightenment philosophers?

Yacob predates European Enlightenment thinkers like Hume, Kant, and Locke in ideas such as critically examining miracle stories, the role of God and the afterlife in morality, and arguing against slavery and racial hierarchy.

Q: Why is Zera Yacob not widely known or credited for his ideas?

The lack of access to his works in English, historical biases, and the predominantly white philosophy curricula have contributed to the erasure of Yacob and other philosophers of color.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Zera Yacob, a philosopher from the Kingdom of Aksum (now Ethiopia), wrote the Hatata in 1667, which combines philosophy with autobiography.

  • Yacob argues for the existence of Heaven, an afterlife, and tackles the problem of evil from a faith-oriented perspective.

  • He derives his ethical beliefs from the natural desires and inclinations that God created in humans, arguing against slavery and racial hierarchy.

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