Paulin J. Hountondji on Philosophy, Science, and Technology: From Husserl and Althusser to a Synthesis of the Hessen-Grossmann Thesis and Dependency Theory

In Grant Farred (ed.), Africana Studies: Theoretical Futures. Temple University Press. pp. 34 - 64 (2022)
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To explain Paulin J. Hountondji’s intellectual trajectory, I offer a critical account of his conception of the relationship between science and philosophy. Mapping the shift from his well-known critical writings on ethnophilosophy to his later work on scientific dependency is possible only if we recognize that Hountondji conceives of philosophy as essentially a theory of science (Wissenschaftslehre). Adequately characterizing Hountondji’s metaphilosophical orientation, however, requires greater specificity. The two most influential philosophers on Hountondji’s conception of the relationship between science and philosophy, Edmund Husserl and Louis Althusser, would both have assented to the claim that philosophy is fundamentally a Wissenschaftslehre. However, they each adhered to different (and indeed contradictory) understandings of this claim. While Hountondji explicitly recognizes the dual influence of Husserl and Althusser on his conception of philosophy as a theory of science, he does not attempt to resolve the contradictions between Husserl’s understanding of the relationship between philosophy and science and Althusser’s conception of that relationship. By examining Hountondji’s relatively neglected later writings on scientific dependency, it becomes clear that his emphasis on the significance of the history and sociology of science points toward an Althusserian conception of philosophy qua theory of science rather than a Husserlian conception of what it is for philosophy to be a Wissenschaftslehre.

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Zeyad El Nabolsy
York University


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