Is Elijah Masinde a Sage-Philosopher? The Dispute between H. Odera Oruka and Chaungo Barasa

In Kai Kresse & Anke Graness (eds.), Sagacious Reasoning: Henry Odera Oruka in Memoriam. Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Peter Lang Verlag. pp. 195-209 (1997)
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A constant question that arises when study in H. Odera Oruka's sage philosophy project is, who is a sage? What attributes are necessary? While Oruka tried to provide criteria for categorization of folk and philosophical sages, some critics note that the criteria is not clear, or not clearly applied. This paper focuses on Elijah Masinde, a Kenyan prophet who agitated against British colonialism in Kenya. The question of whether or not Masinde was a sage was debated by H. Odera Oruka and Chaungo Barasa in Oruka's book on sage philosophy. I will suggest that Masinde more closely mirrors the philosophical ideologue as in the Socrates of Plato's Republic who criticizes the present regime by constructing a radically different ideal society. Also, Masinde is an orator and a "gadfly" of sorts, as Socrates is portrayed in the Apology. Masinde is not, however, the empty-handed questioner who claims to have no position. Masinde most often speaks as a prophet who has received a revelation. So, his philosophy must be inferred from these public statements.
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