Sophie Oluwole welcomes me warmly when we meet at the reception of the Lloyd Hotel. It’s almost like I’m visiting her, instead of her visiting Amsterdam. She’s here only for two days. The original plan was to be there on Thursday for the Alternative G8 of Philosophy in TheRedBar of the Lloyd Hotel and the next day as speaker on the official G8 of Philosophy together with among others Peter Sloterdijk and Benjamin Barber.
Unfortunately travelling to and from Nigeria is not always easy and she arrived one day later than planned.
She is almost 80 and slept for only 4 hours, but she has an amazing energy.
It’s not strange as she has an important message to share. Her last book only came from press two days prior to travelling. She spent ten years of research on this ground breaking work in which she’s introducing to the world the African Yoruba philosopher Orunmila, who lived around the same time as Socrates.
As a young woman she got an Unesco scholarship to study in Moscow and Cologne where she was introduced to (Western) philosophy. On returning to Nigeria in 1966 they had just opened a faculty of philosophy at the University of Lagos. In that time, and not too much has changed actually, this meant mainly studying British philosophy.
She realised directly that there is a universal need for men to understand and find ways to relate to the world in a critical and rational way, based on experience. Therefore philosophy should be universal and not just Western. It must have existed in Africa at the same time when different schools of philosophy came into being in Greece, India and China (ca. 500 b.c.). Finding factual information about Orunmila and taking from his teachings, which were mostly passed orally, the philosophical parts, she connected this to the teachings of Socrates. In that way, she revealed which was always there, a universal need for philosophy and that there is something connecting between all this different schools of philosophy, which goes beyond nations.