Philosophy Faculty Publications

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Book Chapter

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Listening to Ourselves


If there is one thing that philosophers agree upon, it is that the meaning of time is a central philosophical question. If we take the Western world as an example, there is no famous philosopher who has not investigated time. The German philosopher Martin Heidegger, to indicate the centrality of time, writes: “all ontology is rooted in the phenomenon of time correctly viewed and correctly explained.”

Likewise, according to the French philosopher Henri Bergson, the main reason that philosophical questions are difficult is because “we do not think about real time.” The fact that the question of time is very confusing has led some philosophers to claim that time is an unreal, illusory notion. For example, the ancient Greek philosopher known as Parmenides, in order to explain that we have to think of being as outside of time, says that “before and after does not exist, because what is constantly exists as One.”

The main intention of this essay is to ask how Ethiopians perceive this difficult notion of time. Because time is a decisive question for philosophy, to examine how it is perceived allows us to understand how Ethiopians see the world.

Book's description from the publisher's website: This volume presents a collection of philosophical essays written in indigenous African languages by professional African philosophers with English translations on the facing pages—demonstrating the linguistic and conceptual resources of African languages for a distinctly African philosophy. Hailing from five different countries and writing in six different languages, the seven authors featured include some of the most prominent African philosophers of our time. They address a range of topics, including the nature of truth, different ways of conceiving time, the linguistic status of proverbs, how naming practices work, gender equality and inequality in traditional society, the relationship between language and thought, and the extent to which morality is universal or culturally variable.



Document Version



The document available for download is the author's accepted manuscript, provided in compliance with the publisher's policy on self-archiving. Permission documentation is on file.

This chapter also is available here in Amharic, the Ethiopian official language.

Book's citation information: Listening to Ourselves: A Multilingual Anthology of African Philosophy. Chike Jeffers, Ed. Albany, NY: SUNY Press (2013).

To purchase the entire volume, use the ISBN or see the publisher's website:


State University of New York Press

Peer Reviewed