Diversity vital to our
By Diona Fay Howard
Published: Tuesday, November 1,
class, welcome to intellectual heritage 51. Can anyone tell me what
intellectual heritage means?" says a Temple professor at the beginning of
each semester. A bold student ready to earn an A for the course eagerly
answers, "It means the legacy of great thinkers and ideas in this
The professor gives a nod of approval and distributes the course syllabus.
When the eager student finally receives his syllabus, his smile suddenly turns
into a frown and he begins to question the answer he provided a moment ago.
"Why are we only studying European philosophers?" Ironically, this
young student is not alone in questioning this situation.
Last spring, the Sankofa student organization - committed to empowering the
communities of people of African descent - in collaboration with others,
produced a list of demands they wanted the university to address, with black
scholarship in the intellectual heritage courses included.
When sophomore Tyne Hunter reflected on how it made her feel as a black
student to not learn a sufficient amount of African and minority scholarship
within the university core courses, she said, "I think the intellectual
heritage courses as a whole seem to diminish the intellectual works of many
minority scholars. We only study minority works in intellectual heritage 52
and, even then, it is only three books crammed into a small period of
The works of people like Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr. and
Mahatma Gandhi are included in the intellectual heritage 52 program, which is
fine, but these individuals are not the only minority thinkers. Students have
been learning about them since grade school as though they are the only
thinkers of minority descent. The college level is where less mainstream but
equally important philosophers should be studied.
Contrary to the common misconception, European and ancient Greek philosophers
were not the only seekers of wisdom and truth. In intellectual heritage 51,
students are introduced to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, but are denied the
fact that these philosophers were taught in Ancient Kemet (Egypt) under
Egyptian Mystery teachers.
As Innocent Onyewuenyi points out in his article, "Is there an African
Philosophy?" what American and European institutions call Greek or
Western philosophy is copied from indigenous African philosophy of the "Mystery
Onyewuenyi also explains that many students are taught that Socrates was the
first person to say "Man know thyself?" Unfortunately, people are
not made aware that the expression was commonly inscribed on Egyptian temple
doors centuries before Socrates was born.
Imhotep, an Egyptian, who is deemed as the "Father of Medicine," was
a philosopher, poet, scribe, chief lector, priest, architect, astronomer and
magician. He lived during the Third Dynasty and served as adviser to King
Zoser. According to Phillip True Jr., "He urged contentment and preached
cheerfulness. His proverbs contained 'philosophies of life.' Imhotep coined
the phrase 'Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we shall die.'"
The Greeks identified Imhotep as their own god of healing and many of his
teachings were absorbed in the foundation of Greek culture, True wrote in an
essay published on nbufront.org.
However, as True said: "As the Greeks were determined to assert that they
were the originators of everything, Imhotep was forgotten for thousands of
years [as] a legendary figure. Hippocrates, [the ancient Greek physician] who
came 2,000 years after [Imhotep], became known as the Father of Medicine."
Works of philosophers such as Imhotep should be included into the intellectual
heritage curriculum. By doing so, Temple professors would be pioneers in
giving honor where it is due.
Excluding African philosophy but blatantly including mostly European thinkers
denies Africa the acknowledgement of its meaningful contributions. Therefore,
if the Egyptian Mystery System never existed, would there be a Plato, Socrates
Diona Fay Howard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.