The Six Best Books on African Philosophy

Lennox Johnson Books

From beginner-friendly introductions to comprehensive textbooks on African philosophy, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on African philosophy. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading.

It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.

Here are the best books on African philosophy in no particular order.

An Introduction to African PhilosophySamuel Oluoch Imbo

Category: Short Introduction | Length: 176 pages | Published: 1998An Introduction to African Philosophy - Samuel Oluoch Imbo Book Cover

Publishers description: Organized topically rather than historically, this book provides an excellent introduction to the subject of African Philosophy. Samuel Oluoch Imbo synthesizes the ideas of key African philosophers into an accessible narrative. The author focuses on five central questions: What are the definitions of African philosophy? Is ethno-philosophy really philosophy? What are the dangers of an African philosophy that claims to be ‘unique’? Can African philosophy be done in foreign languages such as English and French? Are there useful ways to make connections between African philosophy, African American philosophy, and women’s studies? By making cross-disciplinary and transnational connections, Imbo stakes out an important place for African philosophy. Imbo’s book is an invaluable introduction to this dynamic and growing area of study.

View on Amazon

A Short History of African Philosophy – Barry Hallen

Category: Short Introduction | Length: 208 pages | Published: 2009 (2ed.)A Short History of African Philosophy - Barry Hallen Book Cover

Publishers description: A Short History of African Philosophy discusses major ideas, figures, and schools of thought in philosophy in the African context. While drawing out critical issues in the formation of African philosophy, Barry Hallen focuses on recent scholarship and relevant debates that have made African philosophy critical to understanding the rich and complex cultural heritage of the continent. This revised edition expands the historical perspective, takes account of recent discoveries and new canonical figures, highlights new discussions about gender as a cultural and philosophical phenomenon, clarifies issues regarding indigenous cultures and human rights, and builds on the notion that African philosophy shares methods and concerns of philosophy worldwide. This short reference is an essential resource for students, scholars, and general readers.

View on Amazon

African Philosophy: Myth and Reality – Paulin J. Hountondji & Abiola Irele

Category: Textbook | Length: 248 pages | Published: 1996 (2ed.)African Philosophy : Myth and Reality - Paulin J. Hountondji & Abiola Irele Book Cover

Publishers description: In this incisive, original exploration of the nature and future of African philosophy, Paulin J. Hountondji attacks a myth popularized by ethnophilosophers such as Placide Tempels and Alexis Kagame that there is an indigenous, collective African philosophy separate and distinct from the Western philosophical tradition. Hountondji contends that ideological manifestations of this view that stress the uniqueness of the African experience are protonationalist reactions against colonialism conducted, paradoxically, in the terms of colonialist discourse. Hountondji argues that a genuine African philosophy must assimilate and transcend the theoretical heritage of Western philosophy and must reflect a rigorous process of independent scientific inquiry. This edition is updated with a new preface in which Hountondji responds to his critics and clarifies misunderstandings about the book’s conceptual framework.

View on Amazon

African Philosophy in Search of Identity – D. A. Masolo

Category: Textbook | Length: 316 pages | Published: 1994African Philosophy in Search of Identity - D. A. Masolo Book Cover

Publishers description:

A Kenyan philosopher surveys themes and debates in African philosophy over the last five decades. Masolo’s purview includes Francophone and Anglophone philosophers in both the analytic and phenomenological traditions.

View on Amazon

A Companion to African Philosophy – Kwasi Wiredu

Category: Comprehensive Textbook | Length: 608 pages | Published: 2006A Companion to African Philosophy - Kwasi Wiredu Book Cover

Publishers description: This volume of newly commissioned essays provides comprehensive coverage of African philosophy, ranging across disciplines and throughout the ages.

  • Offers a distinctive historical treatment of African philosophy.
  • Covers all the main branches of philosophy as addressed in the African tradition.
  • Includes accounts of pre-colonial African philosophy and contemporary political thought.

View on Amazon

The African Philosophy Reader – P.H. Coetzee & A.P.J. Roux

Category: Anthology | Length: 686 pages | Published: 2003 (2ed.)The African Philosophy Reader - P.H. Coetzee & A.P.J. Roux Book Cover

Publishers description: Divided into eight sections, each with introductory essays, the selections offer rich and detailed insights into a diverse multinational philosophical landscape. Revealed in this pathbreaking work is the way in which traditional philosophical issues related to ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology, for instance, take on specific forms in Africa’s postcolonial struggles. Much of its moral, political, and social philosophy is concerned with the turbulent processes of embracing modern identities while protecting ancient cultures.

View on Amazon


The following sources were used to build this list:

University Course Syllabi:

Bibliographies:

Other Recommendations:

Additional Resources

You might also be interested in the following reading lists:

Or browse this collection of philosophy reading lists to find more philosophy book recommendations.


The Daily Idea aims to make learning about philosophy as easy as possible by bringing together the best philosophy resources from across the internet. To get started, check out this organized collection of 400+ articles, podcasts, and videos on a wide range of philosophical topics.

A Collection of the Greatest Philosophical Quotations

A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is a collection of the greatest thoughts from history’s greatest thinkers. Featuring classic quotations by Aristotle, Epicurus, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, and many more, A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is ideal for anyone looking to quickly understand the fundamental ideas that have shaped the modern world.

View on Amazon


Follow The Daily Idea on Facebook and Twitter for updates.