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An Essay on African Philosophical Thought

Summary of Article by Kwame Gyekye, 1987

The human being according to Gyekye is made up body, soul and spirit, which in the Akan parlance is rendered as honam (body) okra (soul), sunsum (spirit). He asserts that “the okra is the innermost self, the essence of the individual person.” The sunsum on the other hand is the “unperceivable, mystical beings and forces in Akan ontology, and specifically refers to the activating principle in the person. He argues that although it is difficult to differentiate between the sunsum and okra, the two are not the same. Therefore the “Akan philosophy maintains a dualistic, not a tripartite, conception of the person: a person is made up of two principal entities, one spiritual (immaterial: okra) and the other material (honam:body)”. This serves to posit a “theory of the unity of soul and body” which makes the “Akan conception of a person both dualistic and interactionist”.