A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY,
UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA, NSUKKA
A Department of philosophy and Classics was established in the University of Nigeria in 1972/73 session asa service Department. In 1973/74 session, it became a full academic department in the Faculty of Arts. At the end of1973/74 session, the National Universities Commission (NUC) expressed its displeasure with Classics and disbanded the Department.
From 1974/75 session, Philosophy became a sub-unit in the Department of Religion, Faculty of the Social Sciences, running its own degree programme and awarding degree in Philosophy. Classics were put in the Department of Languages in the Faculty of Arts.
The Department of Philosophy grew from a sub-department in the Faculty of Social Sciences in 1976/77 session and finally was accorded a full departmental status in 1981. Its creation as a department in the Social Sciences was tabled, discussed and defended by the Vice-Chancellor and the Planning Unit of University of Nigeria, Nsukka before the N.U.C. It is cleared that the NUC was aware of the location of the Department of Philosophy in the Faculty of the Social Sciences.
Until 1972, what is now known as the Faculty of the Social Sciences existed as the Faculty of The Social Studies, and all departments, except Economics were awarding B.A (Hon.). When in 1972 the Governing council of the University approved the change of name from the Social Studies to Social Sciences, most departments opted for the B.Sc degree from 1973 onwards. Since Philosophy was under the administrative umbrella of the Department of Religion,when it graduated its first batch of students in 1976, it awarded B.A(Hons.) instead of B.Sc because Religion was awarding B.A.(Hons.). Students of Philosophy have been protesting against this anomaly ever since. As their JAMB admission read B.Sc, they argued that they should be awarded the B.Sc (Hons.) as others in the Faculty.
The Rationale for the Location of Philosophy in the Faculty of the Social Sciences
The rationale for the location of an academic Department in any faculty is consequent on the content and stress of its programme of course. The Philosophy programme of University of Nigeria, Nsukka is structured in such a way that it focuses on man and society as its material objects. The courses offered by the Department include, among others, the following: Social and Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Law, African Philosophy, Logic, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Social Sciences, Existentialism, Philosophy of Religion, Practical Philosophy, Contemporary Philosophy, Islamic Philosophy, etc.
As a result, it produces graduates who are formal analytic philosophers, inter-disciplinary scientists, social critics, and progress-seeking revolutionaries of the world. These courses also satisfy the aims of the Social Sciences which include:
- The development of students’ critical judgement; their ability to observe, understand, analyse and synthesize data on socio-economic and human problems and thus enable them make their contribution to national objectives.
- The development of desirable ethical values that are in consonance with the national objectives
- The production of graduates with ecumenical outlook, religious, and philosophical tolerance to serve as teachers, administrators, welfare and community officers, Political advisers and analysts, public relation officers, media officers, etc.
- At this juncture, it is pertinent to note that two of the first graduates (1976) of the Department initiated, developed, and produced popular TV programmes both in the NTA and ABS Televisions, Enugu. It is also informing that the Department was first to develop and amount courses in African philosophy in Nigeria Universities.
On the so-called Traditional and Appropriate location of Philosophy
‘‘Tradition’’ in a certain sense connotes conservatism and therefore militates against the dynamic forces of human progress whether in academic or social life. In another sense, it implies “tiadire”, “to hand down” that which is “handed” becomes tradition.
The first Philosophy Department in Nigerian Universities is that of university of Nigeria, Nsukka. In 1975, Professor Ernest Gelner of the London School of Economics who was invited by the University of Ibadan to advise it on setting up of a department of philosophy visited Nsukka during the trip. He had discussion with the staff and students of the department of philosophy. University of Ife, later followed suit.
Thus seen, before all the other universities in Nigeria, UNN had already set a tradition by establishing a Department of Philosophy in terms of programme of studies and location. It would be expected, therefore, that since the Philosophy department of UNN was the first and all others in the country came after it, all these others should have taken after the tradition of the first of such departments. Yet, they were at liberty to locate their Philosophy departments in the Arts, depending on their programmes and stress of Philosophy courses.
Furthermore, with regard to the location of Philosophy in institutions of other countries, we observe that in some institutions e.g. Louvain University, Belgium; Gregorian University, Rome; Leningrad state University, Russia and some other western countries, Philosophy forms a faculty of its own with the disciplines in Social Sciences or Humanities forming its departments. In others, it forms a department with any of the Social Sciences or Humanities e.g. the London School of Economics harbours Philosophy. By this we mean that the location of Philosophy is a function of the stress areas of the university. University of Nigeria focuses on and stresses man and society. This is amply reflected by the programme of the department.
On The Problems of the Department since its Inception
The Department of Philosophy, University of Nigeria, Nsukka has flirted from one building on campus to another. The present author saw it domiciled in the Princess Alexandria Auditorium. Currently, the Department is in the Marion George Johnson Building – GS. Who knows where its next port of call would be? There is, therefore, urgent need for us to have a Philosophy Building – Lyceum so to speak. This 2011 conference could be a starting point towards realizing that dream.
In the past, the Department admitted only fifteen to twenty (15-20) students. Now we can boast of more than thirty (30) students each year. Yet, that is much less than those of other Universities in the Country. There is the need to increase the in-take to underscore the importance of the discipline in the nation. This will also make for a match between the staff strtength and the student population in the Department. Most importantly, recruitment of academic staff in the department has to reflect the needs of the Department in terms of its stress areas.
In conclusion, it is my opinion that the Department of Philosophy is on the march towards the achievement of the goals for which it was established. This explains why it has been headed by philosophers of varied areas of specialty as shown by the photographs of Heads of Department since its inception.