Thanatology: The Igbo/African Metaphysics Sense and Value of Death


This work aims at exploring the Igbo/African metaphysical sense of death and its traditional value and inter-communality. In this study, I intend to use the Igbo as a paradigm for an African experience of death. I begin by explaining that while thanatology is the systematic study of death, metaphysics is a study of reality as it concerns the phases of human existence from life to death. In doing so, I want to examine the African being in its wholeness. Interestingly, African philosophy conceives of being as dynamic and a force to be record with. The African world itself is best described as one of becoming: it is a world where there are constant interactions between the dead and the living, between the spirit-land and the human world. Thus, existence-in-relation aptly depicts the African view of life and reality. For the Igbo, however, life and death are intimately connected. To the extent that the latter paves the way to the ancestral dwelling, it is an urgent longing to join his forebears. Ultimately, the Igbo/African attaches a great value to ancestral abode which death makes possible. Through initiation the Igbo anticipates death. Only then does death become a phenomenon of life, entering the Igbo ontological being. Thus death for the Igbo does not constitute an end. Rather it intimates an authentic being (another beginning), which expressly embodies eschatology. I argue that eschatology aims at overcoming time.

Share and Cite:

Chukwuelobe, M. (2014) Thanatology: The Igbo/African Metaphysics Sense and Value of Death. Open Journal of Philosophy, 4, 85-89. doi: 10.4236/ojpp.2014.41012.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Abanuka, B. (1994). A new essay on African philosophy. Onitsha: Spiritan Publications.
[2] Achebe, C. (1978). Things fall apart. London: Heinemann.
[3] Anyanwu, C. (1988). The meaning of ultimate reality in Igbo cultural experience, in Ultimate reality and meaning (pp. 84-101).
[4] Chukwuelobe, M. (1995). Language and Igbo philosophy: Towards an Igbo Phenomenology of language in Philosophy Today (pp. 25-30).
[5] Egbujie, I. (1976). The hermeneutics of African traditional culture. Ph.D. Dissertation, Boston: Boston College.
[6] Eliade, M. (1959). The sacred and the profane Tr. Willard R. Trask. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.
[7] Eliade, M. (1976). Occultism, witchcraft, and cultural fashions. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
[8] Heidegger, M. (1962). Being and time. Tr. John Macquarrie & Edward Robinson. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers.
[9] Leonard, A. (1968). The lower niger and its tribes. London: Frank Cass.
[10] Mbiti, J. (1976). African religions and philosophy. London: Heinemann.
[11] Nwoga, D. (1984). Nka na nzere: The focus of Igbo world. Ahiajoku Lecture, Owerri: Culture Division, Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports.
[12] Ozumba, G. (2001). African traditional metaphysics in Quodlibet Journal (pp. 2-20).
[13] Shelton, A. J. (1968). Causality in African thought: Igbo and others. Practical Anthropology, 15, 157-169.
[14] Zahan, D. (1979). The religion, spirituality, and thought of traditional Africa. Tr. K. Ezra and L. Martin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.