Science and an African Logic

October 31, 2020
Science and an African Logic

Does 2 + 2 = 4? Ask almost anyone and they will unequivocallyanswer yes. A basic equation such as this seems the very definitionof certainty, but is it?In this captivating book, Helen Verran addresses precisely thatquestion by looking at how science, mathematics, and logic come tolife in Yoruba primary schools. Drawing on her experience as ateacher in Nigeria, Verran describes how she went from the radicalconclusion that logic and math are culturally relative, todetermining what Westerners find so disconcerting about Yorubalogic, to a new understanding of all generalizing logic. Shereveals that in contrast to the one-to-many model found in Westernnumber systems, Yoruba thinking operates by figuring things aswholes and their parts. Quantity is not absolute but alwaysrelational. Certainty is derived not from abstract logic, but fromcultural practices and associations.A powerful story of how one woman’s investigation in thiseverday situation led to extraordinary conclusions about the natureof numbers, generalization, and certainty, this book will be asignal contribution to philosophy, anthropology of science, andeducation.