Cool (African philosophy)

From ArticleWorld

Cool is an African philosophy created by scholars in the 1970s. The philosophy is not formally recognized amongst Africans, and Africanists (those who study African culture) continue to debate its meaning and even its actual existence.


Some scholars believe that Cool is a concept themed around dignity and is an indispensable part of African culture.

Africanist Robert Farris Thompson is a professor from Yale University who defined Cool in his 1974 book African Art in Motion. He believed that Cool can be broken down into five key areas: visibility, luminosity, smoothness, rebirth and reincarnation, and facial express (the “mask of cool”).

The mind of an elder within the body of the young is suggested by the striking African custom of dancing "hot" with a "cool" unsmiling face. … [The] cool style of male walking in the United States is called bopping…. Mystical coolness in Africa has changed in urban Afro-American assertions of independent power.

Thompson has taught at Yale since 1961 and worked as a visiting curator at both the University of California-Los Angeles’ Museum of Ethnic Arts and the National Gallery of Art.

Sally Haslanger, professor for the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on the other hand, sees Cool as an imaginary value. She believes that what Thompson and others have defined as Cool is really just part of what a person naturally does to fit into their given society.


African Philosophy As Cultural Inquiry (2000) by International African Institute

African Philosophy: An Anthology (1997) by Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze

The African Philosophy Reader (1998) by C.H. Coetzee and A.P.J. Roux.