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Osuji and the Ideal of a Polymathic Culture Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju The philosopher and writer Ozodi Thomas Osuji, who is very active in Nigerian centred online groups, inspires and challenges me. He challenges me with the ideal of polymathic knowledge, a polymath being a person well informed and skilled in different disciplines. His essay series on Chatafrik, Men of Ideas, are among the highlights of that African centred site, taking the reader beyond the regular sound of politics and other more immediate matters to dwell in the rarefied and yet deeply influential world of ideas, taking in the shaping of modern society by science, technology and business demonstrated by Western history and its global influence. Osuji's intellectual orientation is grounded in the mainstream Western cognitive and technological tradition, the world's most influential cognitive and technological culture. Osuji's writings have something to offer a broad range of interests. I find him particularly challenging on scientific cosmology, writing about the origins and development of the cosmos. His recent essay on the concept of giving as different from only taking, in a social context, particularly in terms of Africans giving back to their places of migration beyond the necessities of work, was an eye opener for me on social responsibility and citizenship of the heart wherever I may be. I also found most mentally titillating an essay of his on the relative validity of scientific metaphysics and epistemology because it brings to the fore issues in the question of the universality or localness of scientific world views. Is it possible to have diverse scientific cultures? Do Africans need to develop by themselves a scientific culture endogenous to their own more comfortable mental universes, their attitudes to the world? Why has science not taken root in a large scale sense in Africa, as it might seem, at least from my point of view? Not all science is about sophisticated infrastructure. Newton, Einstein, Descartes, and other great mathematicians and philosopher scientists worked with pen and paper, not sophisticated instruments. How relevant are these questions in the light of the successful adaptation of Western science by Asia? These are some of the questions suggested to me by Osuji's essay on scientific world views, an essay I need to reread carefully in order to let it work better on me. Philosophy and history of science that challenges the idea of science as fact rather than speculation, to put it crudely, from Feyerabend, to Kuhn and others, along with challenges to Eurocentric domination of the foundations of science, could

be the stream of ideas that could further enrich one in studying the implications of Osuji's essay. I see Osuji as shortsighted and negatively prejudiced in relation to lslam and the Arab/Persian world and homosexuals, if I remember well his views on that sexual orientation. I found his opinion on the Nigerian finance minister Okonjo- Iweala lacking in depth in referring to her face as not showing depth beceause it has no lines of concentration, although I did not read the rest of the essay. I find his views on Igbos uninspiring and seemingly negatively prejudiced. I think he is inadequately informed on classical African thought beceause he has not invested himself in it, in spite of his self description of a background in a traditional Igbo priesthood, a limitation on classical African cognitive worlds understandable on account of his seemingly rigidly Western centred intellectual culture. I have not read much in his essays on psychology but I have found a few enlightening. His range of essays extends beyond these examples I have given so far and are produced at a rapid pace, suggesting his fertility of mind, scope of knowledge and relentless industry. His essays are complementary to his series of books, twenty two on various subjects visible at . His most impressive achievement in his essays on the online fora might be his Men of Ideas series, summations of major figures in Western intellectual, technological and entrepreneurial history. Why only men, though? What about those Women of Ideas that would make necessary a recasting of title to possibly, People of Ideas? Marie Curie and radium, Rosalind Franklin and DNA, among other female figures and their achievements, necessitate such a recasting. I very much admire Osujis courage and consistency in sharing his intellectual adventure on the market like freewheeling culture of the online fora in spite of constant criticism of his more outspoken positions. In the history of Nigerian centred online groups, Osuji's name stands out for its consistent intellectual voyaging, taking the fora to heights of reflection that suggest the greater potential of online social networks as idea incubators and cognitive networks. He deserves an award. It could be refreshing to see Osujis book publications move beyond a self publishing outfit like Lulu where most of his books seem to be located, to an academic publisher. His essays on Western thinkers, inventors and entrepreneurs would certainly be helpful in introducing these figures to a broader audience, making their ideas more accessible on account of the accessibility of Osuji's style and their concise form. 30 April 2012