Souleymane Diagne

Souleymane Bachir Diagne taught philosophy at Cheikh Anta Diop University, Dakar, Senegal, for twenty years. He is currently a Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Northwestern University, Chicago. An alumnus of Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, Pr. Diagne obtained his PhD in philosophy at the Sorbonne (1988). His field of research includes history of algebraic logic, history of philosophy, Islamic philosophy and African philosophy. Among his many publications in those fields are a book on George Boole, Boole, l’Oiseau de Nuit en Plein Jour (Paris, Belin, 1989), a translation and presentation in French of Boole’s Laws of Thought (Paris, Vrin, 1992) and, in the field of Islamic philosophy, a book on poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal: Islam et Société Ouverte, la Fidélité et le Mouvement dans la Pensée de Muhammad Iqbal (Paris, Maisonneuve & Larose, 2001). Souleymane Bachir Diagne is currently working on a book on Leopold Sedar Senghor’s philosophy.




The aim of this lecture is to present an essential aspect of the thinking of Léopold Sédar Senghor, which is his philosophy of African art. Senghor was very attentive to what artists like Picasso and poets like Apollinaire had said about the importance of “l’art nègre” in contemporary creative arts. He tried to show how this art was the expression of an African philosophy at the heart of which he saw a rhythm and how, conversely, the art constituted the best way to access that philosophy. We will come to understand how L.S. Senghor, as poet and philosopher, conceived of an aesthetic rhythm and of what he called “asymmetrical parallelism” in accounting for the meaning of African arts.



One component of Léopold Sédar Senghor’s philosophical and political thinking is the necessity of the dialogue of cultures and religions to build what, in the manner of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, he called “the civilization of the universal.” This “civilization of the universal,” he insists, does not mean the expansion of one civilization that would then create a uniform world. In these times marked by globalization, and by events leading us to wonder if we are witnessing the indications of a “clash of civilizations, it is useful to linger awhile over the work of poet-philosopher Senghor in order to meditate with him upon the paths of a humanism founded in both cultural diversity and the convergence of differences.



We will provide a biographical sketch and the intellectual process of a man who left his mark on the century in several ways. First, as the theoretician of a peaceful decolonization founded on the affirmation of the values of an African civilization. Next, as the statesman who for twenty years was president of a Senegal which he, before leaving office voluntarily, set on the path toward a multiparty democracy during a time when Africa was considered “forgotten by the rights of man.” Finally, and he himself often said this was most important to him—as one of the greatest French-language poets of the 20th century.

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