Caribbean Journal of Philosophy, Vol 14, No 1 (2022)

The Existential Implications of Evil Suppressing Measures in Yoruba

Abidemi Israel Ogunyomi


Evil is an unpleasant reality which every cultural civilization grapples with. It is at the center of the existentialist discourse, due to the fact that, in their view, it causes meaninglessness in human existence. In Yorùbá intellectual tradition, there are prescribed ways by which evil can be suppressed, including sacrifice (ẹbọ), good character (ìwà pẹ̀lẹ́) and inner head (Ori). However, these measures have certain fundamental implications when considered critically through the lens of existentialism. This is because, on a closer examination, they are ultimately ineffective in the light of the reality of some higher forces, namely the Ajogun, headed by the Witches. These forces are believed to be irredeemably evil, because they have the power to render any of those measures impotent. This power, however, is believed to have been given to them by Olodumare. Accordingly, evil becomes what human beings cannot conquer, but have to live with. Consequently, we recommend, following Albert Camus, that human beings learn to live with the reality of evil, like the stone of Sisyphus. This is because any human attempt to take evil out of existence, by appealing to those measures, amounts only to Kierkegaardian “leap of faith”, which Albert Camus describes as a “philosophical suicide.” We substantiate the above claims by critically engaging some verses of Ifá which is believed to be the backdrop of Yorùbá philosophy.

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