The African Enlightenment

Ethiopian flag

Remarkable article by Dag Herbjørnsrud that discusses the Ethiopian philosopher Zera Yacob, whose views preceded those of thinkers more commonly associated with the Enlightenment.

While both René Descartes and John Locke thought atheists were anathema and John Locke and Voltaire invested in slavery, Zera believed in a tolerant, non-sectarian God that didn’t approve of slavery:

All men are equal in the presence of God; and all are intelligent, since they are his creatures; he did not assign one people for life, another for death, one for mercy, another for judgment. Our reason teaches us that this sort of discrimination cannot exist.

Further, while Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women came out in 1792, in the previous century Zera maintained that women weren’t inferior to men, and that “husband and wife are equal in marriage.”