In English, and “Western” epistemology more generally, things, objects and numbers in the world are conceived as “spatiotemporal particulars,” individual entities that form collections of specific kinds and types—in more formal terms, as members of an abstract set. The number six is a collection of six objects forming a group or set, or more abstractly, six units of “one” in an extended series on a number line; a family of four is comprised of four individually related persons; a collection of residents living in houses within a spatiotemporal area combine to form a neighborhood.
In Yoruba language and culture... things, objects and numbers in the world are conceived as “sortal particulars,” qualitative sorts of “thinghood” that infuse the universe and which manifest themselves in different modes at particular times and places. Sortal particulars can manifest themselves within a plurality of objects that form what “we” would see as members of a set, but the “objects” themselves are secondary to the sortal particular which they instantiate.
“Number, in Yoruba language talk, is a degree of dividedness”. Things, objects, and numbers in the world are modes of manifesting sortal particulars in a given situation, time, or place. Five oranges are not five individual oranges forming a group, but “orangeness” divided into a plurality of five. Set membership is not additive; rather it is differentiating or decompositional—it starts with the whole and breaks it up into parts. A family of four is the sortal particular of familyhood broken into four related persons; a neighborhood is a sortal particular of neighborhoodness broken down into residents and their homes, according to its mode of manifestation at a particular time and place.
- Andrew Apter. Yoruba Ethnogenesis
Live the Medicine
Obafemi Origunwa, MA
Thought leader, Ifa priest and author of four definitive books, Obafemi Origunwa inspires metamorphosis through living the medicine that will heal your life and heal the lives of the people you're destined to serve.