Iroegbu, Pantaleon - Seat of Wisdom Seminary, Owerri, Nigeria

To be is to belong

To belong is to be

This is a redefinition of what it means to be, to have or to be in existence. It is inspired by the search for a more realistic, less abstract or more intelligible understanding of this concept that has kept all philosophy and metaphysics busy since the beginning of human thinking. It is an African existential definition of what being is both in itself and in reference to all aspects and manifestations of beings.

The belongingness that defines being has four aspects:

  1. Be- (l)-on (Be on). This is the tuning in or turning on (as against tuning off) of being into reality. It is existential unfoldingness. 'Be on' is to come into existence. And to come into existence is to belong to existence.
  2. Be (l)-on-going is the continuation of being once it is tuned in to belong.
  3. Be – long is the everlastingness (different from eternity) of being as beings.
  4. Be – longing, the fourth aspect, is the desire, the longing to remain in being. All beings possess this longing to remain in being, even non-living beings.

Consequence for Metaphysics (From ex-sistence to in-xistence): Critique of Heidegger

We reject the Heideggerian ontology that interprets the reality of coming into existence with the Greek ek-sistence. By this Heidegger meant that there was a veil or hiddenness from which reality unveiled itself and unfolded into existence. The unfolding came from what he calls das Nichts (Nothingness) which then became something. Based on Belongingness, we argue that rather than reality being ek-sistence, it is in-xistence. That means the coming to belong to reality and no longer remaining out (ek-) of it. The linking-point is not a Nichts, for from nothing, nothing comes. It is rather via ontological and functional causality. In the process of belonging, being becomes what it is.

Principle of EBUB (Perch and let perch):

To concretize the above re-definition of being, we draw from African life: events, language and culture. The tree of life represents Being qua being. Whoever is refused to perch on it has no in-xistence. That is existential alienation. Whoever, on the contrary, is allowed by nature and other humans to perch has in-xistence. That is existential solidarity.


Our reinterpretation of being as belongingness has both ontological and ethical consequences. While ontology must seek ethical order, ethics must seek ontological foundations. If 'to be' is 'to belong', then each being--especially the human being--must be given favourable circumstances to manifest his full being in communion with other beings. And if belongingness defines being, each socio-economic or cultural-political action or system must be reappraised and (re)structured to tally with belongingness: does it allow other beings to belong as they should and as itself belongs?