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What is Māori Philosophy?

Māori philosophy is found in Māori discourses about the relationships between people, things, the environment and the world. Māori philosophy is therefore a central plank of identity for Māori people, so to write and read about Māori philosophy are politically significant activities. Time and space in Māori philosophy are unified: in the Māori language, separate words for space and time do not exist. Therefore, past events do not lose their significance, and ancestors can collapse the space-time continuum to be co-present with their descendants. The texts of pre-colonial Māori philosophy were found in the natural phenomena of ‘place’ as in ancestral localities of tribal occupation, interpreted through the senses, and recorded in human-made artefacts and taonga. Knowledge in Māori terms is not restricted to the physical senses, but includes knowledge obtained through intuition and dreams. This ‘other’ Māori reality has been marginalised and attenuated by processes of colonisation, but has never been fully stamped out. Being Māori still has meaning for a Māori person today, and one way of expressing that meaning is through Māori philosophy.

Concerns and Provocations...

Two main concerns of Māori Philosophy are:


  1. An ‘insider’ concern to develop theory, knowledge and practice from our own indigenous Māori ontological priorities for contemporary times.

  2. A decolonising focus that may include critiques of Eurocentrism, indigenous-Western knowledge problems, indigenous-settler political relations, etc.


Questions and provocations for Māori Philosophy:

  • What are the ‘first principles’ of Māori thought?

  • Can or how do tapu, mana and so on manifest in contemporary times?

  • Why do Māori have such a commitment to the language of indigeneity?

  • Did Maui do all of the things it is claimed that s/he did?

  • What is a Māori philosophical methodology, and what is our practice as Māori philosophers?

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