Even in the field of comparative or cross-cultural philosophy, distinctive contributions by African philosophers are often side-lined – that is, relegated to niche publications. Why is it so hard for African philosophers to draw their Western colleagues (other than specialists in African philosophy) into a real dialogue? An attempt is made to describe the field of tension; it is shown that some of the reflexes that manifest themselves in it reveal not just the attachment to specific perspectives or frames of reference, but also implicit ideas about the nature of the “philosophical game”. On the Western side, motives constitutive of practical or traditional life are either ignored or tacitly equated with attempts to realize goals that can be best understood from a reflexive point of view. In this way, the concrete conditions of any human activity, including intellectual activity, are lost from view. This critical lesson has been spelt out by a number of philosophers (Maurice Blondel being one of them), but is seldom taken to heart. As a result, it becomes difficult to penetrate beyond conceptual differences. It will also be maintained that while many African philosophers question intellectualist attitudes, they do not always do so in a way that invites discussion on the central, or basic, issues.