Ancient Egyptian philosophy

Almost nothing is known of Ancient Egyptian philosophy and there is some debate about its true scope and nature.[1]

One of the few ancient Egyptian figures who could be considered an early philosopher was Ptahhotep.[2] He served as vizier to the pharaoh in the late 25th, early 24th century BC. Ptahhotep is known for his comprehensive work on ethical behavior and moral philosophy, called The Maxims of Ptahhotep. The work, which is believed to have been compiled by his grandson Ptahhotep Tshefi, is a series of 37 letters or maxims addressed to his son, Akhethotep, speaking on such topics as daily behavior and ethical practices.[3][4]

Some scholars believe that Ancient Greek philosophy may have had some roots in Egypt,[5] others dispute this and hold that Egypt had little influence on the philosophies of Europe and Asia.[1][6][7]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b Juan José Castillos, Ancient Egyptian Philosophy, RSUE 31, 2014, 29-37.
  2. ^ Fontaine, Carole R. "A Modern Look at Ancient Wisdom: The Instruction of Ptahhotep Revisited." The Biblical Archaeologist 44, no. 3 (1981): 155-60. doi:10.2307/3209606.
  3. ^ Browder, Anthony (1988). Nile Valley Contributions to Civilization. Karmaic Institute.
  4. ^ Simpson, W. K., ed. The Maxims of Ptahhotep. Las Vegas, Nevada: Evan Blythin, 1986.
  5. ^ James Henry Breasted (1972). Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt. Pennsylvania University Press. ...the Greek tradition of the origin of their philosophy in Egypt undoubtedly contains more of the truth than has in recent years been conceded.
  6. ^ Bleiberg, Edward (2005). "Ancient Egypt 2675-332 B.C.E.: Philosophy". In Bleiberg, Edward; et al. (eds.). Arts and Humanities Through the Eras. Vol. 1: Ancient Egypt 2675-332 B.C.E. Detroit: Gale. pp. 182–197.
  7. ^ Lefkowitz, M. (2008). Not Out Of Africa: How"" Afrocentrism"" Became An Excuse To Teach Myth As History. Basic Books.
Index of ancient philosophy articles

This page is a list of topics in ancient philosophy.

Mental plane

The mental plane, or world of thought, in Hermeticism, Theosophical, Rosicrucian, Aurobindonian, and New Age thought refers to the macrocosmic or universal plane or reality that is made up purely of thought or mindstuff. In contrast to Western secular modernist and post-modern thought, in occult and esoteric cosmology, thoughts and consciousness are not just a byproduct of brain functioning, but have their own objective and universal reality quite independent of the physical. This reality itself constitutes only one gradation in a whole series of planes of existence (the total number of planes varies, although seven is a common number in Theosophical formulations). In most such cosmologies and explanations of reality, the mental plane is located between, and hence is intermediate between, the astral plane below and the higher spiritual realms of existence above.

Middle Eastern philosophy

Middle Eastern philosophy includes the various philosophies of the Middle East regions, including the Fertile Crescent, Iran, and Anatolia. Traditions include Ancient Egyptian philosophy, Babylonian philosophy, Jewish philosophy, Iranian/Persian philosophy, and Islamic philosophy.

Outline of ancient history

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to ancient history:

Ancient history – study of recorded human history from the beginning of writing at about 3000 BC until the Early Middle Ages. The times before writing belong either to protohistory or to prehistory. The span of recorded history is roughly 5,000 – 5,500 years, beginning with Sumerian cuneiform, the oldest form of writing discovered so far. Although the ending date of ancient history is disputed, currently most Western scholars use the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD or the coming of Islam in 632 AD as the end of ancient history.


Philosophy (from Greek φιλοσοφία, philosophia, literally "love of wisdom") is the study of general and fundamental questions about existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Such questions are often posed as problems to be studied or resolved. The term was probably coined by Pythagoras (c. 570 – 495 BCE). Philosophical methods include questioning, critical discussion, rational argument, and systematic presentation. Classic philosophical questions include: Is it possible to know anything and to prove it? What is most real? Philosophers also pose more practical and concrete questions such as: Is there a best way to live? Is it better to be just or unjust (if one can get away with it)? Do humans have free will?Historically, "philosophy" encompassed any body of knowledge. From the time of Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle to the 19th century, "natural philosophy" encompassed astronomy, medicine, and physics. For example, Newton's 1687 Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy later became classified as a book of physics. In the 19th century, the growth of modern research universities led academic philosophy and other disciplines to professionalize and specialize. In the modern era, some investigations that were traditionally part of philosophy became separate academic disciplines, including psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics.

Other investigations closely related to art, science, politics, or other pursuits remained part of philosophy. For example, is beauty objective or subjective? Are there many scientific methods or just one? Is political utopia a hopeful dream or hopeless fantasy? Major sub-fields of academic philosophy include metaphysics ("concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being"), epistemology (about the "nature and grounds of knowledge [and]...its limits and validity"), ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, logic and philosophy of science.


Pythagoreanism originated in the 6th century BC, based on the teachings and beliefs held by Pythagoras and his followers, the Pythagoreans. Pythagoras established the first Pythagorean community in Crotone, Italy. Early-Pythagorean communities lived throughout Magna Graecia. Espousing a rigorous life of the intellect and strict rules on diet, clothing and behavior comprised a cult of following Pythagorean's Code. For example, the Code's diet prohibits the consumption or even touching any sort of bean or legume. Pythagoras’ death and disputes about his teachings led to the development of two philosophical traditions within Pythagoreanism. The practitioners of akousmatikoi were superseded in the 4th century BC as a significant mendicant school of philosophy by the Cynics. The Pythagorean mathēmatikoi philosophers were in the 4th century BC absorbed into the Platonic school.

Following the political instability in the Magna Graecia, some Pythagorean philosophers fled to mainland Greece while others regrouped in Rhegium. By about 400 BC the majority of Pythagorean philosophers had left Italy. Pythagorean ideas exercised a marked influence on Plato and through him, on all of Western philosophy. Many of the surviving sources on Pythagoras originate with Aristotle and the philosophers of the Peripatetic school.

As a philosophic tradition, Pythagoreanism was revived in the 1st century BC, giving rise to Neopythagoreanism. The worship of Pythagoras continued in Italy and as a religious community Pythagoreans appear to have survived as part of, or deeply influenced, the Bacchic cults and Orphism.

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Steve Coleman

Steve Coleman (born September 20, 1956) is an American saxophonist, composer, and bandleader. In 2014, he was named a MacArthur Fellow.

The Maxims of Ptahhotep

The Maxims of Ptahhotep or Instruction of Ptahhotep is an ancient Egyptian literary composition based on the Vizier Ptahhotep's wisdom and experiences. The Instructions were composed by the Vizier Ptahhotep around 2375-2350 BC, during the rule of King Djedkare Isesi of the Fifth Dynasty. The text was discovered in Thebes in 1847 by Egyptologist M. Prisse d'Avennes. The Instructions of Ptahhotep are called wisdom literature, specifically under the genre of Instructions that teach something. There are four copies of the Instructions, and the only complete version, Papyrus Prisse, is located in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. According to William Kelly Simpson, some scholars debate that the Instructions of Ptahhotep were written during the twelfth dynasty, Middle Kingdom. The earlier copies of the text were altered to make them understandable for the Egyptians of the New Kingdom. The text presents a very good picture of the general attitudes of that period. The Instructions of Ptahhotep addresses various virtues that are necessary to live a good life and how to live accordingly to Maat, which was an important part of the Egyptian culture.

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