Ancient Egyptian philosophy

Ancient Egyptian philosophy

Ancient Egyptian philosophy has been credited by the ancient Greeks as being the beginning of philosophy. It is characterized by being flexible, pragmatic, and giving attention to emotion.[1]


  • Characteristics 1
    • Flexibility 1.1
    • Pragmatism 1.2
    • Emotion 1.3
  • References 2


Ancient Egyptian philosophy was highly concerned with proper conduct and justice. Many texts were prescriptive, telling its readers how to behave. Although Egyptian philosophy did not discuss epistemology, it did discuss how to teach justice. The political system was not written about, but some writings pessimistically considered the consequences when there is no legitimate king, and others offered advice to princes that were to become kings. Methods of persuasion, such as Greek rhetoric, were not discussed.

Overall, Egyptian philosophies were flexible, pragmatic, and attentive to emotion.


According to the Egyptologist Erik Hornung, ancient Egyptian answers to philosophical questions were flexible. Rather than offering definite answers, Egyptian philosophy was pluralistic, and several explanations for the origin of the world were considered equally true.


Ancient Egyptian philosophy was pragmatic, and considered real-life situations without abstracting to general laws. Maat, the Egyptian notion of justice, stressed solutions to these problems. Older men would pass on knowledge to their children about the situations that they would encounter in life.


While Egyptian philosophy recognized the power of emotion, it advised against giving in to transitory feelings. The ideal was the silent man, who ignored emotions and thought before acting. The opposite was the heated man, who was impulsive, and immediately submitted to his emotions.[1]


  1. ^ a b Bleiberg, Edward (2005). "Ancient Egypt 2675-332 B.C.E.: Philosophy". In Bleiberg, Edward, et al. Arts and Humanities Through the Eras. Vol. 1: Ancient Egypt 2675-332 B.C.E. Detroit: Gale. pp. 182–197.