Howard University College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Philosophy
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Ancient Egyptian Philosophy

Phil 171

Dr. Charles Verharen

In virtually any contemporary history or anthology of philosophy, no mention will be made of ancient Egyptian philosophy. The first task of the course is to review the histories of definitions of philosophy to understand possible reasons for this omission. Of particular importance will be a brief survey of other ancient philosophies conventionally included in the canon of world philosophy, such as Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, and pre-Socratic philosophies. The first part of the course will review the origins and nature of the most basic questions philosophy raises for students who do not have an extensive background in philosophy: What is there in the universe or outside of it? What is knowledge, how may we reach the truth? How should we decide what is valuable? How should we live our lives? The first part of the course will furnish broad outlines of the four branches of philosophy that treat these questions: ontology, epistemology, axiology, and praxiology. The special interest of this part of the course will be the examination of the range of answers to these questions across several cultures--African, European, and Asian--and to ask whether these questions and answers are universal or uniquely defined in the context of specific cultures.

The second part of the course will consider the most distinctive aspect of ancient Egyptian philosophy—its holistic nature. Holism can be understood in at least three different ways: a philosophy that views all existence as a single being, a postulation of a single entity which gives birth to all existence, a commitment to join together what has been excluded (Marietta 1995, Verharen 2006). This part of the course will be devoted to close readings of ancient Egyptian writings such as the Book of Coming Forth by Day and classical pyramid texts.

The third part of the course will analyze interpretations of ancient Egyptian philosophy by renowned Egyptologists such as Erik Hornung (Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many) and Christiane Zivie-Coche (Gods and Men in Egypt).


African American Philosophy
Afro-Caribbean Philosophy
Ancient Egyptian Philosophy
Ancient Egyptian Philosophy
Ancient Greek Philosophy
Classical Ethics
Comparative Philosophy: Philosophical Explanations of Evil Across Cultures
Current Topics: Philosophy and Ethics of Appropriate Technology and Development
Current Topics: Africana Philosophy and Film
Environmental Ethics
Ethics and Public Policy
Ethics of Medical Care
Ethics of Medical Care
History of Africana Philosophy
Introduction to Ethics
Introduction to Philosophy
Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy
Medieval Philosophy
Modern Philosophy
Philosophy of Education
Philosophy of Language
Philosophy of Mind
Philosophy of Religion
Philosophy of Social Science
Principles of Reasoning
Representative Thinkers
Seminar on Aristotle 
Symbolic Logic


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