6. Heated Exchanges: Philosophy in Egyptian Narratives and Dialogues

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Demands for ma’at (justice or truth) and a confrontation with the soul, in the Tale of the Eloquent Peasant and Dispute Between a Man and his Ba.



Further Reading

• J.P. Allen, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts (Leiden: 2005).

• J.P. Allen, The Debate Between a Man and His Soul: A Masterpiece of Ancient Egyptian Literature (Leiden: 2011).

• J. Assmann, Maat. l'Egypte pharaonique et l'idee de justice sociale (Paris: 1989). 

• J. Assmann, Ma’at: Gerechtigkeit und Unsterblichkeit im alten Ägypten (Munich: 2001).

• J. Assmann, The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs (Cambridge MA: 2003).

• H. Goedicke, The Report about the Dispute of a Man with his Ba: Papyrus Berlin 3024 (Baltimore: 1970).

• A.M. Gnirs (ed.), Reading the Tale of the Eloquent Peasant (Göttingen: 2000).

• C. Jeffers, “Embodying Justice in Ancient Egypt: The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant as a Classic of Political Philosophy,” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21 (2013), 421-42.

• R.B. Parkinson, “Literary Form and the Tale of the Eloquent Peasant,” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 78 (1992), 163-78.

• R.B. Parkinson, Poetry and Culture in Middle Kingdom Egypt: A Dark Side to Perfection (London: 2002).

• R.B. Parkinson, The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant: A Reader’s Commentary (Hamburg: 2012).

• L.V. Zabkar, A Study of the Ba Concept in Ancient Egyptian Texts (Chicago: 1968).


Adrian on 15 June 2018

The Eloquent Peasant

Hello Peter,

First of all, thank you very much for your great podcast! I am still in the 13th century, but slowly catching up and enjoying the episodes.

I just wanted to mention here an episode of another podcast that I like a lot. I hope you don't mind me doing so. Episode 5 of Doug Metzger's "Literature and History" podcast also tells the story of "The Eloquent Peasant" (and another Egyptian story called "The Shipwrecked Sailor"). As can be expected from a podcast with that title, it treats it more from a, well, literary and historical point of view. And there is also a hilarious rap song about the eloquent peasant. Maybe you or other listeners would like to check it out.

Looking forward to more philosopy without any gaps!


PS: Doug actually refers to your podcast in episode 32, when he discusses some ancient Greek philosophy.

In reply to by Adrian

Peter Adamson on 16 June 2018

Other podcasts

Thanks, I wasn't aware of that! These texts are actually also discussed on the Egyptian History Podcast, and another work, the Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor, is there told in some detail.

Selkie on 9 November 2021

Wonderful stuff. Thank you…

Wonderful stuff. Thank you for bringing Ancient Egypt to light and making the keen points on how the structure of the works are philosophical.

I had a look at the Dispute immediately afterwards; a translation in English with hieroglyphics!

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