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on June 6, 2000
Molefi Asante's Ancient Egyptian Philosophers: From Imhotep To Akhenaten is a timely redressing of a serious omission in the human history -- the antiquarian contributions of African philosophers to medicine, philosophy, science, and the birth of civilization itself. Beginning with a chronology of Ancient World Philosophers, this scholarly, superbly crafted survey covers Imhotep and the "emergence of reason", Ptahhotep and the "moral order", Merikare on "common sense", as well as the contributions and insights of Akhenaten, Amenemope, and others whose work was ignored, suppressed, or simply unknown to the academia based on Greco-Roman sources and histories. Ancient Egyptian Philosophers: From Imhotep To Akhenaten is highly recommended reading for students of Black Studies, philosophy, and the history of science.
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on September 12, 2006
When I first read this book I kept comparing it to Karenga's work on Egyptian philosophy. I felt that Asante came up short. Do not make my same mistake. Asante simply has a different approach. His work is brilliant and insightful. Rhetorically speaking, he appeals with logos, though he is often criticized for not providing ethos. However, we must take into consideration that most of the published archeaological work available has been crafted by people of European descent and are infested with Eurocentric anti-Africanism. That being said, Asante is a wonderful scholar and this work is particularly valuable as an introduction to the philosophy of the world's most ancient literate civilization: Kemet.
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on September 10, 2013
When we think about Egypt (based on an American public education), we think of Pyramids, Mysterious Hieroglyphics and Primitive Slave owners.

Egyptian society was FAR FAR from that. When you read this book you learn about the first man ever recorded in history (for his ability with medicine, reading and math), the first man to comment on style, a few of the first men to comment on good will, and a VERY good description of why the ancient Africans did what they did as a culture.

You also learn about an intricate culture in which everyone seemed to be participating willingly, as well as a mostly dark complected society which called itself "Kemet" (Ancient Egyptian for "Egypt" or "Land of the Black" )

An awesome starting point for further study, and an awesome book for ANYONE that doesn't know much about Ancient Egypt.
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on April 20, 2014
This book just offers basic preliminary sketches of the philosophers. It is more of a book for those who want to introduce young students to African scholars than for a secondary or college student interested in philosophy or rhetoric.
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on September 19, 2014
This was the most enlightning book i have ever read,the fact that sooo many of our master teachers were soo before their time it makes it just that much harder to digest the fact that we are soooo out of touch when it comes to our own teachings!
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on January 2, 2004
If you prefer revisionist history, this book will mean nothing to you. If, however, you have a scintilla of interest in the possibility that other than white europeans made enormous contributions to this world, you can begin by reading this book.
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on June 28, 2012
Ancient Egypt was an essentially African high culture with an advanced architecture (it's difficult to deny!) and, arguably, a working knowledge of mathematics, geometry, astronomy, etc. It also had curious quasi-matriarchal traits, making it a more gender equal society than those of the Greeks or Semites. It's obvious that Egypt played an important role in the culture of the East Mediterranean during the Bronze Age, a culture that might have been relatively cosmopolitan. So far, I tend to agree with the Afro-centrists (and perhaps even with the "pyramidiots").

But did the ancient Egyptians really invent philosophy? And were the Greeks in some sense influenced by this African philosophy? Afro-centrist author Molefi Kete Asante tries to prove that the answer to both questions is "yes".

He fails.

Of course, "philosophy" can be defined in different ways. Nothing stops Asante from defining philosophy so broadly that it includes the superstitious-magical incantations of Imhotep and Amenhotep, the conventional moral advice of a host of lesser known Egyptian scribes, or the purported revelations from the sun-god to Pharaoh Akhenaten. However, in what sense is this similar to *Greek* philosophy of the Classical period? There is absolutely no similarity at all!

Asante tries to both have his cake and eat it. Sometimes, the author seems to support the standard Afro-centrist claim that Greek philosophy was simply an outgrowth of Egyptian ditto, and he mentions James' "Stolen Legacy" in the reference section. At other times, Asante admits that Greek and Egyptian thinking were indeed very different, and instead writes that the Egyptian version was better. We can discuss whether or not the Egyptian way of life was better or worse than the Athenian, Spartan or Macedonian, but if "philosophy" is used in its standard sense, the Egyptians weren't particularly good philosophers. This is strikingly revealed in the chapter on Imhotep. Apparently, Pharaoh Djoser once asked Imhotep about the origin of the Nile, since the river had failed to inundate the adjacent fields, causing a severe famine. Imhotep, who according to Asante was a scientist and virtual paragon of reason, consulted the sacred books and then informed his ruler about "hidden things" (never specified), at which Djoser wrote to the Nubian ruler and asked for advice about which god to supplicate in order to put the Nile to order! After appeasing a divine character named Khnum, the god appeared to Djoser in a dream and promised that the Nile would soon rise again...

This is philosophy?

If Asante believes in magic, or considers the "social harmony" and "respect for elders" typical of ancient Egyptian moral advice to be better than Ionian natural philosophy or the pesky questioning of Socrates, so be it. But let's at least be honest and don't call it "philosophy" - since that word implies at least a family resemblance to specifically Greek philosophy.

I don't rule out that some Greek philosophers might have been influenced by foreign sources. Pythagoras and Plato are the usual suspects, and during a much later period, Plotinus (who actually was Egyptian). But note that these philosophers were the most "religious" or "spiritual" ones, suggesting that their sources of inspiration might have been non-philosophical. If they studied in Egypt, they would have studied knowledge derived from religious traditions, not "philosophy" in the Greek sense. Most other Greek philosophers were secular, a way of reasoning they couldn't have picked up in Egyptian temple schools. Thales might have learned all kinds of interesting things in Egypt, but natural philosophy wouldn't have been one of them. Note also that the Platonists attempted to reason their way to knowledge, rather than simply rely on tradition or revelation. In this, they didn't resemble their (possible) alien mentors, but rather acted like the other Greek philosophers.

I must also say that "The Egyptian Philosophers" is very badly edited, and often comes across as the work of a dilettante, rather than that of a professor at a major university. It also raises questions about the religious views of its author, who frequently sounds New Age-inspired.

On balance, I'd say that philosophy was a positive innovation in human history. That it was developed by the Greeks doesn't detract from its importance. I mean, should we reject rational reasoning just because it comes from some xenophobic White boys in an East Mediterranean backwater? ;-)
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on November 16, 2015
Awesome Book. Educationally enhancing and an important book towards the great canons of literature.
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on November 5, 2015
Great book, very informing. Should be read with other books on ancient Egypt.
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on February 14, 2015
I'm unable to write a review now.
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