6. Heated Exchanges: Philosophy in Egyptian Narratives and Dialogues

Posted on 9 June 2018

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 15 June 2018

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.

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 9 November 2021

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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