Volume 2 (2014)

First page of the paper.

Proceedings of the first egyptological conference of the Patriarchate of Alexandria

Causality and Chaos: On Aristotelian Metaphysics in Ancient Egyptian Cosmogonies

Stemmler-Harding, Sabine


This research aims to demonstrate that the ancient Egyptians had a profound understanding of abstract, philosophical concepts rather than a mere collection of primitive beliefs, founded in mytho–religion. In order to achieve this, we compare some ancient Egyptian Cosmogonies and Aristotle’s (fundamental) metaphysical concepts of causality, actuality and potentiality. We are very cautious not to force a Western framework upon an ancient culture, nor do we attempt the paradoxical quest to find an origin of Aristotelian metaphysics in ancient Egypt. On the contrary, by comparing fundamental, religious texts from ancient Egypt with fundamental, philosophical works of ancient Hellas, we attempt to highlight similar, abstract thought processes in both cultures. Part one explains the ancient Hellenic separation of mytho–religion and rational Philosophy, and the reasons why this cut did not occur in ancient Egypt. We find the latter in the crucial obligation of maintaining Macat in daily —continuous and nearly identical ways— to which the ancient Egyptians had to adapt their Sciences and Philosophies, instead of separating religion and reason. Part two, then, compares in detail the above mentioned famous Aristotelian concepts with the Heliopolitan, Hermopolitan and Memphite Cosmogonies. This comparison touches —among others— upon the important religious–philosophical concepts of Creation, the origin of Death and introduction of Evil in the ordered world. It furthermore explains why the rather obscure concept of Aristotelian Prima Materia, which causes an unexpressed, but obvious «Duality» between Aristotle’s Prime Mover and Prime Matter (eternal Actuality and Potentiality) does not create any problems in the metaphysical nature of (the primeval god of the watery Abyss) Nūn. Based on the latter, we conclude (by introducing our current research) on how the old Egyptological problem (of whether Evil in ancient Egypt was perceived as being contingent or present since Creation) appears to have been metaphysically circumvented altogether by the ancient Egyptians themselves.


Stemmler-Harding, S. 2014. «Causality and Chaos: On Aristotelian Metaphysics in Ancient Egyptian Cosmogonies», JHIE 2: 135–162



Language: en


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