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Moral Values in Ancient Egypt


Lichtheim, Miriam (1997). Moral Values in Ancient Egypt. Fribourg, Switzerland / Göttingen, Germany: University Press / Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Abstract

In ten chapters the author works out the ancient Egyptian’s understanding of himself as a moral human being. As soon as the literate person had begun to sum up his life and his personality in the form of an “autobiography” inscribed in his tomb, he included in it statements on his moral personhood. In the course of the centuries these statements grew into rounded self-portraits in which he reported on his doing what he recognized as right actions and his shunning what he judged to be evildoing. He understood his knowledge of right and wrong as an innate capability which was articulated by himself as a thinking person, an “I”. Altogether, he thought of himself as a person shaped by innate traits which were fostered by growth, education, and experience. The process of moral growth he viewed as a learning process in which parents and teachers exemplified moral precepts which he, the thinking person, worked out in his daily life. The Egyptian viewed his gods as ultimate judges of people’s moral actions; but he did not ascribe a teaching function to the gods. An intense lover of life, he felt sure that rightdoing brought success and happiness, whereas evildoing was bound to bring failure. His moral thought added up to a social ethic which encompassed all members of society. Family, friends, neighbors, village and town, the nation as a whole and foreign peoples too – one and the same rules of righdoing applied to all. Fair-dealing and benevolence were viewed as the leading virtues; greed was deemed the most pernicious vice. In sum, the ancient Egyptian recognized the brotherhood of mankind.

Abstract

In ten chapters the author works out the ancient Egyptian’s understanding of himself as a moral human being. As soon as the literate person had begun to sum up his life and his personality in the form of an “autobiography” inscribed in his tomb, he included in it statements on his moral personhood. In the course of the centuries these statements grew into rounded self-portraits in which he reported on his doing what he recognized as right actions and his shunning what he judged to be evildoing. He understood his knowledge of right and wrong as an innate capability which was articulated by himself as a thinking person, an “I”. Altogether, he thought of himself as a person shaped by innate traits which were fostered by growth, education, and experience. The process of moral growth he viewed as a learning process in which parents and teachers exemplified moral precepts which he, the thinking person, worked out in his daily life. The Egyptian viewed his gods as ultimate judges of people’s moral actions; but he did not ascribe a teaching function to the gods. An intense lover of life, he felt sure that rightdoing brought success and happiness, whereas evildoing was bound to bring failure. His moral thought added up to a social ethic which encompassed all members of society. Family, friends, neighbors, village and town, the nation as a whole and foreign peoples too – one and the same rules of righdoing applied to all. Fair-dealing and benevolence were viewed as the leading virtues; greed was deemed the most pernicious vice. In sum, the ancient Egyptian recognized the brotherhood of mankind.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Monograph
Communities & Collections:Special Collections > Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis
Dewey Decimal Classification:200 Religion
290 Other religions
930 History of ancient world (to ca. 499)
Language:English
Date:1997
Deposited On:22 May 2018 12:30
Last Modified:24 Sep 2019 23:29
Publisher:University Press / Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht
Series Name:Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis
Volume:155
Number of Pages:110
ISBN:3-7278-1138-3
Additional Information:Digitalisat erstellt durch Florian Lippke, Departement für Biblische Studien, Universität Freiburg Schweiz
OA Status:Green
Related URLs:https://www.zora.uzh.ch/54117/

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