Per Bastemhet

ante-rational thought

with one comment

I wanted to expand further on some of the ideas that I explored in an earlier post on ante-rational henotheism.  Wim van den Dungen has another article on his website about this form of cognition that I would like to work out and summarize here.  I apologize if I make any mistake or not explain clearly the ideas presented here, since although I’ve had some philosophical training, I haven’t tackled epistemology in depth.  Yet. 😉

This form of cognition along with the evolutive structure from basic understandings (early, prehistoric, Old Kingdom, etc.) all the way to complex and abstract thought (New Kingdom) were discovered by Jean Piaget, who is known for his epistemological (study of knowledge) studies with children.  He created the theory of cognitive development which alongside his epistemological view is called genetic epistemology.

If you look at the link to the page (second link that I dropped in this blog entry) you’ll be able to see, after scrolling down a bit, a grid that shows the differences in mythical, pre-rational, and proto-rational thought, with examples of each in Kemetic literature.  A source that I frequently cite are the Maxims of Ptahhotep which are proto-rational in that it marks the beginning of classical literature that is capable of change.  van den Dungen mentions some pre-rational tensions being resolved once proto-rationality was fully established, e.g. between Re and Osiris, Osiris becomes Re at night, and also the first attempt at unifying the pantheon was made in the Middle Kingdom Amun theology where he was both king and judge.

The thrust: van den Dungen posits that the Kemetics are ante-rational (coming before the advent of rationality formulated by the Greeks) based on prior research done on African philosophy and religion which leads to the conclusion that “the African cultural form does not reach the level of abstract propositional operations.”  To explain further, in syntactical formulas, a propositional formula is a formula that is well formed and has a truth value.  Another name for a propositional formula is a sentence.  If all the parts of the sentence are true, then the sentence itself has a truth value.  Abstractions are ideas that are theoretical, exist outside of concrete reality, express qualities apart from a specific object or instance.  Kemetic thought was always contextual, referring to specific situations in which truths exist, yet seeming oppositional truths exist in other related contexts.  The ancient Kemetics did not ameliorate all of these, hence ante-rational thought.

There is another grid that compares African religious thought with how the Kemetic tradition expressed itself, which is well worth a read.  After that is an explanation going into the resources in different fields of where he synthesizes his hermeneutical research.  Pretty interesting, and in so many words, confirms the symbolism of Maat in that we must “auto-regulate” in order to further continue the “system” and prevent its collapse.

Of note to the researchers and friends of Djehuti and Seshat: he mentions:

The work of Piaget, the findings of neo-Freudian theory (Lemay), Kohlberg’s research on moral development & some major theories on post-formal cognitive growth (Maslow, Tart, Wilber) yield a genetico-cognitive model which integrates the three main perspectives on the living human being, namely the cognitive (Piaget, Kohlberg), the socio-affective (Freud and his school) and the moral (Maslow and transpersonal psychology). These explain the stability, continuity and architecture of a system of cognitive relationships, structures & operators.

Further study is due in order to make connections between current research and value of these theories and their application/evidence in Kemetic thought, but for now I think the aim of this post has been covered sufficiently.

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Written by Bastemhet

September 11, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Posted in theology

Tagged with , , , , ,

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  1. […] more specifically ante-rational thought works as a mode of approaching, I keep a religious journal here. That's specifically the post about ante-rational thought, but the more recent post also describes […]


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