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For the Egyptian activist and writer, see Sherif Hatata.

Hatata (Ge'ez: ሓተታ ḥatäta "inquiry") is a 1667 ethical philosophical treatise by Ethiopian philosopher Zera Yacob, written at the request of his patron's son Walda Heywat. The philosophy is theistic in nature and came during a period when African philosophical literature was significantly oral in character. It has often been compared by scholars to Descartes' Discours de la methode (1637).

Yacob wrote Hatata as an investigation of the light of reason. Yacob is most noted for this philosophy surrounding the principle of harmony. He asserted that an action's morality is decided by whether it advances or degrades overall harmony in the world. While he did believe in a deity, whom he referred to as God, he rejected any set of religious beliefs. Rather than deriving beliefs from any organized religion, Yacob sought the truth in observing the natural world.

In Hatata, in following in the footsteps of the Church fathers, Yacob applied the idea of the first cause to his proof for the existence of God. "If I say that my father and my mother created me, then I must search for the creator of my parents and of the parents of my parents until they arrive at the first who were not created as we [are] but who came into this world in some other way without being generated."

However, the knowability of God does not depend on human intellect, but "Our soul has the power of having the concept of God and of seeing him mentally. God did not give this power purposelessly; as he gave the power, so did he give the reality."[page needed]

Upon Yacob's death in 1692 his pupil Walda Heywat updated the work to include his death.


Further reading[edit]

  • Enno Littmann. Philosophi Abessini. Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Vol. 18, Scriptores Aethiopici, Presses Républicaines, 1904. Contains the Ge'ez text of the Hatata.
  • Claude Sumner, Ethiopian Philosophy, vol. II: The Treatise of Zara Yaecob and Walda Hewat: Text and Authorship, Commercial Printing Press, 1976.
  • Claude Sumner, Ethiopian Philosophy, vol. III: The Treatise of Zara Yaecob and Walda Hewat: An Analysis, Commercial Printing Press, 1978.
  • Claude Sumner. Classical Ethiopian Philosophy, Commercial Printing Press, 1985. Contains an English translation of, and brief introduction to, the Hatata and three other texts.

External links and sources[edit]