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The Owl of Minerva May 16, 2016

Posted by anagasto in history, philosophy.
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ave de palas atenea

The idea was Hegel’s.  He said “the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only when dusk sets in”.
—G.W.F. Hegel, Philosophy of Right (1820), “Preface”, as quoted by Leo Strauss in his “History of Natural Right”.

It means that philosophy understands things and begins to see their meaning only in retrospect. Hegel thought that therefore philosophers must give up trying to teach how things should be and instead concentrate on what they really are.

Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

This formula is often attributed to Hegel, but it is not his. He himself seems to have attributed it to Kant :-)

>>> see *** below.

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800px-Athene_noctua_(portrait) best

Photo by Trebol-a  under a CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Athene_noctua_%28portrait%29.jpg

Understanding things only in hindsight?

But in classical times, in Athens, the owl symbolized wisdom, and even now, to a modern viewer, the owl’s searching look suggests wisdom and foresight rather than hindsight.

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owl of minerva wikipdia

The clamorous owl, that nightly hoots and wonders
At our quaint spirits.”

William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

To the Romans an owl feather placed near somebody’s bed would make him speak in his dream and reveal his thoughts.

And in Spain’s rural areas people still believe that death is near if an owl sits on a roof and hoots.

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Credits

The colour photo by Trebol-a is under a CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Athene_noctua_%28portrait%29.jpg.

The photo of the silver tetradrachm coin  is under license by CC BY 2.5 Marie-Lan Nguyen (User:Jastrow), 2009-02-28

The inscription “ΑΘΕ” is an abbreviation of ΑΘΕΝΑΙΟΝ meaning “of the Athenians”.

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The following information is  from Wikipedia, but shortened and somewhat simplified.

By mistake, the formula of  thesis, antithesis, synthesis is often used to describe Hegel’s thought.

The thesis is a philosophical statement.
The antithesis is the negation of the thesis.
The synthesis combines the thesis and antithesis to form a new thesis, starting the process over.

As an analysis of historical and philosophical progress this is  sometimes  called the Hegelian dialectic, but Hegel used it only once, and he attributed it to Immanuel Kant. However, it had largely been developed earlier by  Fichte.

The triad may have become even more famous when somehow it got mixed up with the philosophy of  Karl Marx.

Marx however referred to it in The Poverty of Philosophy (1847) as speaking Greek  :-) and “Wooden trichotomies”.

“The Poverty of Philosophy” by Marx was itself an answer to “The Philosophy of Poverty” by …… (can’t remember).

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In philosophy as in everyday life, such  comedies of errors are frequent, and it is often impossible to get to the source. This doesn’t make philosophy any less attractive to some people who find it endlessly entertaining, because…..

….. philosophy is an attempt to find truth on some  basic matter even though it cannot be reached once and for all.

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