‘The Athenian Owl and the Gallic Rooster—Dusk or Dawn?’ by Klaus Vieweg

Paper from Problemi International, No. 4, 2020 (Edited by Mladen Dolar)


In Hegel’s metaphor of the owl of Minerva, thought is represented using the images of a goddess, an animal, together with a time of day, dusk. World history must first reach a certain stage of development before sufficient knowledge is possible. The general, universalistic concept of freedom, the idea of the freedom of all, could not dominate in the ancient world. Hegel alludes to the idea that his time represents the actual beginning of the modern world. The key concept of freedom allows the owl of science to begin its flight. This substantiates Hegel’s interpretation of the French Revolution: For the first time, a constitution is based on law, and this Minerva-like “headbirth” is what the prelude to modernity is based on. The revolution is a glorious sunrise, the beautiful dawn of freedom. It is the beginning of the possible realization of individual freedom in a free community. The goal or end purpose of history was considered to be universal freedom, the freedom of all, the modern world as the “end of history,” the freedom of everybody. The end of history can be interpreted—and this is the main intention of Hegelian thinking—as the actual beginning of human existence.

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