Cover image for Minerva's owl : the tradition of western political thought
Minerva's owl : the tradition of western political thought
Abramson, Jeffrey B.
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Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. ; London : Harvard University Press, 2010.
Physical Description:
388 p. ; 23 cm.
General Note:
Originally published: 2009.
Introduction: the canon of political thought -- Plato's Republic: the debate over justice begins -- The students revolt against Utopia -- Out of the cave and into the light, and back again? -- Beyond Plato's tragic republic -- Aristotle's Ethics: the habits of virtue -- Aristotle's Politics: severed hands and political animals -- Augustine and the problem of evil -- Machiavelli's dirty hands -- Hobbes and the kingdom of means -- Locke, liberalism, and the possessive life -- Rousseau and the rustic -- Rousseau and the political -- Kant's crooked timber -- John Stuart Mill and the demands of individuality -- Hegel, Marx, and the owl of Minerva -- The revival of political theory -- Conclusion: the passion for politics.


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Book 0328944 JA81 .A32 2010 Central Campus Library

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Informal in tone yet serious in content, this book serves as a lively and accessible guide for readers discovering the tradition of political thought that dates back to Socrates and Plato. Because the arguments of the great philosophers are nearly eternal, even those long schooled on politics will find that this book calls on recurring questions about morality and power, justice and war, the risk of democracy, the necessity for evil, the perils of tolerance, and the meaning of happiness. Jeffrey Abramson argues politics with the classic writers and draws the reader into a spirited conversation with contemporary examples that illustrate the enduring nature of political dilemmas. As the discussions deepen, the voices of Abramson's own teachers, and of the students he has taught, enter into the mix, and the book becomes a tribute not just to the great philosophers but also to the special bond between teacher and student.

As Hegel famously noted, referring to the Roman goddess Minerva, her owl brought back wisdom only at dusk, when it was too late to shine light on actual politics. Abramson reminds us that there are real political problems to confront, and in a book filled with grace and passion, he captures just how exciting serious learning can be.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Canon of Political Thoughtp. 1
1 Plato's Republic: The Debate over Justice Beginsp. 17
2 The Students Revolt against Utopiap. 36
3 Out of the Cave and into the Light-and Back Again?p. 61
4 Beyond Plato's Tragic Republicp. 83
5 Aristotle's Ethics: The Habits of Virtuep. 87
6 Aristotle's Politics: Severed Hands and Political Animalsp. 105
7 Augustine and the Problem of Evilp. 126
8 Machiavelli's Dirty Handsp. 145
9 Hobbes and the Kingdom of Meansp. 169
10 Locke, Liberalism, and the Possessive Lifep. 197
11 Rousseau and the Rusticp. 222
12 Rousseau and the Politicalp. 243
13 Kant's Crooked Timberp. 258
14 John Stuart Mill and the Demands of Individualityp. 279
15 Hegel, Marx, and the Owl of Minervap. 301
16 The Revival of Political Theoryp. 322
Conclusion: The Passion for Politicsp. 345
Notesp. 353
Acknowledgmentsp. 377
Indexp. 379