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DHC Lecture with Mladen Dolar (University of Ljubljana)

The Owl of Minerva from Dusk till Dawn

Hegel, in one of the most famous passages in his philosophy, notoriously claims that philosophy always comes too late, like the owl of Minerva which takes its flight only at dusk, when the day is over. The passage often served as sufficient ground of indictment of Hegel’s philosophical enterprise as a whole, condemning philosophy to the helpless stance of mere interpretation. The passage is worth revisiting for it posits a number of intriguing questions. First, the nature of philosophical bestiary and the need for it. Second, the nature of philosophical temporality, and more specifically the prospect of retroaction, which addresses the issues close to psychoanalysis. Third, the nature of interpretation and change (famously addressed in Marx’s Thesis eleven and again not unrelated to psychoanalysis), and specifically the tension between ‘descriptive’ and ‘normative’, ‘what is’ and ‘what ought to be’, encapsulated in Hegel’s adage ‘what is rational is actual’. Fifth, the proper color of philosophy, which is, according to Hegel, grey on grey. Finally, the question of the task to be assigned to philosophy.