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Minerva’s Owl

Minerva’s Owl

The Tradition of Western Political Thought

Jeffrey Abramson

ISBN 9780674057029

Publication date: 09/30/2010

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.


  • [Abramson] gives us a wonderfully accessible survey of the entire field of Western political philosophy. His book is not only a fine introduction for beginners, but also an erudite, nonpartisan consideration for those who may be more conversant with the literature. There is something to think about on every page.

    —Roger Gathman, Austin American-Statesman


  • Jeffrey Abramson is Professor of Government and Law and Fellow of the Frank C. Erwin, Jr. Centennial Chair in Government, The University of Texas at Austin.

Book Details

  • 400 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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