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Applied ethics. History of Western Philosophy. Normative ethics. Because philosophy was, above all, concerned with metaphysics, which suppositionally influenced ontology, epistemology, aesthetics, and ethics, part of the task of Francis Bacon was to liberate philosophy from metaphysics. That is to say, liberate philosophy from itself because metaphysics was the first branch of philosophy to emerge. This was intentional on the part of Bacon because ontology, the study of being, was grafted into metaphysics — ontology is merely the sub-discipline of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being which is made possible only by establishing a foundation in metaphysics.


But so too were all the other cores of philosophy. From metaphysics flowed all traditions of ontology, epistemology, aesthetics, and ethics — all related and grafted onto whatever metaphysics served as its roots. Of course, this was only made possible through the presumption that matter was all that there is. Materialism becomes the metaphysics of dominance, but Bacon — who was later championed by Hobbes — needed to break away from metaphysical hylomorphism which had been taken up by Catholicism in earnest and idealism in order to advance the monistic metaphysics of pure materialism.

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However, for Bacon, the main purpose of this assuming of materialistic physicalism was to allow the empirical study of nature without concerns over ideals like the soul, the immaterial, the transcendent, Logos, or anything like that. By assuming a purely materialist metaphysic, one could derive a purely materialistic ontology and epistemology and be safely guarded in this materialism without nagging questions.

Philosophers are notorious for disagreement, and Bacon wanted to end such disagreements.

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  • One should be aware of historical reasons for wanting this universality of agreement too, Bacon published the New Science in while Europe was embroiled in religious war, theological dispute, philosophical dispute, and imperial disputes in Americas. What all the opponents to the mechanical philosophers had in common — though all in their own unique ways — was a defense of transcendent reason and transcendent order the Logos against the anti-rationalist, anti-transcendent, and otherwise amoral philosophy implied by the very foundations of empiricism.

    The post-Baconian empiricists had ruptured the phenomenological with the transcendent.

    This is where Hegel enters the picture. According to Hegel, the Owl of Minerva and the Owl represents wisdom takes flight just before dusk as the sun is setting. Hegel was seeking to restore the old dominance that philosophy had once held in intellectual society and felt, rightly so, that the loss or debasement of philosophy would have far reaching consequences. For Hegel, the way to restore the rupture between the phenomenological and the transcendent was through an understanding of History.

    History showed that there was a rupture between the two, but History also showed that the two were coming together. Only the wise philosopher the Owl at the end of history could look back upon the history of the world and see from dawn to high noon, to setting sun at night, and fully understand everything that had transpired to reach this moment. The Owl takes flight only when the time is right for it to do so — in which case Hegel is a determinist because he is a historicist, that is History unfolds in deliberate and pre-determined epochs leading to that self-realization of reason back into the world.

    The Owl, having waited for its time to rise, is also the one who is aware of all things that have transpired because the Owl is the philosopher.


    The philosopher, observing and pondering all things that have been passed onto him and also what he can see before him, dwells in the light of the sun. 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 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.