The Owl of Minerva is a collection of essays by Mary Midgley, one of the most respected and influential philosophers of the 20th century. In this book, Midgley explores a wide range of topics, from the nature of morality and the limits of science to the importance of language and the role of philosophy in contemporary society.
One of the central themes of the book is the idea that philosophy is not just an academic discipline, but a way of thinking and being in the world. Midgley argues that philosophy is a deeply human activity, and that it has an important role to play in helping us understand and navigate the complexities of the modern world. She also emphasizes the need for philosophy to engage with other areas of knowledge, including science, literature, and art, in order to gain a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the world.
Another key theme of the book is the importance of ethics and morality. Midgley argues that morality is not just a matter of personal preference or cultural convention, but a fundamental aspect of human nature. She suggests that ethical principles such as compassion, fairness, and respect for others are essential for building a just and humane society, and that they should be a guiding force in our personal and political lives.
One of the strengths of The Owl of Minerva is Midgley’s ability to draw on a wide range of sources and disciplines in order to illuminate her arguments. She draws on examples from literature, history, and everyday life to illustrate her points, and her writing is characterized by clarity and accessibility.
However, some readers may find her writing style to be overly dense and academic at times, and her arguments can be complex and challenging to follow. Additionally, while Midgley’s emphasis on the importance of ethics and morality is laudable, some readers may find her rejection of certain aspects of modern science and technology to be overly simplistic.
Overall, The Owl of Minerva is a thought-provoking and engaging book that will be of interest to anyone interested in philosophy, ethics, and the nature of human experience. Midgley’s insights into the complexities of human nature, and her calls for greater engagement and compassion in our personal and political lives, are both timely and important. While her writing style may be challenging at times, the rewards of engaging with her ideas are well worth the effort.