What Is “The Owl of Minerva”?

The term, “The owl of Minerva” is part of a metaphor for philosophy that originated in the book,”The Philosophy of Right” by G.W.F. Hegel. It refers to the Roman goddess of wisdom, Minerva, who was the equivalent of the Greek goddess Athena. Minerva is traditionally depicted with her sacred owl, symbolizing her connection to wisdom.

In the preface to the book, Hegel stated: “The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk,” meaning that philosophy comes to understand a historical condition just as it passes away. Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom and music, poetry, medicine, commerce, weaving, crafts and magic.