Ortega y Gasset


Spanish philosophers. Ortega y Gasset

I think it is interesting to review, even briefly, the most significant thing I have found reading recent Spanish philosophers about the purpose or objective of Man, or of men, and on the foundation of ethics.(1) The ones I've seen closest to the basic ideas, with a certain chronological order. I hope that, of the living, no one feels discriminated or badly treated: for including him or not, or for defects of substance or form in the written.

(1). Scholium on the content of this ethical term: includes Ruse's meta-ethics and moral standards on what we have to do: substantive or normative ethics. And the teleological, deontological and other possible partial contingent ethics, both theoretical and applied.  


Ortega y Gasset. José (1883-1955)


I confess that I am Orteguian. I remember a few days before we got married, sitting on the floor of what was to be our first house in Bilbao. On the unfurnished floor, there was only me and the package, recently opened, with the nine volumes of Ortega's complete works. I have logged that on that day October 16, 1966, I began to read the eighth volume by "Foreword for Germans" Where he tells the story of Victor Hugo and the ambassador of Mesopotamia / Humanity.

I have always thought that the basic idea is implicit in Ortega's work. And it is possible that it was him, with his vital imperative, who inspired me. Somewhere I have notes on the pages where Ortega says things about it. And also, somewhere I keep a little book where D. Julián Marías talks especially about the vital reason. And where he names phrases and references that in those days I contrasted with the purpose of verifying that Ortega had the basic idea in his interior. I'm going to say, by heart, the clues on which I base my impressions and the reasons why he did not see them as I see them. If I ever have time I will review the now ten volumes of the new complete works, to confirm my suspicions.

In short, I will try to summarize in a paragraph the ideas of Ortega closest to the basic ones.

The man, every man, is himself and his circumstances. And his duty, his vital imperative, is to save both. And for that he must live according to his vocation as a man. And the ability to think, reason, is a means to live and to try to save the circumstance of each one and oneself.

Humanity is within the Orteguean circumstance and I believe that Ortega would admit the synecdoche of writing Man where he writes man. This results in the basic idea. I am going to try to express my opinion about the reasons why I did not explain it as I did.

Ortega, like everyone until very recently, did not question the physical existence of men. He counted on the fact that the circumstance "human kind" is permanent. And that if ever Man is extinguished it will be for reasons beyond men's control. For natural reasons or because some external power wants it. With this, it does not occur to him that every man has to think about dealing with the material survival of the entire species Homo sapiens. The living of every man is his personal life, and his circumstance to save is that in which he can directly influence.

In the Foreword for Germans says Ortega that "...the first term of my circumstance was and is Spain, as the last one is ...maybe Mesopotamia". And then: The circumstance is, for the moment, the closest" As it happens to all of us. Each one of us has concrete and varied circumstances to save: children, family, friends, company, clan, tribe, country, culture, religion, soccer team ... And it is good that it is so. Because then the people of our family, our company, our tribe... as acting subjects, have in turn, and are assumed to assume, the duty to try to save their own nearby circumstances in which they influence: their families, companies, tribes, nations, cultures ... And so, in interrelated concentric circles -or through nodal networks they would say others- we have come this far.

Very recently some men, not yet all, have realized that the circumstance to save is the species, our Humanity. Although some already say that the object to be saved by the subject Man, is all the biomass, or the Earth, or the Universe or the whole Life. Possibly they are right. But I, for the moment, stay in the Homo sapiens species which is the immediate level to those in which we are already acting. And that seems to be the one that runs the most danger. And that, moreover, is the means to try to survive us and our most immediate circumstances: current and future.

The work of Ortega, read through the glasses of my ideas, would give to write much more. I leave it for another time or for more experts. But I would just like to leave an idea related to Kant, whom Ortega knew well during his stay in Germany.

As I said, Kant gave up on finding the hidden purpose of Nature and entrusted the philosophers to keep on looking, pulling of the conductive thread that he started. And separately, since it was a moral issue, he discovered the categorical imperative: that he left empty. Ortega sees that the purpose of Nature is to live and that the imperative to become universal law is the vital imperative. And to philosophers he tells them that the best way to reason is to live. And that the reason is to live, rather than to live for reasoning. Ortega can be "The capable man who like another Newton or Kepler", Kant commissioned to create Nature to find its hidden purpose. To think more. 

Marbella, 2.8.2018. Revised on 5.10.18