José Ortega y Gasset

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Oliver Holmes:

"José Ortega y Gasset (1883–1955) was a prolific and distinguished Spanish philosopher in the twentieth century. In the course of his career as philosopher, social theorist, essayist, cultural and aesthetic critic, educator, politician and editor of the influential journal, Revista de Occidente, he has written on a broad range of themes and issues. Among his many books are: Meditations on Quixote (1914), Invertebrate Spain (1921), The Theme of Our Time (1923), Ideas on the Novel (1925), The Dehumanization of Art (1925), What is Philosophy? (1929), The Revolt of the Masses (1930), En Torno a Galileo [Man and Crisis] (1933), History as a System (1935), Man and People (1939–40), The Origin of Philosophy (1943), The Idea of Principle in Leibnitz and the Evolution of Deductive Theory (1948). In addition to these books, he also wrote hundreds of essays and newspaper and magazine articles, the most important of which are collected in twelve volumes, several of which have been translated into English, French and German. His major writings reveal an intellectual development that traversed the life-world experiences articulated in the perspectives of phenomenology, historicism and existentialism.

Ortega's perception of human life as fundamental reality and as a “happening”, his analysis of the ontological distinction between “being” and “authentic being”, his description of the intersubjective interaction of the “I” and “Others” in the social world, his concepts of “generation”, “contemporaries” and “co-evals”, and his ideas of “perspectivism”, “vital” and “historical reason”, all combine to broaden and advance his philosophy of human social and historical realities. Through these intellectual orientations, Ortega became concerned with the epistemological status of historical knowledge, and approached the critical philosophy of history as the interpenetration of philosophical and historical attitudes. Critical philosophy of history thus refers to the position that characterizes the world we know and in which we act as a product of human activity and mind. Accordingly, Ortega represented the “modern” reflective thinker who approached history from philosophy, and whose theories of history as a source of human knowledge have epitomized the tendency to connect concepts of historical temporality and mind. He challenged positivist approaches to history and contributed an important aspect to the modern concept of history: the tenet that there is connection and meaning in human history which emanates from a principle of continuity inherent in individual human lives."