Man and His Circumstances: Ortega as Educator
by Robbie McClintock
Chapter II — Preparations
Prólogo para alemanes, 1933,1958, Obras VIII, p. 55.
The precipitate that the years of study in Germany left in me was the decision to accept, integrally and without reserve, my Spanish destiny. It was not a comfortable destiny.
In addition to Ortega's writings on the subject discussed below, my views have been influenced by Plato and Goethe. Plato's Symposium is, of course, fundamental but his attitude also is insinuated through most of his works and a familiarity with these is helpful in trying to follow Diotima's teaching as it is recounted by Socrates in the Symposium. There are useful discussions of Eros in Plato's philosophy in Paul Friedländer, Plato: An Introduction, passim and esp. pp. 32-58; F. M. Cornford, The Unwritten Philosophy and Other Essays, pp. 68-80; G. M. A. Grube, Plato's Thought, pp. 87-119; and Julius Stenzel, Platon der Erzieher, pp. 191-248. Goethe's great examination of the relation of love and self-culture is in Wilhelm Meister, passim. An excellent study by Ortega's contemporary, Max Scheler, is Wesen und Formen der Sympathie, a book that Ortega was quite familiar with. A striking book on Eros and Education could be written.
See Plato, Protagoras, 310D-314C.
See Montaigne, "Of the Education of Children," in Blanchard Bates, ed., Montaigne, Selected Essays, esp. p. 22.
Recourse to love, rather than to her antagonist, conditioning theory, is needed to explain two features of learning. The young do not truly know what it is that they want to learn, and most of them dutifully attend to whatever their elders choose to offer. Insofar as this unquestioning acceptance is the case, educational systems ironically perpetuate a radical ignorance. Each generation grows up without knowing why it learned what it learned. There are usually a few, however, who resist the given. In the manner that Socrates explained to Hippocrates, they avidly examine every teacher, testing whatever he proposes to teach to see whether it is really worth learning. They seek to make their education all their own, that is, as Montaigne said, a part of their judgment. When a teacher reveals his lack of judgment by being unable to account for why he teaches what he tries to teach, the young in search of true learning must borrow a fragment here and there and then move on, sadder but wiser men. Theirs is a task fraught with failure, and hence learning has usually been accompanied by a faith that every disappointment simply brings the would-be learner closer to his goal: lovers of wisdom have long known that to define great things it is often best to begin by identifying that which the thing is not. Thus, the first feature of learning that conditioning theory cannot explain is the sustained, skeptical search for the unknown teacher who can set forth that which one intuits to be possible, but which one has yet to encounter.
Then, neither too soon nor too late, the searcher must reverse his nomadic inquiry at the moment that he meets the proper teacher. Many youths, tired of their quest, stop looking too soon and accept as a prize that which happens to be at hand; and others, hardened to skeptical scoffing, pass by their true goal without responding. A few recognize their teacher. Without giving up their powers of criticism, they let their teacher immerse them in influence, for they know that the influence is wholesome and that in time they can organize, edit, and perfect their acquirements. Thus, learning begins in a restless search and culminates in a decisive commitment. What but love could direct such delicate maneuvers?
Plato, Symposium, 197C, W. R. M., Lamb, trans.
In Plato's Symposium the eulogists who preceded Socrates in speaking in honor of love praised Eros for her genetic prowess. Agathon, the foil for Socrates, concluded his discourse by saying, "Thus I conceive, Phaedrus, that Love was originally of surpassing beauty and goodness, and is latterly the cause of similar excellences in others." Socrates began his questioning of Agathon by asking whether or not there was an object of love, whether there were qualities or objects that love urged us to attain. With the admission that love is a desire for something, genetic theories of the erotic drive cease to make sense: the excellence of beauty and goodness was not in Love itself, but in the absent objects that Love urged us to attain. With this observation Socrates introduced Diotima's erotic teleology, in which love was a desire for the qualities one lacked, not the cause of the qualities one possessed. This desire was directed towards ever more elevating qualities, and hence love was a great educating force. It could sustain a student's search for teachers, men who can help him master his deficiencies, and it could prompt him, whenever he met such men, to open himself to influence.
"Amor en Stendhal," 1926, Obras V, p. 571.
Some of the more important essays by Ortega concerning his theory of love were "Psicoanálisis, ciencia problemática," 1911, Obras I, pp. 216-238; Meditaciones del Quijote, 1914, Obras I, pp. 310-4; "Leyendo el Aldolfo, libro de amor," 1916, Obras II, pp. 25-8; "Vitalidad, alma, espíritu," 1924, Obras II, pp. 451-460; "Para un psicología del hombre interesante," 1925, Obras IV, pp. 467- 480; and Estudios sobre el amor, 1941, Obras V, pp. 551-626. In her dissertation, "José Ortega y Gasset: The Creation of a Literary Genre for Philosophy," Sister Mary Terese Avila Duffy includes some interesting observations on Eros in Ortega's style, but for the most part, the importance of Eros for Ortega's thought has been ignored by commentators.
Thus love directs the student not by its causal power to determine his character, but by its teleological power to attract him onwards, drawing him out and leading him continually to surpass himself. Ortega explained this power of love as follows: "in the Platonic vocabulary, 'beauty' is the concrete name for what we generally, generically call 'perfection.' Formulated with a certain circumspection, but with rigorous attention to Plato's thought, his idea is this: in all love there resides in the lover a desire to unite himself with another who appears gifted with some perfection. Love is, then, a movement in our spirit towards something that is in a sense excellent, better, superior." For Ortega, as for Diotima, love began with another and spread until it yearned for union with beauty, truth, and goodness. The great diversity of love enabled Ortega to make it a complicated, varied force for the perfection of himself and his people.
Meditaciones del Quijote, 1914, Obras I, p. 311. Cf. Leibniz, "Discourse on Metaphysics" (1686), "he who loves seeks his satisfaction in the felicity or perfection of the subject loved and in the perfection of his actions." Chandler and Montgomery trans., in Philip Weiner, ed., Leibniz Selections, p. 294.
We need to start with reflections on love in order to comprehend the tremendous educability that was Ortega's personal genius. Like Wilhelm Meister, Ortega began as a rather ordinary youth. But something drew him on through several Wanderjahre that were marked by many twists and turns and a serious lack of an explicit, apparent rationale. Yet in these wanderings, Ortega discovered his destiny; from disparate travels, he developed his sense of mission. A love for Spain drew Ortega onwards, a love for a perfected Spain, his Kinderland. In the Platonic conception of love, the excellence towards which our spirit moves is not always an already actual excellence; on the contrary, it is usually a potential excellence, one that must be brought into being if it is to exist among the concrete realities of our lives. Thus, our love at once draws us towards the better and is the agent for bringing that possibility into existence. Ortega understood this point. "In everything there is a suggestion of a potential plenitude. An open and noble spirit will have the ambition to perfect it, to aid it, so that it will achieve this plenitude. This is love—the love for the perfection of the beloved." Ortega's Wanderjahre exemplify how the love for the perfection of the beloved guides the lover to the perfecting of himself .
See Ortega's "Prólogo a Historia de Ia filosofía de Karl Vorländer," 1922, and "Prólogo a Historia de la filosofía de Emile Bréhier," 1942, Obras VI, pp. 292-300, 377-418, as well as Origen y epílogo de la filosofía, 1943, 1960, Obras IX, pp. 349-434, for his views on the history of philosophy, which have influenced my views here. One of the better histories of philosophy for studying Ortega's preparations is The Spirit of Modern Philosophy by Josiah Royce, for in it he treats idealism as a living tradition rather than as a series of closed systems.
To say that Ortega spent two years studying idealism in the German universities would be true but deceptive, for it might suggest that he went to Germany specifically to learn the doctrines of idealism. We can make an all-too-common error by treating the history of philosophy as a series of systems, each sufficient unto itself, a body of doctrine to be learned as one learns to decline Latin nouns. But philosophy is not a fixed system that can be learned. As a human enterprise, philosophy is a tradition of speculation in which each succeeding effort preserves its predecessors by partially perfecting and perverting them. By a conjunction of inclination and circumstances, certain men are called to philosophize. Responding to the call, they discover that the tradition of their peers can influence; it is too vast to be learned. Ortega was among the men called forth by a love of wisdom; hence, from 1905 to 1907 he subjected himself to the intense influence of the idealistic tradition. Although he did not become a rigorous idealist, ever afterwards this tradition was an essential, positive element of his thought.
Ortega's studies were not directed by convention; they were wonder-filled years of wandering. His apprenticeship at Marburg culminated an erratic search for an obscure object. This search was sustained by the faith that Spain needed science and that somewhere in the halls of the German universities there were men who could reveal the genius of science to a curious, young Spaniard. Let us not be like those who never wonder at the marvelous mystery that Plato was, out of all the chances, the disciple of Socrates, and that Aristotle was the pupil of Plato. Thus, we should take some care to follow Ortega's studies in a way that will do justice to their great significance, but that will not convert them into an obvious fact to be taken for granted.
"Pidiendo un Goethe desde dentro," 1932, Obras IV, pp. 400-1.
In an important essay on Goethe, Ortega suggested that the biographer should learn to comprehend a man "from the inside." This mode of understanding was not that of absolute acquaintance in which the biographer can reconstruct the entirety of a person's thoughts and surroundings at any particular moment. Understanding a man from the inside meant comprehending the powers of the man and the potentials of his surroundings, and perceiving how he meshed these together into a unique accomplishment. "The true inside from which I want you to see Goethe is not the inside of Goethe, but the inside of his life, of the drama of Goethe. It is not a question of seeing the life of Goethe as Goethe saw it with his subjective vision, but of entering as a biographer into the magic circle of his existence in order to witness the tremendous objective event that was this life and of which Goethe was only an ingredient." In this way, we should try to understand, from the inside, the drama of Ortega's encounter with idealism, an encounter that easily might have led to nothing.
Drama need not be marred by one's knowing the plot before witnessing the spectacle. At the end of 1904 Ortega decided to go to Germany, having become discontented with the intellectual life of his native land. He went to Germany with a vague intuition that the situation of Spain could be improved only through education, but he lacked the intellectual principles for transforming this intuition into a personal program of life. Consequently, when he went to Germany he did not know what to study, where to study it, or with whom; he was a potential student in search of a teacher. First he tried the University of Leipzig for the spring of 1905, and in the fall he switched to the University of Berlin. He found both universities to be impressive, but neither had a fundamental influence on him. Hence, at the end of his first year he was still uncertain about the nature of his quest, and he had yet to find the proper teacher. He then tried the University of Marburg, the center of neo-Kantianism. Ortega stayed there a year, and in 1911 he returned for another. At Marburg he found a true teacher and a significant idea: Hermann Cohen, the teacher, initiated him into the rigorous discipline of philosophic speculation, and Paul Natorp introduced him to a version of idealism that enabled Ortega to envisage a career as the educator of a more perfect Spain.
To appreciate the objective event that Ortega's studies were, it is important to note on the one hand how easily the study of philosophy can be sidetracked into fruitless byways and on the other how utterly devoid of external guidance Ortega's studies were. No subject is more vulnerable to bad teaching or studying than philosophy; and of the schools of philosophy, none is more easily rendered meaningless than idealism. The study of speculative philosophy is itself a speculation; its goal is great and delicate, and all but strong spirits are easily diverted from its pursuit. In Germany, there were many times when Ortega's effort might have been shunted along unproductive paths, but Ortega was one of the strong spirits who could recognize when his current opportunities did not pertain to his real goal: thus he was willing to launch himself repeatedly into the unknown, rather than inure himself to inadequate familiarities. He had the courage, the inward faith in himself, not to insist that his studies advance step by step. Instead, as he tried this and that, he built up a tremendous tension between significant but unconnected inquiries; and when this tension reached the proper level, he was ready to master the principles, the ideas, by which these disparate elements could be combined to form a unity, a self, a heroic character.
Meditaciones del Quijote, 1914, Obras I, p. 351.
"Una primera vista sobre Baroja," 1910, Obras II, p. 116.
Plato saw in Eros, '' Ortega observed, "an impetus that succeeded in joining all things to each other; it is, he said, a connective force and a passion for synthesis. Therefore, in his opinion, philosophy, which finds the sense of things, is induced by Eros." Unrequited love guided Ortega's incessant search. His trip to Germany was an affirmation of his country's potential; his discontent with its performance goaded him through his Wanderjahre. A positive act based on a negative judgment: he left, he later wrote, to escape "the stupidity of my country ." Seeking an alternative to stupidity, he naturally began with the University of Leipzig since its faculty had a prestigious reputation for erudition. Once there he was dismayed by the impersonality of the institution and by his complete lack of friends and connections. He resolved to master German; he struggled alone with Kant's Critique of Pure Reason; and he tried with little success to engage himself in a worthwhile course of philosophic studies.
"Cartas inéditas a Navarro Ledesma," Leipzig, May 16, 1905, Cuadernos, November 1961, pp. 6-7.
For the impact of science on late nineteenth-century thought see Jacques Barzun, Darwin, Marx, Wagner, esp. pp. 115--126. On the origins and impulse of the Wiener Kreis see H. Stuart Hughes, Consciousness and Society: The Reconstruction of European Social Thought, 1890-1930, esp. pp. 397-401. The view that Ortega almost took up is clearly expressed by A. J. Ayer in Language, Truth and Logic, esp. pp. 57, 151-3.
Domingo Marrero said that Ortega was enrolled in these courses in El Centauro, p. 184. Marrero seems to have checked the registration records at Leipzig and Marburg and on such matters he is good authority. However, writing in 1951, he had access to neither Prólogo para alemanes nor the letters. He tried, imaginatively but mistakenly, to reconstruct from Ortega's later work which professors Ortega must have been influenced by in Germany. He imagined an influence by Wundt, whom Ortega did not treat kindly in "Sobre el concepto de sensación," 1913, Obras I, pp. 246-8; he exaggerated the influence of Simmel, whose significance Ortega did not seem to appreciate until two decades later; and he underemphasized the influence of Cohen and Natorp. In Ortega, pp. 204-220, Julián Marías gives a good secondary account of Ortega's experience in Germany. Marías is better than Marrero on influences and not as good on chronological details, and Marías also wrote his account before Ortega's letters from Germany were available. For Ortega's own views of his experience at Leipzig, see Prólogo para alemanes, 1933, 1958., Obras VIII, p. 26., and Ortega., "Cartas inéditas a Navarro Ledesma," Cuadernos, November 1961, pp. 3-18. For the scientific emphasis at Leipzig, see Ortega's "Una fiesta de paz," 1909, Obras I., pp. 124-7, in which he commemorated the 400th anniversary of the University of Leipzig and especially commended its physics and chemistry. For Ortega"s views of Berlin., see Prólogo para alemanes, 1933, 1958, Obras VIII., pp. 26-7, and "'En la Institución Cultural Española de Buenos Aires," 1939, Obras VI, p. 235.
Leipzig, May 16 and August 6, 1905, "Cartas inéditas a Navarro Ledesma," Cuadernos, pp. 7-9, 16, 18.
Ortega's difficulties might have been foreseen. In 1905 Leipzig was not a center of philosophic speculation. The great psychologist, Wilhelm Wundt, was its best known professor, and in general the positivistic, empirical sciences were its forte. Before he was there long, the lonely young Spaniard began to doubt whether a strictly metaphysical career was still possible. After several months Ortega wrote in a most uncharacteristic vein to his friend Francisco Navarro Ledesma, an important literary critic. "Philosophy is nothing in itself... ," he confided, "it is only a chemical process for treating a primary material extraneous to it and giving this material an essence. Thus, philosophy must find its subject matter in a special science." In this way, self-doubt threatened to overcome the speculative spirit as philosophers faced the achievements of empirical science, making them suspect that their art would have to become either a positive science or a logical analysis. In this way, even Ortega was moved by the doubt that gave rise to the Wiener Kreis, and the whole movement towards a strictly analytic philosophy. Ortega toyed with the idea of taking up an empirical specialty, and he even enrolled in courses in histology and anatomy, perhaps to prepare himself to study with Wundt. But his heart was not in such work. For a time he studied philosophy at Leipzig with some concentration, but he found the subject uncongenial and his effort spilled over into a voracious program of reading. Nietzsche and Renan were his favorites, but he also read Ranke and other historians, the Humboldt brothers, Pestalozzi, Herbart, Schopenhauer, Descartes, Kant, and Goethe. His discovery of a collection on the history of Spain convinced him that the standard Spanish histories needed revision from beginning to end. All this reading was stimulating and his letters were packed with various thoughts and insights, but it lacked discipline.
"Historia como sistema," 1936, Obras VI, p. 41.
The phrase "my Nietzsche" is from "Cartas inéditas a Navarro Ledesma," Leipzig, May 16, 1905 (before Ortega studied with Simmel), op. cit., p. 9. In "El sobre hombre," 1908, Obras I, pp. 91-5, Ortega relied on Simmel's interpretation of Nietzsche.
In the fall of 1905 Ortega went to Berlin in search of a better library. Reminiscing about this time, he wrote that often he was too poor to feed his body in the auto-mat, and to make up for it he overfed his head in the library. Still his work lacked discipline and he failed to find a teacher who could give him decisive direction. In retrospect, this failure seems surprising. He heard about Wilhelm Dilthey, whom years later he would call the most important thinker of the last half of the nineteenth century. But by then Dilthey only taught a select inner circle, and thus failed to meet one of his more imaginative disciples. Ortega did, however, attend the lectures of Georg Simmel, who had just published his work on Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. Later Ortega would appreciate Simmel as a significant thinker; but in 1905 Simmel was not a fundamental influence on Ortega, who was already an enthusiast of "my Nietzsche." Simmel probably sharpened this particular interest, without deepening and unifying Ortega's general comprehension of German thought.
If Ortega had had to stop after his first year in Germany, his studies probably would not have been a major influence on his life and thought. His work lacked unifying principles. Consequently, his various inquiries did not cohere and contribute each to the other. They were a multitude of fragments that were not yet cumulative because they were not informed by common ideas. Furthermore, he still lacked significant personal involvement with professors. Without it, he remained a mere observer of German intellectual life; all youths, no matter how brilliant, need a mentor to show them how to take part in any serious intellectual undertaking.
See Henri Dussort, L'école de Marburg, which is the best work on the school of Marburg although it is fragmentary and unfinished owing to its author's untimely death. For the place of the school, or at least of Hermann Cohen, in modem thought, see Jules Vuillemin, L'héritage Kantien et la revolution Copernicienne. Ortega's fullest description of his experience at Marburg is in Prólogo para alemanes, 1933, 1958, Obras VIII, pp. 26-42.
It is not best, however, that students learn without making mistakes and incurring waste effort. By the spring of 1906 Ortega understood the difference between two kinds of German universities: those like Leipzig and Berlin, at which diverse specialists conglomerated, and those like the University of Marburg, at which a few men joined to form a "school." The difference was pedagogical, for the scholarship of the men at both types was equally competent. At the conglomerate institutions, the faculty members agreed on few fundamentals and they made little effort to concert their influence on their students. At Marburg professors and students shared certain basic ideas and dedicated themselves to the investigation and elaboration of certain premises. There Ortega entered a true school of philosophy. His disagreement with its doctrines notwithstanding, his comprehension of what such an institution was had a lasting effect on his work as an educator
"From the inside," Ortega's encounter with idealism reflects the effects that two teachers had on the ripe student. One must do more than merely learn philosophy; one must undergo conversion to a philosophic way of life. This conversion took place for Ortega at Marburg. It was not a conversion to Marburg neo-Kantianism; it was a conversion occasioned by the Marburg neo-Kantians, and through this conversion Ortega found the intellectual integrity to accept without reserve his Spanish destiny. Until then Ortega was simply amassing more and more knowledge about philosophy; after this time Ortega was a man converted to the vocation of living by his philosophic knowledge.
"Meditación del Escorial," 1915, Obras II, p. 558.
Discipline and hope were the essential qualities that, as a teacher, Ortega tried to develop in his students; and it was these qualities that his teachers at Marburg inspired in him. In retrospect, he wrote of Marburg that "to it I owe a half, at least, of my hopes and almost all of my discipline." Hermann Cohen, the senior figure among neo-Kantians, was the source of Ortega's discipline, and Paul Natorp, the second great teacher in the school, helped arouse many of Ortega's hopes. They helped Ortega form his mission.
For a good introduction to Cohen's character and thought, see the appreciation of him by Ernst Cassirer, "Hermann Cohen: Wörte gesprochen an seinen Grabe am 7 April1918," in Cohen, Schriften zur Philosophie und Zeitgeschichte, Vol. I. pp. ix–xvi. Cohen's capacity to contend systematically with a subject is well exemplified by his major works, three commentaries to Kant's three critiques and then three critiques of his own, one on pure reason, one on ethics, and one on esthetics. See Hermann Cohen, Kants Theorie der Erfahrung, 1871; Kants Begründung der Ethik, 1877; Kants Begründung der Aesthetik, 1889; Logik der reinen Erkenntnis, 1902; Ethik des reinen Willens, 1904; and Aesthetik des reinen Gufühls, 2 vols., 1912. The last three books make up Cohen's System der Philosophie. In addition to discipline, Cohen imparted certain ideas to Ortega, for the latter mentioned that Cohen's logic supported his own idea of life; see "Pidiendo un Goethe desde dentro," 1932, Obras IV, p. 403.
Ortega described these conversations in "Estética en Ia tranvía," 1916, "Para la cultura del amor," 1917, and "Meditación del Escorial." 1915, Obras II, pp. 33, 142, and 559.
When Ortega met him, Hermann Cohen was an elderly, convivial philosopher, then at the height of his fame. Cohen had been nurtured in the Jewish tradition; he was appreciative of the classical Greeks and convinced that the philosopher's task was to carry on systematically, and in spirit, if not in letter, the critical philosophizing initiated by Kant. The relationship that developed between Cohen and Ortega does not fit the stereotype of the aloof German professor. Ortega frequently went to Cohen's house for long conversations in the course of which there was a mutual give and take between the slim student and his portly master. Cohen became Ortega's guide and counselor, the teacher that the youth was seeking; and on returning from Germany Ortega would tell Spaniards that Cohen was "perhaps the greatest contemporary philosopher." Cohen had established his reputation with his System der Philosophie, a multi-volume work on logic, ethics, and esthetics; and it is tempting to try to use these volumes as a basis for explaining what Ortega might have found in his mentor's teaching that would eventually contribute to the development of his own views. But that undertaking would be an unproductive distraction, for teachers, especially teachers of philosophy, properly influence their students by putting questions, rather than by providing doctrines. We should, therefore leave to another occasion the interesting task of tracing the great web of doctrinal influences that make up post-Kantian humanism; here let us concentrate on the questions and problems that Cohen put to Ortega.
Cohen made Ortega contend with the problem of competence in philosophy. By what standard should a philosopher measure the adequacy of his work? Is a philosopher competent when he proves to be unassailable, having rid his work of every possible ambiguity, perhaps at the price of removing its human significance as well? Or, in contrast, is he competent when he provides a complete, perhaps flawed, system that will attempt to establish intellectual standards applicable to all possible human problems? In short, is philosophy a disinterested analysis or a normative system? Should the philosopher know, or should he educate? To see how these questions were put, and to understand the kind of answers Cohen suggested, it is best to study the man—Cohen, the philosopher—not his philosophy.
The account of this incident is given most fully by Ortega in "Meditación del Escorial," 1915, Obras II, p. 559. It is noteworthy that Cohen's discussion of Don Quixote treated it as an Erziehungsroman in a class with Goethe's Wilhelm Meister; see Aesthetik, Vol. 2, pp. 112, 119-123. Historians of education should make a study of the pedagogical ideas imparted through the Erziehungsroman. For Cohen's conception of system, see particularly, Die systematischen Begriff in Kants vorkritischen Schriften, 1873; Logik der reinen Erkenntnis, pp. 601---612; and Aesthetik des reinen Gefühls, Vol. I, pp. 3-67.
Germany had attracted Ortega because of its reputation for erudition; he wanted an intellectual life that was more substantial than the one Spain offered. It was this substantiality that Cohen incarnated and communicated. He was a true scholar: man thinking. He could pose a basic question, propose a thesis resolving it, and develop that thesis through its implications by systematically and carefully contending with the ideas of those who had previously thought about the problem. Here is the first point that Cohen put across: competence is achieved not in preparing to be measured by one's peers, but in taking the measure of one's predecessors. This obligation to respect past achievements, to find them worthy of being dealt with seriously, was brought home to Ortega by an incident with Cohen that Ortega never forgot. When Cohen was mid way through the composition of his two volume treatise on esthetics, he stopped work for several weeks in order to study Don Quixote simply because a conversational remark Ortega had made about Cervantes suggested to Cohen that one of his aesthetic propositions was not adequate to deal with such a work. Here was a teacher who embodied the ideal of thoroughness; and Cohen managed to convey his scholarly standards to his students without turning them into pedants.
See esp. Prólogo para alemanes, 1933, 1958, Obras VIII, pp. 26-42.
Ibid., p. 27.
Eventually, Ortega criticized neo-Kantianism for having too narrow interests, but it was fortunate that in his youth he had to contend with a man such as Cohen. Cohen imparted to his students the realization that the intricacies of Plato and Kant were important for contemporary European thought—and by "thought" one means not only technical philosophy, but the cultural life of Europe. It was no accident that three of Cohen's students—Nicolai Hartmann, Ernst Cassirer, and Ortega—were among the more competent, systematic thinkers of their time: they had been forced to grapple with their predecessors. In appreciation, Ortega recorded that Cohen "obliged us to make intimate contact with difficult philosophy and, above all, renovated the impulse towards system, which is the essence of philosophic inspiration." Cohen's real achievement was to make the impulse towards system into a deep, personal concern for Ortega.
We touch here on an essential feature of Ortega's philosophic conversion. It was not, to repeat, a conversion to a particular dogma or principle, but to philosophy as a human enterprise. What was the vital significance of a cherubic professor who spent his life composing multi-volume treatises on reason? Why would a youth be inspired by a man who was willing to stop work to check his whole argument because of a chance remark? What was Cohen doing that began to seem profoundly important to Ortega? What was this ''impulse towards system" that Ortega began to recognize as "the essence of philosophic inspiration"?
Basic examples of the impulse towards analysis are A. J. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic, and The Problem of Knowledge. The absence of an historical interest on the part of those moved by an analytic impulse can be measured by comparing the last-mentioned work by Ayer with a book on the same subject written by a man moved by the systematic impulse, The Problem of Knowledge by Ernst Cassirer (Woglom and Hendel, trans.) For an example of how the conception of reason as a mental faculty still persists, see the article "Reason" by G. J. Warnock in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 7, pp. 83-5. In contrast to systematic philosophers who seek to discover the proper standards of reason, Warnock contended that it would be better to proceed directly to "the logical and epistemological analysis and classifications." But how, without first at least an implicit critique of reason, can professional philosophers set forth to themselves acceptable logical and epistemological standards of analysis and classification?
See Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, esp. p. 3 and the sections on language.
See Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy, pp. 153–161.
Those who "do philosophy," as some laboriously say, have difficulty appreciating the power and significance of the impulse towards system. As philosophy turned analytic, it turned in upon itself and became obsessed with the so-called problems of philosophy. The history of philosophy ceased to have any interest except insofar as it could be pillaged for interesting problems. The most discussed problems concerned whether any possible proposition could actually meet the standards established by the ideal of truth and thus could merit the encomium "knowledge." Men do philosophy by analyzing such problems, hoping to win recognition from others who are also content to live by doing philosophy. The favored analysis is to show that the so-called problem is simply a question badly put that resulted from a failure to understand the limits of language. Presumably, the impulse towards analysis will terminate when all the problems of philosophy have been solved: on that millennial date philosophers will have nothing more to do and the activity initiated by Thales will become an historical relic, a monument to primitive man's propensity to make life hard for himself. But until that silent hour when, following what Wittgenstein advised, but did not practice, men say only what can be said clearly and pass over in silence all the rest, the problems of philosophy will be a great sport. Although useless to the many who are caught in the affairs of the world and must therefore stand off as spectators, the impulse towards analysis is, as Bertrand Russell eloquently explained, a glorious recreation, the highest good for those who have the time and taste to do it.
Ibid., p. 7.
Rather than turn philosophy in upon itself, the impulse towards system turns philosophy outward into the community. Systematic philosophers are concerned less with the problems of philosophy than they are with those of reason and of man. The problem for philosophy has been to help man do what he truly intends, and the philosopher's contribution has been to create reason, to discover mind. We are still burdened with the incubus of faculty psychology and insist on thinking of reason as a mental faculty which is either inborn or non-existent, and which through discipline can be strengthened and exercised. In the systematic tradition, however, reason is recognized as a cultural creation, at first a mere seed that needs to be implanted and then carefully nurtured. The thinking faculty, if we must use the term, has to be shaped into some particular form before it is of any use in living life, and it can be shaped into several types of reason—pure, practical, aesthetic, historical, dialectical, mythical—by systematizing the ways men can effectively reflect on various types of problems that arise in their lives. Epistemology, understood as the critique of reason, is fundamental to all ensuing enquiries, including the more restricted, analytic epistemology that consists in the critique of knowledge. Thus, when Bertrand Russell began to survey the problems of philosophy by asking—"Is there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it?"—he unwittingly attested to the prior need to make a critique of reason; for without a standard by which one can determine who is and is not a reasonable man, there will be no way to evaluate answers to the problems of philosophy or, for that matter, to any other set of difficulties.
Thus there is an awesome succession of critiques of reason. An excellent history of this elaboration of reason up to the twentieth century is Léon Brunschvicg, Le progrès de la conscience dans la philosophie occidentale. Nor is this succession of critiques by any means a dead tradition. For important twentieth-century contributions, see Wilhelm Dilthey, Gesammelte Schriften, especially Volumes I, V, and VII; Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, Ralph Manheim, trans.; Ortega, La idea de Ia principia en Leibniz y la evolución de la teoría deductiva, 1947, 1958, Obras VIII, pp. 61--356; and Jean Paul Sartre, Critique de la raison dialectique. An example of the analytic bias in favor of the critique of knowledge rather than the critique of reason is to be found in the long article by D. W. Hamlyn on "Epistemology, History of" in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 3, pp. 8-38. Hamlyn defined epistemology as the critique of Knowledge; he treated Kant as an epistemologist in this sense, ignoring the whole problem of how reason is possible; and he completely ignored Dilthey, among other systematic epistemologists.
See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, Part II, Chapter 1, Section 2, p. A745; and Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, "Introduction," esp. p. 260.
Reason is the cultural artifact that men have created to answer the myriad of questions that occur to them; and the philosophers' first duty has been to maintain and perfect this supremely productive tool that originates in wonder, in the recognition that on certain occasions men could neither speak clearly nor tolerate silence. Make no mistake, it was not a problem of philosophy, but the fear that Hume's skepticism would render reason useless to men, that roused Kant from his dogmatic slumber. A desire to live by reason motivates the impulse towards system, which is, in essence, an impulse towards making reason a more effective implement for the conduct of those activities that thought must guide. The fantastic superstructure of human activities has come into being only as men have, through fantasy and speculation, developed the intellectual powers that direct these endeavors; and through philosophy men have laid down for themselves the marvelous variety of imperfect rational rules by which they live. The impulse towards analysis draws its strength from the realization that philosophy is the ultimate adjudicator in human life; but the impulse towards system gets its vigor from the recognition that philosophy is even more fundamentally the ultimate legislator in any human community. Hence, a systematic philosophy is an imperfect, normative theory of how reason should be used to deal with various human problems; epistemology, in its proper sense, is not only a science, but the basis of one or another way of life. By means of systematic philosophy, men create a mental framework within which they can pursue their sundry activities and harmonize their divergent efforts by seeking in them a common purpose.
Cohen, "Kantische Gedanken in deutschen Militarismus," in Hermann Cohen, Schriften zur Philosophie und Zeitgeschichte, Vol. II, pp. 347-354.
During World War I, German philosophy came under severe attack from American and British philosophers who were trying to contribute to the war effort by showing that German philosophy was to blame for the war. The Oxford Pamphlets that the Oxford University Press distributed widely were most influential. Typical examples were "'How Can War Ever Be Right?" and "Thoughts on the War" by the classical scholar Gilbert Murray; "Nietzsche and Treitschke: The Worship of Power in Modern Germany" by the student of Greek political theory, Ernest Barker; and "German Philosophy and the War" by the philosopher, J. H. Muirhead. See also, Muirhead's German Philosophy in Relation to the War, 1915. American thinkers contributed to the same kind of literature. See John Dewey, German Philosophy and Politics, 1915; and George Santayana, Egotism in German Philosophy, 1916. Similar works appeared in France; see, for instance, Léon Daudet, Contre l'esprit allemand: De Kant à Krupp. The French critics did not have the prestige of the English and American writers, however, and this might help explain why Anglo-American philosophy veered so sharply from the Continental tradition and why British idealism was unable to withstand the postwar attack by analytic writers, several of the more important of whom, ironically, were German. It was in this climate of putting philosophy in the service of the war efforts that Ortega said that in time of war the thinker must be silent, for that is the only way he can maintain his allegiance to the truth. See "Una manera de pensar–1," España, October 7, 1915, Obras X, p. 337. The most influential Germanophobe work of World War II was The Open Society and Its Enemies, by Karl Popper, 1950. Charles Frankel, The Case for Modern Man, 1959, contributes to this critique of the continental tradition, but without direct connection to the war. Many other books might be mentioned. My characterization of the position draws from these and others, as well as from conversations with colleagues, but it is not given concisely by any of them.
The effectiveness of this critique of systematic philosophy has permitted some thinkers to ignore the real alternatives. Here let us mention only John Dewey's The Quest for Certainty, 1929, for it lacks some of the partisan drawbacks of the wartime books, but is, nevertheless, a systematic critique of the systematic effort to construct a prescriptive conception of reason. Dewey made the same error as Russell did later and as many anti-systematic philosophers do: he imputed a prescriptive theory of knowledge to thinkers in the grand tradition who expounded a prescriptive theory of reason. To prescribe how reasoning should proceed if it is to be cogent is not to prescribe a set of true beliefs that all must mouth. Furthermore, it is one thing to go along with Dewey and to give up prescriptive standards with respect to knowledge, standards that purport to lay down eternal certainties forever valid for all, but it is quite another thing to give up prescriptive standards with respect to reason, standards that describe the mental steps by means of which we can think about the phenomena we perceive with reasonable certitude. The irony of Dewey's critique is that most of his own speculation is a good example of "the quest for certainty" reasonably understood.
There is a substantial literature on the relation between philosophical and ethical nihilism and political brutalism. On this matter, of course, Ortega's La rebelión de las masas, 1930, Obras IV, pp. 113-31, is one of the essential references. The other three are Friedrich Nietzsche, Aus dem Nachlass der Achtzigerjahre, in Werk in drei Bänden, Vol. 3, 491ff., 507ff., 530, 533, 546, 548ff., 553ff., 557ff., 567ff., 583, 617–23, 625f., 634f., 638ff., 666, 670, 675, 676ff., 737f., 774f., 792f., 852f., 854ff., 881f., 893f., and 896; Alfred Weber, Farewell to European History, Or the Conquest of Nihilism, R. F. C. Hull, trans.; and Rudolf Pannwitz, Der Nihilismus und die werdende Welt, especially pp. 104-127. In addition to these works, see Raymond Aron, The Century of Total War. On the general problem of maintaining a sense of principle, see Wolfgang Köhler, The Place of Value in a World of Facts, and Jacques Barzun, Darwin, Marx, Wagner. In Nihilism: A Philosophical Essay by Stanley Rosen, there is a spirited critique of contemporary philosophical movements that end in nihilism. Rosen argues that the solution is a return to past modes of thought; I think Nietzsche was more acute when he argued that the only way to solve the problem of nihilism is to pass through and beyond it.
Many persons, however, distrust systematic philosophy. Ours is not the best of all possible worlds, and systematic philosophy has caused, as well as solved, human problems. Hermann Cohen himself discussed, not without some sympathy, the supposed relation between Kantian thought and German militarism. But, goaded by wartime Germanophobia, American and English critics of systematic philosophy have ignored the real alternatives. To be sure, the prescriptive philosophies that helped generate the Renaissance and Reformation, industrialism, the American and French revolutions, and the German state did not function perfectly; they sanctioned intemperate and unjust deeds. But one cannot avoid these imperfections by ignoring normative reason altogether. Whether it is admitted or not, all policies will be based on value judgments and standards of rationality, for one cannot act without existentially affirming the worth of one's ends and the principles that legitimate one's means. Men are free to make these judgements on the basis of either principle or interest; but without a normative theory of reason, there will be no principles for men to affirm freely, and by default justice will quickly become the interest of the strongest party. This reign of interest is precisely the nihilism predicted by those who foresaw that in the twentieth century systematic philosophy would cease to influence men, and the scepter of force has not stood for a particularly stable, humane reign. Thus, so far the critics of systematic philosophy have yet to take into account the consequences of going without systematic philosophy, and recent history does not help their argument. Since normative philosophizing has ceased to be the ground for evaluation of public policy, unprecedented injustices have been sanctioned by the ideologies that replaced systematic philosophy as the standard of practical reason.
As Ortega so often said, the only real way to correct the abuse of an idea or institution is to see to its proper use. This stricture holds true for the impulse towards system. The real causes of the events that the critics of systematic philosophy hoped to avoid were not the rational standards that had been established, but the imperfections in the way men use these standards. By depriving the true, the beautiful, and good of philosophic authority, we make it easier to accord a bogus, scientific authority to less elevating ideals such as the nation, the race, and the class. Furthermore, the seemingly scientific sanction renders these lesser ideals impervious to reason, for men cannot discuss, they can only fight, over judgments disguised as facts. The situation is serious. Ever since World War I, diplomats and publicists have been droning on about the need to find a basis for an enduring peace; but it is simple realism, not pessimism, to point out that it will all be wasted rhetoric unless a single power achieves world hegemony or unless men recreate a philosophic system that has enough prestige to function as a useful, albeit imperfect, implement for the principled harmonization of conflicting aims and interests. Of these two improbable alternatives, the latter seems preferable and more possible.
Cohen awakened in Ortega an impulse towards system, an impulse towards uncovering the principles by which men can live well. Such philosophic systematization is not to be scorned; it may be drudgery, but it is also the precondition of intelligent public leadership. Within the unity of an ideal, conceptual system, men have developed the concord that enables them to tolerate diversity in their practical activities. In effect, then, the discipline that Cohen imparted to Ortega was based on an appreciation of the proper place of principle in public affairs. For Cohen, a philosophic system was a powerful discipline, a willingness to proceed in various matters in accord with fundamental principles. He began with the rich complexity of activities that men perform, and from those facts he tried to go back to the basic principles that were implicit in the activities and that enabled men to create and shape these activities consciously. These principles were to be systematized in a coherent, rational order; and this rigor in the world of speculative thinking was sought, not to confine the world of living actuality in ever-narrowing bonds, but to sustain without self-destructive conflict an ever-growing complexity of vital experience. As men learned to use the principles of systematic philosophy more and more effectively to make their deeds fulfill their intentions, the practical activities that were informed by the principles would be better consummated: more men could do more things without working at cross purposes. In this way speculative philosophy can accomplish a worldly mission. The basis for both Ortega's conception of Europeanization and the importance accorded in it to the mastery of conceptual rigor, of disciplined intellection, is in this impulse towards system.
Note, however, that a teacher who awakens an impulse must forgo the pleasure of satisfying it as well. It was discipline, not discipleship, that Ortega received from Cohen; hence, rather than adopting the latter's system, Ortega learned the importance of developing one himself. Many thinkers, including Cohen, influenced the development of Ortega's principles, but one man did much to give these their characteristic spirit. As Hermann Cohen was responsible for most of Ortega's discipline, Paul Natorp was the source of many of Ortega's hopes. Natorp taught a version of idealism that Ortega transformed into his personal pedagogical commitment.
In the drama of Ortega's life, it was fortunate that he encountered Paul Natorp. To be sure, when mature, Ortega would find Dilthey far more significant than Natorp. But a teacher usually does not influence students in the same way that a philosophic writer does. A writer influences slowly as his works sit close at hand on the shelves of students; and as students continually refer to these, the works become more and more intimately mastered. A teacher, in contrast, influences more rapidly as students accord him a serious authority for a limited time. In any particular encounter, it is a matter of readiness whether the teacher influences at all: in 1905 Ortega probably would not have benefited greatly from Dilthey's teaching had the two met in Berlin; but in 1906 Ortega was ready for Natorp's influence, which acted as an intellectual catalyst.
The best introductory essay on Natorp is by Ernst Cassirer, "Paul Natorp: 24. Januar 1854-17. August 1924," in Kant-Studien, Band 30, 1925, pp. 273-298. Natorp's conception of civic pedagogy was developed in his Sozialpädagogik: Theorie der Willenserziehung auf der Grundlage der Gemeinschaft, 3rd. ed., 1909; and Gesammelte Abhandlungen zur Sozialpädagogik, 2nd. ed., 1922. A closely related work was Sozialidealismus: Neue Richtlinien sozialer Erziehung, 2nd. ed., 1918. Natorp's conception of philosophy is presented on a popular level in his Philosophie: Ihr Problem und ihre Probleme, 2nd. ed., 1918; and on a more systematic level in Vorlesungen über praktische Philosophie, 1925, and the posthumous Philosophische Systematik, edited by Hans Natorp, 1958. Perhaps Natorp's best known work, and one that is very important for his theory of civic pedagogy and of philosophy, is Platos Ideenlehre: Eine Einführung in den Idealism us, 1903. For a good discussion of Natorp's views, see Heinrich Levy, "Paul Natorp's praktische Philosophie," Kant-Studien, 31, 1926, pp. 311-329.
Ortega particularly criticized Natorp's treatment of Plato: see "Prólogo a Historia de Ia filosofía de Emile Bréhier;' 1942, Obras VI, p. 383, n. 2; and Prólogo para alemanes, 1933, 1958, Obras VIII, pp. 35-6.
For over a year Ortega had been reading voraciously whatever struck his interest, but he had not given much thought to the principles that might unify this rapidly accumulating erudition. Cohen pointed out the necessity of such principles. Natorp did too; and in addition, he taught a version of idealism that provoked the young Spaniard to create a philosophic system although Natorp's idealism did not, itself, become a part of Ortega's system. Certain elements of Natorp's doctrine repelled Ortega; but Natorp nevertheless helped Ortega discover an organizing idea in his varied reading and showed him how he might use this idea to improve Spanish culture. In no sense did Ortega become a disciple of Natorp; at the most, the latter briefly fulfilled Ortega's ideal of a good teacher, and as such a teacher Natorp exerted an essential influence on Ortega's life.
"Cartas inéditas a Navarro Ledesma," Leipzig, May 28, 1905, Cuadernos, November 1961, pp. 12–4.
In a letter to Navarro Ledesma, Ortega described the true teacher, whom he had failed to find in Spain and whom he hoped to meet in Germany. Ortega thought that young men matured best by pressing against well-formed ideas. He likened a teacher to the wall of a dam against which the powers of a student accumulated until they finally crested it and issued in a controlled overflow. Without such resistance, the young would exhaust themselves with "infertile license." A teacher had to confront his students with developed ideas and challenge the young to improve on these. "The formation of the intellect requires a period of cultivation in which artificial means are used: hence, morality and discipline. Those who did not, at twenty, believe in a moral system, and who did not stretch and compress themselves into a hierarchy, will be for the rest of their days vague and fumbling creatures who will be incapable of putting three ideas in order." True education, Ortega continued, was like a chemical crystallization in which a bit of crystal had to be introduced into a solution and around this seed a much larger crystal would grow.
A year after writing this description, Ortega found such a teacher when he took Paul Natorp's course on psychology and pedagogy. The neo-Kantian confronted Ortega with a moral system of which education was the fundamental feature. Moreover, Natorp confronted Ortega with a powerful, pedagogical presence; and before describing the remarkable features of psychology and pedagogy as they were understood by Natorp, it is important to reconstruct his probable character as a teacher.
The last three authors were the ones Ortega most frequently referred to in his early writings and his letters of the time. See "Cartas inéditas a Navarro Ledesma," Cuadernos, November 1961, pp. 3-18; "'El sobre hombre," 1908, Obras I pp. 91-5; "La teología de Renan," 1910, and "Renan," 1909, Obras I, pp. 133-6, 443-467; and in "Asamblea para el progreso de las ciencias," 1908, Obras I, p. 108, the lament that nowhere in Spain were the works of Fichte available. Natorp made only scattered references to these men, although their work could be viewed as civic pedagogy.
Natorp was a serious soul. He had carefully worked out his theories, and on the grounds that he chose, his presentment was powerful and persuasive. Furthermore, Natorp had sufficient self-confidence to make his students contend with his ideas. Despite this confidence, however, he lacked the pretense that emasculates many educational theorists: Natorp knew Plato, Kant, and Pestalozzi and he spoke about them with authority; but he did not pretend, in addition, to be able to place all other philosophical writers in appropriate cubbyholes. In his teaching, Natorp combined solidity and sincerity; what he spoke and wrote had a definiteness that bordered on dogmatism and a humility that exposed the limits of his knowledge. This combination of qualities enabled him to have a catalytic effect on Ortega. What Natorp proclaimed about Plato, Kant, and Pestalozzi, Ortega immediately recognized to be true of the writers that he knew best: Fichte, Renan, and Nietzsche. Hence, Natorp's virtue as a teacher was courage; he knew there was nothing to fear in exposing his deepest thoughts to critical students. Thus, he explained his thought rigorously and made no effort to hide the fact that his ideas were based on a limited examination of an inexhaustible tradition. By revealing his imperfections without apology, Natorp forced his students to look to the problem at issue, rather than to his answer to it, and he made them rely on themselves for authority, rather than on their teacher. The effect of this teaching on Ortega's life was fundamental, even though, in his subjective vision, Ortega may not have fully realized it.
In 1900, a short review by Arthur Allin of the first edition of Natorp's Sozialpädagogik appeared in the Educational Review, Vol. 19, March 1900, pp. 290-295. A more substantial essay, "Paul Natorp's Social Pedagogy," by M. W. Meyerhardt was published in The Pedagogical Seminary, Vol. 23, March 1916, pp. 51-62. One of the few other significant pieces on Natorp published in the United States is the short, lucid article by Horace L. Friess, "Paul Natorp," in the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Vol. 11, p. 283. Another excellent review of Natorp' s accomplishments is the translation of an article, "Paul Natorp," by Mariano Campo in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 5, pp. 445-8.
One of the worst acts of cultural hubris is to forget men of merit. Forgetfulness is tantamount to the inability to keep a matter in mind, and when the matter had merit, it means that the forgetful have lost their sensibility for that particular human strength. American educational theorists have forgotten—more exactly, they never really discovered—Paul Natorp. Our ignorance of Natorp is symptomatic of our inability to appreciate sound philosophic speculation about the problems of education. For Natorp, education did not merely deserve the second effort of philosophers; it was not to be taken up only after thinkers had exhausted themselves in ontology and epistemology. On the contrary, education was the heart of the matter.
Natorp's main interest was the crux of any theory of reason: the relation of the fictional world of thought to the factual world of things. The Parmenidean would deny the latter in order to secure the former: there is nothing but the One-eternal, unchanging, perfect. The materialist, in contrast, would reduce the former to the latter, making thought a function of its material basis and thus gaining a solid footing by renouncing his freedom of mind. Neither extreme attracted Natorp. He accepted both thought and things, and contended that any relation between the two depended on the will of man. His was the simple, fundamental, and humanistic solution to the mind-body problem.
Following his arch-opponent, Descartes, Gilbert Ryle committed this mistake in The Concept of Mind. Few besides Descartes—and one may doubt whether in fact Descartes did—maintained what Ryle called "The Official Doctrine" of Mind, that somehow an ideal system of thoughts, a mind, is contained in a real, physical mechanism, a body. Ryle attributes a different mode of being to mind and to body and then asks how these different things can possibly be joined. Most other thinkers have escaped the absurdity of this question by either an idealistic or a materialistic reduction in which mind and body are first shown to have the same mode of being, whereupon a connection between them becomes possible. Natorp began from the idealistic position: all bodies of which there is any empirical evidence are phenomenal.
For all their praise of analytic powers, contemporary critics of the concept of mind have made a serious analytic error. The relation of thought and things is an insoluble paradox only for those who try to give referents of one or both of the terms a status independent of man. According to a neo-Kantian like Natorp, there was no way to know things-in-themselves, and consequently there could be no relation between thought and things in this sense. What other point was there to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason? For man, material reality was the phenomenal world with which he interacted, and conceptual reality was the ideal, hypothetical, conventional world that man created by means of his intellect. Any relation between these two worlds depends on man's will; and most of our words denoting character—courageous, just, rational, provincial, liberal, opportunistic, matter-of-fact, dogmatic, hypocritical, capricious, fanciful, hedonistic, imaginative, and so on—denote various ways in which men willfully relate their thought to their phenomenal existence. The mind-body problem was significant, therefore, not so much as a question of epistemology, but as an opportunity for the education of character.
Reflection should show that this statement is not as outrageous as it may at first appear. Remember that we are dealing with systematic philosophies. Natorp, like Cohen, believed that the philosopher was responsible for creating, preserving, and perfecting rational standards that would make the solution of human problems more effective. Reason is not the same as technical knowledge. The various sciences create means for solving this or that particular problem, whereas philosophy establishes ways for dealing with various types of problems—scientific, ethical, aesthetic, and so on. To have the greatest human use, the special knowledge of the various sciences should be stored until the particular situation to which it pertains arises. But, in contrast, if the general rational capacities developed by systematic philosophy are to have much benefit for man, they need to become common skills by means of which diverse persons react to the daily situations of life. Hence, besides creating a cogent system of thought, the systematic philosopher had, in one way or another, to disseminate the powers he had thus created.
See Plato, Republic, esp. 472A-541B.
This insistence on the educational responsibilities of the philosopher, which goes back to Plato, may seem inconsistent with the tendency of systematic philosophers to produce impossibly difficult tomes. Certain systematic philosophers have been seriously amiss in not providing means for making their teachings accessible. But it would be silly to think that the philosopher's duty to educate people in the use of reason is tantamount to the demand that The Critique of Pure Reason should be rewritten so as to be suitable for use as an elementary school text. Men develop their rational powers by practicing with many different procedures and problems; reason is not a neat and narrow system. The philosopher's goal—and it is this goal that makes difficult tomes often necessary—is to establish principles that approximate the first principle, the principle that is common to all human endeavors; and the philosopher seeks this first principle, not to reduce all variety to its single mold, but because by means of it, the sum total of educating influences might be so concerted that these influences would less frequently cancel themselves out in random conflict and would continually conduce to the fuller, more effective use of reason on the part of all. To carry through this aspiration, the philosopher must devote himself to a great many concerns, fully as many as Plato integrated into his seminal treatise, the Republic, in which he first set forth both the epistemological and the educational missions of systematic philosophy. We shall have to leave for another occasion the further examination of the educational responsibilities of the philosopher. Here let us simply recognize that they exist and examine the consequences of their existence that interested Paul Natorp, and after him, Ortega.
Ibid., 425C, Cornford, trans.
Natorp, Sozialpädagogik, pp. 99-389.
Ibid., passim, and Sozialidealismus, pp. 167-199.
Ibid., and Karl Vorländer, Kant und Marx, esp. pp. 122-140.
In the Republic, Socrates observed that "it would be silly, I think, to make laws [concerning behavior]; such habits cannot be established or kept up by written legislation. It is probable, at any rate, that the bent given by education will determine the quality of later life, by that sort of attraction which like things always have for one another, till they finally mount up to one imposing result, whether for good or ill." From this conviction, which Natorp fully shared with Plato, the theory of civic pedagogy followed. As a determinant of the quality of life, legislation was secondary in comparison to education. Natorp produced a series of books and essays on civic pedagogy. According to Natorp, the way in which men applied their intelligence to their experience was shaped by the fundamental ideas, conceived in a rather Platonic way, that defined men's aspirations. The quality of a man's life depended on his character, and the quality of life in a community depended on the civic character of its members. The important reforms that could be made in a community were improvements in the prevalent patterns of character education. These reforms would start with the final stage of such education, that of the "free self," with the personal formation to which men continually subject themselves. As men changed themselves, reform would work back through the school and into the home, for changed teachers and parents would display stronger character to their pupils and children. Natorp was radical and thorough. He used many branches of systematic philosophy to elucidate such reforms: logic, epistemology, ethics, and esthetics were the basis of his civic pedagogy; and the philosophies of religion, history, law, and science filled it out with humanitarian content. His vision of pedagogical reform was a major contribution to the most curious of the Marburg movements, neo-Kantian Marxism.
Ortega followed Natorp's arguments in his speech to "El Sitio" in 1910. Ortega's idealistic socialism, his belief in the political significance of pedagogy, and his conviction that systematic philosophy was the backbone of any enduring reform all took shape at Marburg. In retrospect, Natorp's teaching affected Ortega in two ways.
Marburg, January 27, 1907, Revista de Occidente, October 1964, p. 12 .
Natorp, Platos Ideenlehre, passim, and Gesammelte Abhandlungen, pp. 7-42.
Ibid., pp. 91-236, and Der Idealismus Pestalozzis, passim.
First, as has been suggested, Natorp's system helped Ortega find an organizing idea in his varied studies. Even in his most systematic writings, Natorp claimed little originality: his theory of civic pedagogy was neither more nor less than the essence of idealism rightly understood. Ortega perceived the significance of such teaching; writing to Unamuno, Ortega conceded a slight disappointment: Natorp had been heralded as a great, original thinker, but was really an original interpreter and critic. "It is clear that this is no mean achievement. Natorp would have agreed. In a major book and several essays he painstakingly showed how the bases of his theories were to be found in Plato. His historical studies of Pestalozzi showed that the Swiss reformer was not to be thought of primarily as a sentimental humanizer of instructional methods; Pestalozzi was a radical who thought that the only way to attain the ideals of the French Revolution was through the education of character. Although Ortega read Plato with care, he never took to Pestalozzi. But what was important was not Ortega's chance to adopt Natorp's valuations. Natorp's studies, historical and philosophical, did not provide Ortega with ready-made interpretations of significant thinkers; they suggested to him an interpretative principle, namely that the whole philosophical tradition could be used to illuminate civic pedagogy. Thereafter, we find Ortega using, in his own, more subtle, more profound way, the idea of civic pedagogy as a principle for criticizing diverse men, ideas, and institutions. Thus, in response to Natorp, Ortega became aware of the hidden unity in his varied interests.
Second, this interpretative principle helped Ortega understand his personal aspirations so well that he developed a deep sense of mission, which was the secret of his genius. A young Spaniard who went to Germany in disgust over the cultural decadence of his nation, who hoped vaguely to find a means for improving the intellect of his people, suddenly found a vocation in the idea of civic pedagogy. The Spanish problem was one of character: a lack of intellectual discipline, an insensitivity to the usefulness of ideas for life, and a failure to appreciate the value of modulating the swings of passion with stable principles. Sustained by hope, Ortega had read and wandered, amassing much learning, but not enough understanding. Thus, he had been, in the fullest sense, ready to hear Paul Natorp explain an educational theory for the deliberate transformation of social characteristics, and on hearing such a theory, a catalytic reaction had occurred in Ortega. When he said that he owed almost half his hopes to Marburg, Ortega paid tribute to the theory that so naturally mediated between himself and his circumstances. It enabled him to clarify the vague, educational aspirations with which he had gone to Germany.
Discipline and hope—systematic philosophy and civic pedagogy—these were the concerns through which Ortega prepared himself to become the Praeceptor Hispania. In his German studies, Ortega realized that he had to return to Spain and use every means he could to rebuild the intellectual life of his country. He had opened himself to the influence of a tradition that, from beginning to end, commended the life of a philosopher-king, a civic pedagogue, a lawgiver, as the way of duty. Ortega was already disposed to such a life, and in Germany he was unreservedly converted to seeking to live it.
"Facciones del amor," 1926, Obras V, p. 559.
Thus, after a long, erratic search, having finally found his teachers, Ortega realized that he could commit himself neither to them nor to their lessons. He could commit himself only to his idea of what Spain could and should become, for the stimulus of his studies enabled him finally to formulate this idea effectively. In the end, this vision of Spain proved to have been the beloved object that had drawn him on his quest. "To love a thing is to be determined that it should exist. It is to deny, insofar as it depends on oneself, the possibility of a universe in which the object is absent. Note that this argument amounts to giving life, continually and intentionally, to the thing insofar as it depends on oneself. To love is the perennial vivification of the loved one."
It is wise to listen, not to me, but to the Word, and to confess that all things are one.