Man and His Circumstances: Ortega as Educator
by Robbie McClintock
Chapter III — Programs
"Prospecto de Ia 'Liga de Educación Política Española'," 1914, Obras I, p. 302. Ortega's italics in the first sentence have been omitted.
For us, therefore, our first duty is to foment the organization of a minority charged with the political education of the masses. It is of no use to push Spain towards any appreciable improvement unless the workers in the city, the peasants in the fields, and the middle class in the county seat and the capital have not learned on the one hand how to impose the rough will of their genuine desires upon authority, and on the other how to desire a clear, concrete, and dignified future. The true national education is this political education that simultaneously cultivates the impulse and the intellect.
III — Programs
Miguel de Unamuno, "Renovación," 1898, Obras III, p. 687.
Errant man has repeatedly realized that he has been distracted from his purpose because formalized thoughts and ritualized acts conspire with his natural torpor to betray his aspirations. Early in the twentieth century, Spanish intellectuals realized that this was Spain's condition. They knew—just as following the Great War their counterparts throughout Europe would know—that the shibboleths of the nineteenth century stood for nothing. A call for renovation disrupted Restoration complacency; the critics believed that a renovated national life had to be achieved without recourse to the corrupt practices of traditional politics. In discussing the possible sources of renovation, Unamuno stated the outlook of the major reformers: "From politics no one expects anything...." Reform without reliance on practical politics was the goal of the Generation of '98.
Ortega (b. 1883), Eugenio D'Ors (b. 1882) and Gregario Marañón (b. 1887) are generally not classed in the Generation of '98, for they were still in their formative years when Spain lost its empire. Members of the Generation of '98 were educated during the Restoration but achieved their first major public success after 1898 and as critics of the Restoration. Among them were Ángel Ganivet (b. 1865), Miguel de Unamuno (b. 1864), Pío Baroja (b. 1872), Azorín [José Augusto Trinidad Martínez Ruiz] (b. 1873), Antonio Machado (b. 1875), Manuel Machado (b. 1874), Ramiro de Maeztu (b. 1875), Ramón Menéndez Pidal (b. 1869), and Ramón María del Valle-Inclán (b. 1866).
Laín Entralgo, España como problema, pp. 353–367.
This conviction was apparent in some of Ortega's earliest essays. See "La pedagogía del paisaje," 1906; "Sobre los estudios clásicos," 1907; "'Pidiendo una biblioteca," 1908; and "Asamblea para el progreso de las ciencias," 1908; in Obras I, pp. 53–7, 63–7, 81–5, and 99–110. See also "Reforma del carácter, no reforma de costumbres," El Imparcial, October 5, 1907, Obras X, pp. 17–21. In the letter of May 28, 1905, to Navarro Ledesma, Ortega wrote about the educational responsibilities of the Spanish reformers; see "Cartas inéditas a Navarro Ledesma," Cuadernos, November 1961, especially p. 12.
Consequently, although they did not say so, the basic activity of Ortega's models and teachers was civic pedagogy as a political program. The reformers were men in search of a vision of what Spain could and should become and of the means suitable for launching themselves in the direction of that ideal. Thus, Pedro Laín Entralgo opened his history of the Generation of '98 with a chapter on "a country and its inventors." Ortega's precocity was to seize early and explicitly on the fact that Spanish renovation was an educational problem. In 1905 Ortega went to Germany with this conviction dimly formed and he returned two years later with it considerably matured, for he had studied similar theories in Plato, Rousseau, Fichte, Pestalozzi, and Nietzsche, and he had listened closely to explanations of civic pedagogy by his teacher, Paul Natorp. Ortega's prominence within the movement for Spanish reform resulted from his pedagogical awareness. He drew out the positive consequences that followed from the rejection of practical politics, and he became the first of the bourgeois gentlemen to realize that pedagogy was his profession.
Madariaga, Spain, pp. 88–96; the quotation is from p. 90.
No historian has shown more effectively than Salvador de Madariaga how the reform movement split into two tendencies, one which proclaimed that salvation would be achieved by the cultivation of the essential Spanish character and another which contended that renovation would require the mastery of European science and philosophy. Angel Ganivet and Joaquín Costa initiated this split between Hispanicization and Europeanization, and, as Madariaga says, Unamuno and Ortega "were destined to take over the dialogue ... and drive it into the Spanish conscience." Care is necessary, however, not to overdo the superficial contrasts between the two outlooks, for in doing so their essential differences are obscured. When set in opposition, the two views appear to be conflicting ideologies; and, by virtue of a common willingness to sacrifice the person to the cause, there are few things that are more fundamentally alike than conflicting ideologies.
Ibid., p. 95
Neither Unamuno nor Ortega would accept the implication that often results from comparisons of Hispanicization and Europeanization, namely that two different visions of Spain's destiny were at stake. For example, as Madariaga wrote: "the first mood of the generation is ... fiercely negative and critical. Nothing. There is nothing but sham and hollowness. We must begin afresh. And then, as soon as the new men turn their faces toward the morrow, the split OCcurs .... Spaniards broke asunder as to their estimate of what New Spain was to be. Some of them, with Costa and with Ortega, carried forward their European position; we must, they said, make Spain a European people; others, with Ganivet and Unamuno, hesitated to accept all that Europe means .... " But Spain's potential future was not that well defined. Unlike European revolutionaries, Spanish reformers were not persuaded that they knew what path history would inevitably take; they simply agreed that Spanish history ought not to continue on the path it had followed for the past century. In the early 1900's few had given a detailed description of the characteristics that would mark a renovated Spain. Joaquín Costa was the reformer who came the closest to having a program, but Ortega thought that this program was too superficial, for it ignored certain difficult fundamentals.
There is need for a a study comparing the view of Spanish reform held by the two critics. Paulino Garagorri's excellent work, Unamuno, Ortega, Zubiri en la filosofía Española, is confined, as the title suggests, to a comparison of philosophical views. A study of their theories of reform should be encouraged by the recent appearance of Ortega's political writings in Obras X and XI and of the definitive edition of Unamuno's works. Such a study would stretch from the 1890's up to 1936 and might point out similarities and dissimilarities between the reactions of the two to events. I have made a much less ambitious comparison, confining myself to the period up to World War I for the most part, comparing views on more general political. economic, and social matters, not particular events. Unamuno seems to me to have dealt with these matters more explicitly, but with less commitment.
Both favored an effective political system responsive to the popular will but not necessarily following familiar parliamentary procedures. Such a position was an integral element in most views of Spanish reform because one very important aspect of Spain's difficulties was that its population had never been integrated into a single body of citizens all of whom had an equal stake in the community. With numerous elements of the people effectively excluded from participation in national life, democratic machinery frequently served very undemocratic ends. In 1898, Unamuno sounded these themes in "Architectura social," OC XI, pp. 53–9 i "Mas sociabilidad," OC XI, pp. 60–7; and "Renovación," Obras I. pp. 686–8. (The abbreviation OC is used for the 1958 edition of Unamuno's Obras completas published by Afrodisio Aguado; the abbreviation Obras is used for the Definitive Edition of Unamuno's Obras completas published by Escelicer, beginning in 1966. For some essays it has been necessary to use the earlier edition, as the later one is not yet complete.) Some of Unamuno's clearest statements on the form of politics he would like are in "La civilización es civismo," 1907, Obras III, pp. 303–7, and "Glosas a la vida: sobre la opinión pública," 1904, Obras III, pp. 308–310. In the latter article Unamuno contended that the great problem in Spanish politics was the difficulty of building up an effective system of public opinion about public affairs in the Spanish populace; and he was not sanguine because with such a large portion of the populace composed of illiterates and semi-literates, the spread of public opinion was greatly impeded. In the former article Unamuno condemned the tendency in Spanish politics to over-represent rural areas because the rural populace could not then hold its representatives accountable; popular government turned into an irresponsible government. Urbanization and the mechanization of farming were conditions of the reform of Spanish politics, he suggested. For somewhat later views along parallel lines, see "Los profesionales de la política," 1914, OC IX, pp. 797–801, and "Hacer política," 1915, OC IX, pp. 843–7.
Ortega's views of political reform will be treated at some length in the text. His major pre-World War I statement on politics is Vieja y nueva política, 1914, Obras I, pp. 265–307. Earlier expressions may be found throughout Obras X, passim; especially in "De re política," El Imparcial, July 31, 1908, Obras X, pp. 62–7; "Pablo Iglesias," El Imparcial, May 13, 1910, Obras X, pp. 139–142; "Sencillas reflexiones," El Imparcial, August 22 and September 6, 1910, Obras X, pp. 162–170; "De puerta de tierra: la opinión pública," El Imparcial, September 19 and 20, 1912, Obras X, pp. 186–194; "Ni legislar ni gobernar," El Imparcial, September 25, 1912, Obras X, pp. 195–199; and "De un estorbo nacional," El Imparcial, April 22, 1913, and El País, May 12, 1913, Obras X, pp. 232–7, 241–5.
Both Unamuno and Ortega desired a stronger economy and a more egalitarian distribution of the national product. This was a fundamental concern for anyone aiming at Spanish reform. As early as 1896 Unamuno came out strongly in "La dignidad humana," Obras I, pp. 971–7, for a more humane, egalitarian use of the economic product. In this essay Unamuno spoke out against nineteenth-century liberalism in both economics and culture, for laissez-faire individualism expended energies destructively in efforts by each to differentiate himself from others. The proper measure of the value of things material and spiritual was not the degree to which they differentiated one man from the others, but the degree to which they facilitated each man's effort to fulfill his human dignity. Such views lead to the twentieth-century liberalism of the welfare state. For other essays by Unamuno explaining his economic views, see "Doctores en industria,'' 1898, Obras III, pp. 692–7; "La conquista de las mesetas," 1899, Obras III, pp. 702–711; "Hay que crear necesidades," 1899, OC XI, pp. 71–4; "La dehesa Española,'' 1899, OC XI, pp. 75–82; "Examen de conciencia," 1900, OC XI, pp. 95–101; "Pan y letras: el campo y la ciudad," 1908, OC XI, pp. 163–7; and "Campaña agraria," 1914, OC XI, pp. 300–313.
In a letter to Ortega, Salamanca, November 21, 1912, in Revista de Occidente, October 1964, p. 20, Unamuno contended that for liberalism to be relevant to twentieth-century Spain, it had "to make itself democratic and socialist." This was a position Ortega had himself been developing at some length. Ortega's development of this argument can be followed in the following: "'La reforma liberal," Faro, February 23, 1908, Obras X, pp. 31–8; "El recato socialista," El Imparcial, September 2, 1908, Obras X, pp. 79–81; "La ciencia y la religión como problemas políticos," lecture in the Madrid Casa del Partido Socialista, December 2, 1909, Obras X, pp. 119–125; "Pablo Iglesias," El Imparcial, May 13, 1910, Obras X, pp. 139–142; "La herencia viva de Costa," El Imparcial February 20, 1911, Obras X, pp. 171–5; "Miscelánea socialista," El Imparcial, September 30, and October 6, 1912, Obras X, pp. 200–206; and so on.
Perhaps the essay that best shows the link between Unamuno's economic and educational views is "La pirámide nacional," 1898, Obras III, pp. 689–691. In it Unamuno contended that as the production of goods for popular consumption was the basis of the strength of a national economy, so the creation of culture for popular consumption was the foundation of a nation's intellectual strength. Spain needed a great extension of popular education, but it lacked the teachers, Unamuno observed. In the face of this situation, it was important that many teachers on the higher levels convert themselves into primary school instructors. This emphasis on the broadening of popular education went along with another emphasis, one on the qualitative improvement of higher education, a concern that both Unamuno and Ortega were intimately involved in. At first the stress on wider popular education and more thorough higher education may not seem to go together. Unamuno put the theory well in "Los escritores y el pueblo," 1908, Obras III, pp. 294–8. It was not essential that high culture be popular if it was to have a public effect; to do so it needed to be inwardly virile, robust, powerful. A literate populace would not directly consume high culture, but they would contribute to it and be affected by it indirectly if that culture were powerful, not weak and diluted. Thus the best condition of a nation's culture would be achieved with very extensive popular education and very rigorous higher education.
Unamuno produced many essays on education. A good study of his work as a leader in the university is Miguel de Unamuno, Universitaire by Yvonne Turin. In "La educación, prólogo a la obra de Bunge," 1902, Obras I, pp. 1021–2, Unamuno made a distinction, similar to that which was important for Ortega, between the education of the person, "pedagogía," and the education of the community, "demagogía" in the Greek sense or "demopedía." Because Unamuno used his essays to conduct demopedía, a number of those concerning the preservation of Spanish virtues and dealing with the problem of separatism in the provinces were about education. This holds especially for Unamuno's views of the catalán question, for he primarily feared linguistic localism as a threat to the full development of Spanish culture. In addition, however, to his many acts of demopedía, Unamuno published much on pedagogy per se. The long essay, "De la enseñanza superior en España," 1899, Obras I, pp. 734–772, is an excellent introduction to the problems of higher education in Spain. In "Los cerebrales," 1899, OC XI, pp. 89–94, and "Cientificismo," 1907, Obras III, pp. 352–7, he raised questions about the unreserved pursuit of pure intellect. In "Recelosidad y pedantaría," 1912, OC XI, pp. 197–200; "No hipotequeís el pensamiento," 1913, OC XI, pp. 251–3; "Arabesco pedagógico" and "Otro arabesco pedagógico," 1913, OC XI, pp. 290–300; and "¿Barbados? ¿Pedantes?", 1914, OC XI, pp. 806–810 he entered into polemics of the time for and against trends that were attracting attention.
Ortega also devoted much attention to both popular and higher education, agreeing that the former should be greatly extended and the latter substantially improved. For Ortega the most objectionable feature in popular education was the split between schools for the rich and schools for the poor, a phenomenon that he decried in "Reforma del carácter, no reforma de costumbres," El Imparcial, October 5, 1907, Obras X, p. 20; "La pedagogía social como programa política," 1910, Obras I, p. 518; and elsewhere. Ortega's educational views are discussed throughout the text; representative sources for this period include "Catecismo para la lectura de una carta," El Imparcial, February 10, 1910, Obras X, pp. 133–8; "Diputado par la cultura," El Imparcial, May 28, 1910, Obras X, pp. 143–6; "Sobre los estudios clásicos," 1907, "Pidiendo una biblioteca," 1908, and "Asamblea para el progreso de las ciencias," 1908, Obras I, pp. 63–7, 81–5, and 99–110.
Both Unamuno and Ortega sought to preserve Spanish virtues and to avoid materialism in Spain. This point is crucial for Unamuno. Well before 1898 he had developed it at length in En torno al casticismo, 1895, Obras I, pp. 775–869. In 1898, in "De regeneración: en lo justo," Obras III, pp. 700–I, Unamuno put very well the task of the enterprise that would occupy Spanish critics for many years: "Today, the first duty of the directing classes in Spain is, more than teaching the pueblo physics, chemistry, or English, to study it, à fond and with love, drawing from it its unconscious ideal of life, the spirit that moves it through its passage on earth, comprehending its regional differences in order to conserve them by integrating them, and studying the prospects of capital and labor." In "Afrancesamiento," 1899, OC XI, pp. 68–70, Unamuno spoke out against the inflated copying of French mores at the sacrifice of the Spanish; in "De patriotismo," 1899, Obras III, pp. 712–4; "El pueblo español," 1902, Obras III, pp. 715–7; "El individualismo español," 1903, Obras I, pp. 1085–1094; and "Sobre la independencia patria," 1908, Obras III, pp. 730–2, he analyzed aspects of Spanish character he believed essential to Spain's future; and in "Escepticismo fanático," 1908, Obras III, pp. 358–362, and "Materialismo popular," 1909, Obras III, pp. 363–7, he warned against intellectual outlooks that were easily adopted yet that were threats to Spanish culture. In "La supesta anormalidad española," 1913, Obras III, pp. 733–7, Unamuno criticized Ortega for calling Spain an abnormal nation.
Despite this criticism, Ortega's views were not far from Unamuno's, as I explain in the text. For Ortega's concern for Spanish character, see "Reforma del carácter, no reforma de costumbres," El Imparcial, October 5, 1907, Obras X, pp. 17–21; "La cuestión moral," El Imparcial, August 22, 1908, Obras X, pp. 73–8; "El lirismo en Montjuich," El Imparcial, August 10, 1910, Obras X, pp. 159–161; and "Moralejas," 1906, "La epopeya castellana," 1910, "Nuevo libro de Azorín," 1912, and "AI margen del libro Los Iberos," 1909, Obras I, pp. 44–57, 146, 239–244, and 494–8.
On the question of separatism, both Unamuno and Ortega saw the source of the problem to be, not in regional malevolence, but in the weakness of the capital. Both would solve the problem by recognizing authentic diversities and making Castile more worthy of pre-eminence. Unamuno was deeply concerned by the problem. In contrast to Ortega, Unamuno, a Basque, had to face the problem in his inner character. Unamuno clearly gave his allegiance to Castilian, and owing to this, he was in some ways less sympathetic to linguistic separatism than Ortega. Thus, in "La cuestión del vascuence," 1902, Obras I, pp. 1043–1062, Unamuno was not sympathetic with those who wanted to preserve Basque as a living language at any price. Different aspects of Unamuno's view of the whole question can be found in "La crisis del patriotismo," 1896, Obras I, pp. 978–984; "Injustia inútil," 1899, OC XI, pp. 83–5; "La reforma del castellano," 1901, OC III, pp. 273–280; "Contra el purismo," 1903, Obras I. pp. 1063–1073; "La crisis actuel del patriotismo español," 1905, Obras I, pp. 1286–1298; "Mas sabre la crisis del patriotismo," 1906, Obras III, pp. 865–875; "Sobre el problema catalan," 1908, OC XI, pp. 147–162; "Sabre el regionalismo español," 1915, OC XI, pp. 357–361; "La soledad de la España castellana," 1916, Obras III, pp. 763–7; and "Los solidos y los mestureros," 1917, Obras III, pp. 768–770; and so on.
Unamuno put great store in the cultural value of Castilian Spanish, which he hoped would become a great inclusive, linguistic tool, binding all of Spain and Spanish America together. Ortega put less store on a language as the foundation of a culture; thus he wrote far less about the genius of languages than did Unamuno and he looked on separatism more as a political problem than did Unamuno. Unamuno's linguistic view of the separatist question came out very clearly in his essay "Política y cultura," 1908, Obras III, pp. 299–302. In it Unamuno recognized the political strength and value of Catalán nationalism, but he contended that it was not a strong force culturally, for what little would be gained by resurrecting Catalán would be far outweighed by what would be lost by making Castilian a second language in the Catalán provinces. Since Spanish progress depended primarily on cultural improvement, Unamuno thought that, over all, Catalán nationalism was not a constructive force.
Like Unamuno, Ortega aimed to preserve Castilian preeminence in Spain, and he thought that the main source of separatist sentiment was the weakness of the center. However, Ortega did not think that the cultural strength of a nation should be based on linguistic unity; for Ortega, a nation was more properly an articulation of diversities. Consequently, he was a bit more receptive to Catalán nationalism than Unamuno was. Early views of Ortega's appreciation of diversity within a nation may be found in "Sobre el proceso Rull," Faro, April 12, 1908, Obras X, pp. 47–50; "Diputado por la cultura," El Imparcial, May 25, 1910, Obras X, pp. 143–6; and "Ni Legislar ni gobernar," El Imparcial, September 25, 1912, Obras X, pp. 195–9.
That both Unamuno and Ortega envisaged a cultural commonwealth with Spanish America is clear, not only from what they wrote, but from what they did. Unamuno published a significant portion of his essays in Argentine newspapers and in them he often responded to queries and criticisms made to him by Spanish American correspondents. Furthermore, Unamuno wrote voluminously about Spanish America; see especially La lengua Española en América, Obras IV, pp. 569–703, and Letras de América y otros lecturas," Obras IV, pp. 709–1054. See also, "Sobre la argentinidad," 1910, Obras III, pp. 543–7, and "Algunas consideraciones sabre la literatura Hispano-Americana," 1906, Obras III, pp. 900–924. Ortega had similar involvements. He started writing for La Prensa at least as early as 1913, as a reference by Unamuno (OC, IV, p. 1099) shows. A thorough examination of that paper and La Nación might turn up earlier articles. In "Nueva España contra vieja España," España, February 19, 1915, Obras X, pp. 252–3, Ortega noted that Spain was not respected in Latin America, a sign of the need for Spanish rejuvenation. Soon afterwards he went on a lecture trip to Buenos Aires, the success of which was reported with some pride in España. See: J. M. M. S., "Ortega y Gasset en America," España, March 7, 1917, p. 11.
Unamuno was much more explicit than Ortega about the place of the church in Spain. For Unamuno's views see "Mi religión," 1907, Obras III, pp. 259–263, and "Verdad y vida," 1905, Obras III, pp. 264–5, in which he explained his conception of religion—finding truth in life and life in truth—using it to criticize both the dogmatic Catholicism and the dogmatic anticlericalism prevalent in Spain. See also "La Fe," 1900, Obras I, pp. 962–970; "Religión y patria," 1904, Obras I, pp. 1108–1115; and "El Cristo español," 1909, Obras III, pp. 273–6. Ortega said very little about the Church in Spain. In some of his early essays he criticized the Church for making religion into a divisive, anti-social force; on this point see especially "La ciencia y la religión como problemas políticos," 1909, Obras X, pp. 119–127. In this lecture, which Ortega gave in response to an invitation to give an "anticlerical" lecture, he observed that people were too frequently against things and too seldom for things. This feeling probably explains why Ortega said so little about the Church. Years later Ortega stated his attitude concisely: "Gentlemen, I am not Catholic, and since my youth I have tried, even in the humblest official duties of my private life, to order my life in a non-Catholic way; but I am not disposed to let myself be inspired by the figurehead of an archaic anti-clericalism." Rectificación de la República, 1931, Obras XI, p. 409.
Hispanicizers and Europeanizers did not diverge over their vision of the good life. Allowing for differences of temperament and for occasional clashes of rhetoric, there was a remarkable similarity between the reformed Spain depicted by Unamuno and by Ortega. Neither was extremely precise; and since both dealt with the Spanish future while writing for the daily press, their views were at times parochial. Moreover, in writing about the substance of desirable reforms, they showed many points in common. In politics and economics the two were receptive to socialist and federalist ideas; both favored a more effective political system that would be responsive to the popular will without necessarily following the familiar forms of parliamentarianism, and both desired a much stronger economy with a more egalitarian distribution of the national product. Furthermore, they shared many cultural goals: better and wider popular education, especially on the primary level, and a university system that avoided the twin pitfalls of pedantry and dilettantism; the preservation of traditional Spanish virtues and the avoidance of materialism; the establishment of a cultural commonwealth with other Spanish speaking countries, especially Argentina; and dominion over separatism by making Castile again worthy of its pre-eminence and again secure enough to grant sensible autonomy to restive regions. Unamuno, unlike Ortega, seriously considered the place of the church in the past, present, and future of Spain; but this point notwithstanding, the essential differences in their theories of reform were of another order.
Change requires a stable element; for without a principle of order, change degenerates into chaos, a mere random flux. This matter of ordering principles is at once the most demanding, fragile creation of culture and the very motive force of history. The significant differences between Hispanicization and Europeanization will be found by reflecting on the historic function of such principles.
Principles, of course, are not real in a physical sense; they are ideals that men postulate in the realm of freedom. These ideals are not necessary causes of what in fact happens; they do not, like the force of gravity, act on all bodies endowed with physical mass in a fixed, predictable manner. Nevertheless, principles can be, and often are, contingent causes of human action. They can be causes because they can be the conceptual determinants of what men believe they ought to do; they are contingent because men are not mechanically compelled to act as they believe they ought. To what extent this contingent cause operates in history is the subject of long and lively discussion. Ortega was of that group that held principles to be decisive; he even held that the so-called material determinants of history are in fact contingent, working only as a result of the valuation by men reasonably assured of subsistence that material well-being was preferable to spiritual salvation, psychological peace, or rational contemplation.
Much remains to be done by historians in America if the potentialities of idealistic historiography are to be realized. What is needed is not a history of ideas, as such, but a history of character as it is oriented by ideals and limited by particular circumstances. The works of Tocqueville, Burckhardt, and Dilthey provide substantive examples of what can be expected of idealistic historiography. None of the three spent much time examining the material causes of events. Each was interested in the ways that tradition and custom, thought and art influenced history. In The Old Regime and The French Revolution, Stuart Gilbert, trans., Tocqueville examined how easy it was to proclaim a change in ideology and how hard it was to transform ingrained patterns of thought and the concomitant patterns of action. The historical consequences of ideas is a constant theme in The French Revolution and Correspondence with Gobineau, John Lukacs, ed., especially pp. 33–45, 226–230. Finally, Tocqueville's method in writing Democracy in America was to seek the characteristic ways of thinking of Americans and to project the probable historical consequences of these ideas. Needless to say, this is a far more humane version of historicism than are those grounded in materialistic or ethnic theories. Like Tocqueville, Burckhardt based his interpretation of The Civilization of The Renaissance in Italy on an examination of the way men thought. He made this method explicit in Force and Freedom by making man's three great intellectual creations—the state, religion, and culture—the fundamental determinants of historical change. Dilthey's great historical work is his Weltanschauung und Analyse des Menschen seit Renaissance und Reformation in Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. 2. His views on history will be dealt with at more length in later chapters. Werner Jaeger's great work, Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, 3 vols., Gilbert Highet, trans., points the way for bringing this historiographical tradition to bear on the history of education.
Debate over the extent to which principles are operative in history need not be settled here. Prescience has been the gift of the great humanistic historians, particularly Tocqueville, Burckhardt, and Dilthey, because they attended to the principles that men professed in both word and deed. They assumed that the character of reform, of both historical change and continuity, depended on the principles with which men informed their acts, on the aspirations by which men channeled their efforts. The achievements of these historians redeem Ortega's belief that principles are historically significant, for they show that his convictions can lead to worthy historical insight.
Ernst Cassirer's The Myth of the State is a profound history of the function of myth in Western politics from Plato through Fascism. Cassirer perceived that Plato was the basis of our struggle against political myths, rather than the source of these. His is a far more lucid examination of our tradition, especially with respect to Plato and Hegel, than is that of Sir Karl Popper with its mythical horde of historicist bogeymen who seek to subvert the champions of the open society. See Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies and compare the sections on Plato and Hegel to those by Cassirer. Paul Natorp's Sozialpädagogik, for all its rigorous idealism, is a profound and rather hard-headed appreciation of the function principles play in public affairs. Political theory could be greatly improved if, prior to the study of "who-gets-what-when-and-where," there was a study of "who-will-do-what-why"; that is, if a study of possible motivations preceded a study of actual rewards.
The quotation is from Nietzsche, The Use and Abuse of History, Adrian Collins, trans., p. 61.
Recognition that principles are the basis of historic change and continuity also illuminates the problem of nihilism in modern experience. When men recognize that their opponents have principles, albeit ones that are different from their own, they recognize something independent of themselves and their opponents that can be reasonably discussed. A very different situation arises when men deny that their opponents have principles or assert that all principles are mere rationalizations for mechanically determined positions. Reflecting on this situation, Nietzsche warned that "secret societies for the extermination of non-members and similar utilitarian creations will appear on the theater of the future"; for he understood that the European nihilist, shorn of the old ethic of good and evil and unable to create a new ethic of good and bad, would act on the sophistry that all is permitted, on the principle of unprincipledness. Dostoevsky exposed similar contradictions among the Russian nihilists, who simultaneously denied all principles and still piously hoped to move men to reform by conjecturing a materialistic utopia for future generations. The completely unprincipled man denied himself the means with which he might have been able to convince doubters of the value of his goal, and consequently he could only use force to answer the childish, but profound, question "Why?"
See Georges Sorel, Reflections on Violence, T. E. Hulme and J. Roth, trans., esp. pp. 119–150.
Hannah Arendt, "Ideology and Terror: A Novel Form of Government," reprinted in The Origins of Totalitarianism, 2nd. ed., pp. 460–479.
In his Reflections on Violence, Georges Sorel showed how, without principles of order, all innovations depend on self-confirming myths with which form can be forcefully imposed upon change. Both revolutionary and reactionary nihilists arbitrarily depict a golden age and use it to batter reality into its shape, gaining for themselves the aura of world-historical men. As soon as principles of order have been denied, there can be no discussion. The myth must reign over all, or all will collapse in anarchy. Hence, as Hannah Arendt has shown, ideologists have a penchant for terror, for they have no other means for resolving basic disagreements. When unprincipled movements clash, each must try to suppress the myth that supports the other; and to do so, terror is used to eradicate alien leaders and to intimidate their followers. Among other tragedies of our time, the Spanish Civil War exemplifies the cost of these clashes.
Hispanicization and Europeanization were not, however, conflicting ideologies, each guided by a myth of Spain's future and each forced to wage war on the other. On the contrary, both were principled theories of reform. Hence, the leaders of both groups could amiably and reasonably discuss their differences, and they slowly merged their theories through a rational synthesis of apparently conflicting principles. The differences between Hispanicization and Europeanization did not result from the destiny that each envisaged, but from the stable element that each chose from the present possibilities for use as a principle of order in the midst of change.
When men are moved by a desire for improvement, they may seek strength from two sources that are often called the romantic and the classic. A troubled man may look inward and ponder his personal self in a search for his proper destiny, or he may gaze outward and examine his surroundings in a quest there for a beneficent order. Contrary to unexamined opinion, these concerns are not exclusive of one another: they are Heraclitean opposites that together form the self and its circumstances.
Spanish complacency had been cracked during the War of 1898, and intellectual leaders who sought national improvement disagreed whether the best source for these improvements would be the Spanish literary and linguistic heritage or the European scientific and philosophic tradition. Certain leaders gave priority to contemplating the Spanish soul and others to emulating the European surroundings. Teachers are familiar with this divergence: should one teach children or subjects? Just as true teachers do both, just as great men are born from a tension between the romantic and the classic, the more effective reformers were at once Hispanicizers and Europeanizers. But they had to learn through mutual criticism—and here is their exemplary value for American educators—that the two sources of national reform were equally necessary, each for the other.
It is important that careful consideration be paid to the chronology by which various positions developed. Pedro Laín Entralgo based his examination of Europeanization on the work of Ortega with little reference to earlier theories; see España como problema, pp. 648–666. This procedure is convenient but deceptive if it causes Unamuno' s writings on Spanish renovation to be read as if directed at Ortega's views. First of all, Unamuno's writing was addressed to Spanish–speaking people, not simply to Spaniards; a major portion of it appeared originally in Argentina: qualifications Unamuno introduced for Latin Americans did not mean that national regeneration was not as central a concern to him as it was to Ortega. Second, the critic should note how Unamuno used other people's opinions in constructing his essays; he very frequently made his essay a critique of someone else's view, not to combat that view, but to develop his own. Unamuno's one essay giving an extended critique of Ortega's view is a good case in point. "La supuesta anormalidad española," was published in Hispania, a British magazine, and it criticized a single observation that Ortega made—Spain is an abnormal nation—in an article published in the Buenos Aires newspaper, La Prensa. Unamuno was simply using Ortega's remarks to raise questions about what one means by a nation and how these meanings should be applied to Spain; neither agreement nor disagreement with Ortega's view of Spanish reform was really implied. (See Obras III, pp. 733–7.) Third, as was suggested in the bibliographical remarks above, Unamuno and Ortega were not that far apart on substantive questions of reform. Although Unamuno did not direct his essays at Ortega, it does not mean that the nonchalance was reciprocal. Throughout his early essays Ortega appreciatively, yet distinctly, referred to Unamuno as a chief exponent of a view to be combated. Examples of this practice are "Glosas a un discurso," El Imparcial, September 11, 1908, Obras X, pp. 82–5; "Nuevas glosas," El Imparcial, September 26, 1908, Obras X, pp. 86–90; and "Unamuno y Europa, fábula," 1909, Obras I, pp. 128–132. By 1910, however, Ortega was claiming that whatever Unamuno's doctrine, his example was the inspiration of Europeanization; and in 1914 Ortega vehemently expressed his outrage at the removal of Unamuno as rector of the University of Salamanca. See "La guerra y la destitución de Unamuno," 1914, "La destitución de Unamuno," 1914, and "En defensa de Unamuno," 1914, Obras X, pp. 256–7, 258–261, 261–8.
This is not the place to trace fully the dialectic of Spanish reform. It will have to suffice to describe briefly the preliminary thesis of Europeanization and the antithesis of Hispanicization in order to show how, in 1914, Ortega promoted a Europeanizing synthesis of the two efforts through the League for Spanish Political Education.
See D. Joaquín Costa Martinez, El arbolado y la patria, esp. pp. 1–19.
Early proponents of Europeanization rejected the external characteristics of Spanish national life and tried to import the economic, social, political, and physical forms of contemporary Europe. The principle of Europeanization was not complicated: what was good for England, France, and Germany would be good for Spain. The hope that Spain's arid lands could be forested illustrates this principle: the effort to reclaim wasteland by planting trees reflected a desire to make Spain's climate and topography more like that of Northern Europe. The contemporary example of nations with temperate climates, rather than the historical example of the Western Caliphate, enabled the proponents of forestation to claim that trees would help to hold the soil and moisture and to temper the extremes of weather, that they would be a source of food and raw materials, and that they would even be a moderating influence on Spanish character. Forestation promised a visible Europeanization.
The literature on modernization has gone through something of the same dialectical development that the Spanish Europeanizing literature went through. For many, modernization is seen as a simple transfer of the external characteristics of industrial societies to industrializing ones. Typical of this outlook is Industrialism and Industrial Man by Clark Kerr, John T. Dunlop, Frederick H. Harbison, and Charles A. Myers. The authors treat industrialism as a set of attitudes and outlooks that should be substituted through education, training, and manipulation for the sense of life that arises from the traditional mode of living. In real life, change is much more complicated, for the traditional sense of life does not disappear; it cannot be pushed out by a new, industrial view; it must be transformed. The example of Nigeria, which used to be Professor Harbison's favorite example of the power of formal, Western education to induce industrialism, shows well how ineffective this view is in the face of cultural complexity. A more recent school of thought about modernization is well represented by C. E. Black's The Dynamics of Modernization. Black does not indulge in the simplicities of cultural transfer. However, there are problems that arise from his attempt to plot several patterns of modernization by abstracting from historical generalizations. This effort purports to define direction in development without making value judgments. But the concept of development, when not based on rationally defended value judgments, becomes dangerous: either the future is reduced to the fulfillment of an inevitably as with Marx, or the person is asked to pattern his actions on the basis of hypostatized theory that does not really tell the person anything about the real conditions under which he acts.
My statements radically condense selections from Costa's works that were themselves a major reduction and simplification of his thought. Hence, I present them, not as a characterization of Costa, who was a serious thinker and complicated man, but as indications of views to which overly optimistic Europeanizers responded. Although Costa's views were more complicated than those of popular Europeanization, he did much to feed that movement. For sea power, see Costa, Ideario, pp. 55–82; for education see Ibid., pp. 93–106, and Costa, Maestro, escuela y patria; for industrialization and agriculture see Ideario, pp. 107–120, 145–172; for the social and administrative revolution see Ibid., pp. 121–144; and for the policy towards regionalism see Ibid., pp. 209–245, 274–282. There is a good characterization of Costa in Trend, The Origins of Modern Spain, pp. 153–168. For Ortega on Costa, see "La herencia viva de Costa," El Imparcial, February 20, 1911, Obras X, pp. 171–5.
But early Europeanizers knew Spain far better than they knew Europe. They were men with strong attachments to the Spanish tradition and with great hopes for the Spanish future. National defeat hurt them deeply and they turned, almost desperately, to what seemed an obvious alternative. They assumed, perhaps because they never thought it through, that the products of another civilization could be reproduced in Spain without the prior mastery of the culture that had made those products possible. Furthermore, they did not fully realize that if successful, the physical Europeanization of Spain might entail the radical transformation of Spanish traditions. Hence, like many current theories of modernization, Europeanization was materialistic and simplistic; it held that the one thing needful was to live according to the external, materialistic standard of more powerful civilizations. Although Joaquín Costa was one of the great historians of the Spanish character and one of the most able students of Spanish legal traditions, his conception of Europeanization typically dealt with superficial matters. Hence, his thought presents us with a few particulars. He said that to have power and wealth the European nations had expanded their navies and merchant marine, and therefore Spain should do so. He said that to have a disciplined, competent population the European nations had developed effective, practical school systems, and therefore Spain should do so. He said that to benefit from new possibilities the industrial nations had encouraged productive investment and the rationalization of agriculture, and therefore Spain should do so. He said that to free human energies the democratic nations had revolutionized the monarchic social and administrative structure, and therefore Spain should do so too. He said that throughout Europe disorganized peoples had united under firm governments based on effective communications, and therefore Spain should do so too. But could Spain do so? That was another question.
"Temas de viaje," 1922, Obras II. p. 373. Raymond Carr, Spain, pp. 425–6, makes some interesting observations about the difficulty of forestation that results from the peasants' hatred of trees and indifference to nature.
Costa was not sanguine, for a specter was haunting Europeanization—the specter of Spain. Industry, foreign trade, scientific agriculture, forestation, impersonal administration, democracy and socialism: these were not possibilities that could be realized by a sole reliance on human and technical engineering. Developmental economists, who pride themselves on their empirical prowess, should note the fact that almost seventy years after the inception of Spanish forestation, the program is still in an incipient stage, not because of Spain's intemperate climate, but because of the Spaniard's intemperate character. As Ortega observed, "Castile is so terribly arid because the Castilian man is arid." Any program of national reform had to come to terms with the nation to be reformed. Here was the principle of Hispanicization.
Chronologically, both the idea of Europeanization and the theories in opposition to it had been worked out well before 1898. See for instance, Unamuno, En torno al casticismo, 1895, Obras I, pp. 775–869. The defeat of 1898 did not cause either Europeanization or Hispanicization; it simply gave prominence to the two views, both of which had their origins much earlier in Spanish history.
An oversimplified conception of Europeanization engendered a sharp, well-grounded reaction. Critics observed that their tradition was not uniformly debilitated and out-moded; there were still valuable qualities in the Spanish character. Through a process of reform, these values were to be preserved, enhanced, and even projected into Europe.
Traditionally, the Spaniard had excelled in the realm of the spirit. The Spanish ideal was a man of courage, faith, and pride; he could die with dignity, having lived with passion. The Reconquest and the Empire had been won by virtue of spiritual power, and the genius of Spanish literature was its profound appreciation of human character. El Cid and Cervantes, the religious mystics and the Conquistadors were human types that were of enduring value. The renovation of Spain would be destructive if it effaced the traditions of these men.
In "La europeización como programa," Pedro Laín Entralgo pointed out that Unamuno was able to criticize the more superficial Europeanizers because he understood the genius of Europe better than they did; see España como problema, p. 649. Unamuno particularly despised French materialism and he denounced it sharply in "Afrancesamiento," 1899, OC XI, pp. 68–70. His general opposition to materialism is well expressed in "Cientificismo," 1907, "Escepticismo fancático," 1908, and "Materialismo popular," 1909, in Obras III, pp. 352–367. The fear that the importation of European externals might destroy the traditions of Spanish character was expressed very early by Unamuno and Ángel Ganivet in their exchange El provenir de España, 1898, Obras III, pp. 637–677. Other essays by Unamuno pertinent to Europeanization are "Sobre la europeización," 1906, OC III, pp. 783–800; and "Programa," 1906, OC XI, pp. 137–142. The extent of Unamuno's knowledge of Europe can be estimated from his Letras italianas, Obras IV, pp. 1087–1131; Letras inglesas, Obras IV, pp. 1135–1203; Letras francesas, Obras IV, pp. 1237–1316; Letras portugesas, Obras IV, pp. 1319–1364; Letras alemanas, Obras IV, pp. 1367–1394; and Letras rusas, Obras IV, pp. 1397–1405. Most of the essays dealt with in these collections date from a period somewhat later than that with which we are here concerned, yet they indicate Unamuno's interests well. His earlier essays show a remarkable knowledge of European literature, as well as several marked preferences that compare interestingly with Ortega's. Of non-Spanish writers Unamuno was clearly most influenced by Carlyle, Kierkegaard, and William James, three men about whom Ortega had very little to say. On the other hand, Nietzsche and Renan, whom the young Ortega referred to frequently, were not central to Unamuno.
Hispanicizers were not content, however, simply to reaffirm their faith in the Spanish tradition. They, too, believed that Spain needed renovation. Unamuno and others envisaged improvements in the external characteristics of Spanish life that were not very different from those depicted by Europeanizers; but Unamuno insisted that the traditional virtues must not be sacrificed to make way for materialism. He knew Europe better than the Europeanizers did.
Unamuno, "Ibsen y Kierkegaard," 1907, Obras III, p. 289, In his text Unamuno described Ibsen as a Norwegian, but said that he learned Danish to translate Ibsen. As written languages, Danish and Norwegian are very similar and sometimes even called Norwego-Danish.
Unamuno said that he had begun to learn Danish in order to read Ibsen and he mastered it in order to read Kierkegaard. Only those who had experienced the spiritual struggles of the latter could appreciate the drama of the former. Nor did he think it imperative that Ibsen be performed, for he doubted that an audience could be found anywhere in Europe that could respond to the work. Such observations raised doubts in Unamuno about the wisdom of Europeanization. However resplendent European civilization might appear, Unamuno believed its culture was not sound. The dominant European nations had allowed their capacity for spiritual transcendence to decline, and in its place they had cultivated a materialistic view of life, vying with each other for the preponderant command of physical force. Unchecked materialism would bring destruction. If Spain followed the rest of Europe along such a course, it would be at a serious disadvantage in a doomed competition. Better alternatives were at hand.
Unamuno, "¡Pistis y no gnosis!" 1897, Obras III, pp. 681–5; quotation, p. 685
What Unamuno called "Regeneration, in truth" entailed no copying of others. Intrinsically, Spain was healthy. But, for too long the state had repressed the inherent genius of the people by imposing constrictions on the effort, communication, and thought of its citizens. Even before the defeat of 1898, Unamuno had formed the basic distinction between a stagnant and a dynamic confidence in Spanish mores. Restoration leaders had had an unfounded belief in the absolute validity of Spanish customs; they knew that the external forms of their life were correct. This belief was a gnostic error that hopelessly tied the leadership to the forms of the past. Unamuno contrasted pistis to gnosis, and he recommended the former, a flexible confidence in one's inner powers, as the way to renovation. Those who believed unquestioningly in their conventions were static, whereas those who had faith in themselves were able to develop real hope, to see the possibility of their true selves flourishing in the midst of altered circumstances. Pistic confidence rather than gnostic belief was the great liberator and humanizer, the basis for our values. "Pistis, not gnosis; for in pistis one finds faith, hope and charity; for from pistis men receive liberty, equality, and fraternity; and out of pistis springs the sincerity that always lets one discover the ideal and oppose it to reality, the tolerance that allows diverse beliefs to be contained inside the common hope, and the mercy that helps the victims of the unalterable past and the fatal present. Sincerity, tolerance, and mercy."
Unamuno, "De regeneración: en lo justo," 1896, Obras III, p. 699.
Certain definite intellectual consequences followed from this idea of the way to regeneration. The teacher would not use the same means to foster faith as he would to induce industrialization. Unamuno stated these consequences concisely: "Now the duty of the intellectuals and the directing classes lies not so much in the effort to mold the people on the basis of one or another plan—each being equally Jacobin—as in studying it from the inside, trying to discover the sources of our spirit." At this point, Hispanicization became vulnerable to a more sophisticated conception of Europeanization.
Ortega, "La pedagogía social como programa político," 1910, Obras I, p. 521.
Romanticism is always embarrassed by the fact that the savage rarely proclaims his own nobility. Unamuno fulfilled his duty; no man of his time came closer to discovering the sources of the Spanish spirit. But Unamuno's powers were not purely Spanish. Unamuno was a Basque whose knowledge of European literature far excelled that of his contemporaries. Many thought that his character belied his doctrine, and although he wrote against Europeanization, his accomplishments and aspirations made him an exemplary model of the goal that younger Europeanizers sought. "A great Bilbaoan has said that Hispanicization would be better [than Europeanization], but this great Bilbaoan, Don Miguel de Unamuno, ignores, as is his custom, the fact that although he presents himself to us as a Hispanicizer, he is, like it or not, by the power of his spirit and his profound cultural religiousness, one of the leaders of our European aspirations."
Ortega accepted the Hispanicizers' critique of Europeanization, and he shared their goal of comprehending the Spanish genius. He asked, however, how they were to discover and manifest the sources of their spirit? Why, if Spaniards were to rely wholly on their own genius for the performance of this task, had it not been done before? Some other ingredient was needed to distinguish the twentieth-century Spaniard from his nineteenth-century predecessor. Ortega contended that this ingredient would be the stimulus of the European literary, scientific, and philosophic tradition, for the power of abstract thought that this tradition had cultivated would aid the Spaniard in understanding and perfecting himself.
"Glosas a un discurso," El Imparcial, September 11, 1908, and "Nuevas Glosas," El Imparcial, September 26, 1908, Obras X, pp. 82–5, 86–90.
"Algunas notas," 1908, Obras I. pp. 111–6.
"Sobre una apología de la inexactitud," 1908, Obras I, p. 118.
"Algunas notas," 1908, Obras I, p. 115.
Returning from Germany with an intuition of the functions that intellect might perform in Spanish reform, Ortega began his critique of Hispanicization. In El Imparcial he reviewed the two discourses by Unamuno at "El Sitio." Ortega was enthusiastic about Unamuno's politics, but pointedly critical about his metaphysics, which "amounted to a joke." This failing was unfortunate, Ortega contended, because a better metaphysical foundation would have strengthened Unamuno's political position. At the same time, Ortega criticized Ramiro de Maeztu for not appreciating the importance of ideas in the development of Spanish character. In the discussion that ensued between the two young writers, Ortega was careful to keep the disagreement from becoming fundamental. Thus he wrote of Maeztu that "I am in accord with him on the quid of the Spanish problem, and I only disagree on the quo modo of the solution." All—Ortega, Maeztu, and Unamuno—agreed that the quid was to bring the Spanish character to perfection; they disagreed over the quo modo because they thought that different pedagogical principles would best guide them to their common goal. Unamuno and Maeztu contended that reformers should rely on the natural, inner responses of the Spanish genius. Ortega suggested that perhaps the genius, the prodigy, could rely only on inner responses; but, he added, comprehension of Spanish virtues could be communicated to the average, educated Spaniard only through greater use of intellect, conceptual discipline, and clear, rigorous thinking. Here was a new idea of Europeanization. "It is necessary that our spirit go with perfect continuity from 'The Drunkards' of Velázquez, to the infinitesimal calculus, passing by way of the categorical imperative. Only by means of an intellectual system will we give the spirit of our people the proper tension, just as a Bedouin, by means of a frame of cords and stakes, stretches taut the light cloth of his tent."
For Ortega's attitude see especially the letter to Unamuno, Marburg, December 30,1906, in Revista de Occidente, October 1964, pp. 8–9. For Unamuno, see the letter to Ortega, Salamanca, December 21, 1912, in Ibid., p. 19.
Ortega won over most reformers to his notion of Europeanization. The dialogue with Unamuno continued; but privately Unamuno admitted what Ortega had contended all along: they were talking about the same ideas in different words. In 1914 Ortega emerged as the leader of the younger reformers. His youth had enabled him to be late in formulating his position, and consequently he did so with the benefit of having criticized earlier reformers and of securing himself against the weaknesses that they revealed. With the principles of Europeanization that he advanced, he attended to both external order and inner strength; he tried to use the powers of European thought to clarify the authentic Spanish character. Ortega offered a clearer definition of Europe than did Costa, and the former's conception was not as vulnerable to Unamuno's retort that the European nations were not fit to be emulated.
See for instance, Vieja y nueva política, 1914, Obras I, pp. 304–8.
"Asamblea para el progreso de las ciencias," 1908, Obras I, p. 100.
Eventually, Ortegan Europeanization would involve the adoption of advanced productive and administrative techniques; on this point Ortega agreed with Costa. But he criticized Costa for failing to appreciate the source of European technical competence. "For some, Europe is the railroad and good politics; for others it is the part of the world where the best hotels are found; for a few it is the state that enjoys the most loyal and expert employees; for still others it is the group of countries· that export the most and import the least. All these images of Europe coincide in an error of perspective: they confuse what is seen in a rapid journey, what leaps before the eyes, what is, in sum, the external appearance of contemporary Europe, with the true and perennial Europe."
Ibid., p. 103. The characterization of Socrates was first made by Aristotle, Metaphysics, XIII, iv, 1078b27–30.
In essence, to Ortega, Europe was science. And, as Aristotle had observed, science resulted from the two talents that Socrates had given the West: the ability to make definitions and to use the inductive method. Europe shared everything else with the rest of the world. Ortega cautioned Europeanizers to avoid inducing a demand in Spain for the products of a scientific civilization. Instead, they should restrict their efforts to cultivating the scientific spirit in the Spanish elites. "Certainly the Spanish problem is a pedagogical problem," Ortega contended in 1908, "but the essence, the character of our pedagogical problem is that we need, above all, to educate a few men of science, to develop at least a semblance of scientific preoccupation; for without this prior work, the rest of our pedagogical labor will be vain, impossible, and senseless. I believe that what I have just stated gives the precise formula for Europeanization." Ortega perceived that without the mastery of dynamic science, Spain would succumb to what we have learned to call the revolution of rising expectations, for inflamed appetites would continually exceed the meager increases in the nation's capacity to produce consumer goods achieved through crash programs.
Meditaciones del Quijote, 1914, Obras I, p. 317.
Beware of anachronism: science need not be experimental and operational. By science Ortega meant Wissenschaft, the body of disciplined theory concerning both man and nature. When he commended science as the art of definition and the inductive method, he was not propounding a positivistic epistemology. Rather, he took speculative philosophy to be the pinnacle of science. The great philosophical system-builders were the true masters of turning meaningful definitions. In Meditations on Quixote Ortega extolled Hegel for this skill. "Philosophy has the ultimate ambition of arriving at a simple proposition in which all truth is stated. Hence, the one-thousand two-hundred pages of Hegel's Logik are only a preparation for pronouncing, with all its rich significance, this sentence: 'The idea is the absolute.' Apparently so poor, this sentence really has infinite significance; and thinking it properly, all this treasure of significance is exploited in one stroke and in one stroke we see the enormous perspective of the world clarified."
See ¿Qué es filosofía?, 1929, 1957~ Obras VII, p. 298. Cf. "Sobre la expresión fenómeno cósmico," 1925, Obras II, pp. 582–3.
"Sobre el concepto de sensación," 1913, Obras I, pp. 2.56–7.
Likewise, when Ortega commended induction he was not touting the experimental method, for he believed that quantified experiment led to the "terrorism of the laboratories." Many European thinkers, among them Ortega, have insisted with good reasons that induction, in its proper sense, is phenomenology, and "all classic idealists—Plato, Descartes, Leibniz, Kant—began with the phenomenological principle." This principle entailed the recognition that all thought deals only with data of consciousness; given this recognition, induction becomes first the qualitative elucidation of what these data signify to their perceiver, and second the critical elaboration of the characteristics of life and thought that make the experiencing of these significances possible. Without pursuing these difficult subjects further, suffice it to say that Ortega's version of Europeanization, the mastery of science, called on his countrymen to cultivate their ability to define and describe phenomena and to theorize about the problems and possibilities thus revealed. Such science would affect Spanish life not as it gave rise to specialized propositions applicable to particular problems, but as it enabled Spaniards to sharpen and discipline their total view of life.
Letter to Unamuno, Marburg, January 27, 1907, in Revista de Occidente, October 1964, p. 11.
Europeanization, conceived of as the mastery of science, was not dependent on the current example of Europe, for Ortega was not recommending to Spaniards the European reality as such, but a particular capacity for apprehending reality that happened to have been developed in Europe. Ortega could tell Unamuno that "the cultural decadence of Germany is indubitable" and he could disregard the Basque's attacks on materialistic positivism because the actual decay or perversion of scientific practice did not detract from the potential of the scientific ideal. Science was the means men had created for rationally ordering their circumstances, and Spaniards should aspire to master this capacity.
On Modernismo in Spain see Guillermo Díaz-Plaja, Modernismo frente a noventa y Ocho. At the turn of the century there was also a reform movement called Modernismo in the Catholic Church. This movement was based in Italy, but it was influential in Spain and it was quite different from the literary and artistic Modernismo. For Ortega's approbation of the religious Modernismo, see "Sobre 'El Santo'," 1908, Obras I, pp. 430–8.
Ortega also attended to the problem of the Spanish self. Here too his procedure was philosophical. He avoided the historical question whether particular characteristics were consistent with the genius of the Spanish tradition. He went directly to the principle of selfhood, and he best exemplified its use in opposing another superficial attempt at Europeanization: Modernismo.
Ricardo Senabre Sempere, Lengua y estilo de Ortega y Gasset, p. 23.
In a letter to Unamuno, Marburg, December 30, 1906, in Revista de Occidente', October 1964, p. 7, Ortega adopted a verse by Rubén Darío as "my verse." For sympathetic critiques of modernist poetry see "La 'Sonata de estío' de Don Ramón del Valle-Inclán," 1904, Obras I, pp. 19–27; "Algunas notas." 1908, Obras I, pp. 111–123; and "Los versos de Antonio Machado," 1912, Obras I, pp. 570–4.
At the turn of the century certain Spanish writers and artists took up the avant-garde style of symbolist poetry and art nouveau. According to the Modernistas, Paris was the center of Europe, and Mallarme, Verlaine, and Baudelaire were its greatest geniuses. The Nicaraguan Rubén Darío and the Spaniard Ramón del Valle-Inclán were the leading poets of the modernist movement in Spain, and their style may have contributed to Ortega's OCcasional excess of metaphor. Ortega liked the poetry of Darío and Valle-Inclán, but he warned that the vogue of their work exerted a destructive influence on the young and that Modernismo was, therefore, a danger.
" Algunas notas," 1908, Obras l, p. 113,
Young artists and intellectuals should realize, Ortega thought, that there was a difference between being conversant with the latest fashion of the avant-garde and being masters of the tradition that enabled the avant-garde to create the latest fashion. Young Spaniards were dazzled by the genius of Darío and Valle-Inclán. Ortega feared that members of the coming generation would fail to form their selves. "If we can write good literature and if we are also capable of science, our commitment must unequivocally incline towards the latter, without dabbling in the former. Señores Valle-Inclcán and Rubén Darío have an assured place in heaven, just as do Cajal and Eduardo Hinojosa. Those who will probably go to hell—the hell of frivolity, the only one there is—are the youths who, without being Valle-Inclan and Rubén Darío, imitate them badly instead of plunging into the archives and reconstructing Spanish history or commenting on Aeschylus or Saint Augustine."
"Nada 'moderno' y 'muy siglo XX'," 1916, Obras 11, pp. 22–4, esp. 24.
Against the cult of Modernismo, Ortega proposed to be "nothing modern, but very twentieth century." His whole conception of selfhood was summed up in this quip. Mere modernity was not a desirable characteristic, for the essence of being up-to-date was that one would soon go out-of-date. The person who was merely abreast with current styles of thought and expression had no inner strength and was vulnerable to the whimsical ways of the world.
Meditaciones del Quijote, 1914, Obras I, p. 390.
To be "very twentieth century" was another matter indeed. Certain real problems confronted him as a person at once a Spaniard and a European living in the first half of the twentieth century. To achieve selfhood, a man had to identify these problems correctly, cultivate his capacity to meet them, and discipline his will to do so. The sources of this man's strength would be in himself; his power would be his own; and he would be a knot of resistance to the flux of things. This man would be the hero, perhaps a humble hero, but a hero all the same. Perceiving a problem, he would invent an adventure in which he would overcome the problem; and conceiving of his adventure, he would discover the means of living it. Hence, the heroic self resisted the habitual, the ordinary, the fashionable—everything that was given—and in doing so, he made himself the perennial source of change and progress in human life. "To be a hero consists in being one, one's self."
"No ser hombre de partido," 1930, Obras IV, pp. 75–83, was Ortega's most pointed rejection of ideological commitment, but it is characteristic of all his writing. For the period here in question, see Vieja y nueva politica, 1914, Obras I. especially pp. 285–8. In "¿Hombres o ideas?", 1908, Obras I, pp. 439–443, Ortega expressed a complicated theory of how history revealed itself in the selves of living men, for he was careful to make thought an important determinant, in some ways a more important one than the act. Nevertheless, the person's self was essential as is perhaps showed best in his analysis of historic individuals: Mirabeau, o el politico, 1927, Obras III, pp. 601–637; and "Maura, o la politica," El Sol, December 18, 19, 22, and 31, 1925, and January 7 and 10, 1926, Obras XI, pp. 71–91.
Letter to Unamuno, Marburg, December 30, 1906, in Revista de Occidente, October 1964, p. 9.
This conception of selfhood transcended the disagreement between those who wanted to perfect Spanish character by cultivating the traditional mores and those who wanted to adopt foreign, mainly French, manners. The true person resisted the adoption of all "roles," regardless of whether they were offered by tradition or by the avant-garde. No one would find himself by identifying with a historical group, no matter how grand and glorious, for life worked the other way around: history was revealed in the selves of living men. To live was to deal with one's problems; and in this imperative to come to grips with one's real difficulties, Ortega found the explanation of why a sense for Spanish character and tradition seemed to have disappeared: "the terribleness of contemporary Spanish life is that the vital problems do not exist." There could be no character in men who complacently perceived no problems. To achieve an authentic life, to create the contemporary Spanish character, one had to examine one's habitual existence, perceive its deficiencies, invent a better project, and muster the will and means to live it. If the Spanish reformers were such heroes, there would be no theoretical problem about the perpetuation or the transformation of tradition; the tradition would be perpetuated and transformed as Spaniards drew on the full resources of their character in a dedicated effort to recognize and surmount their gravest deficiencies.
In sum, Ortega held two ideals before his peers: the heroic ideal and the scientific ideal. He conceived of Europeanization as a great adventure invented by his generation to overcome the palpable problems that sensitive Spaniards perceived. The scientific ideal was losing influence throughout Europe; and by rejuvenating this ideal, Spaniards would not only ameliorate the deficiencies in their national life, but they would also remake a positive place for themselves in the European order. These were the educative ends adopted. They were his answer to the first problem of pedagogy, the quid.
Vieja y nueva politica, 1914, Obras I, p. 302.
Recall that the second problem was the matter of means, quo modo. In general. a civic pedagogue had two ways in which to work: he could undertake personal activities and he could stimulate social movements. In the ensuing chapters our main concern will be to scrutinize Ortega's personal efforts at reform. But his personal activities, although significant in their own right, will be best appreciated if we first follow a group effort at renovation that Ortega and his friends organized in 1914: the League for Spanish Political Education. The League was an attempt to organize "a minority charged with the political education of the masses." Through it, its founders hoped, Spain would be Europeanized, and a more humane polity and community would emerge.
When The Revolt of the Masses was first published, several American conservatives reviewed it, greeting it as a polemic against democratic government. For instance, Ralph Adams Cram, The Atlantic Monthly, December 1932, "Bookshelf," found it somewhat perplexing "that one who courageously proclaims himself an aristocrat by conviction and a dissentient from the works of democracy should be a supporter of the present republican regime in Spain and a member of the democratic Cortes .... " But this perplexity was not sufficient to make Cram question whether The Revolt of the Masses might be something other than a conservative tract. From then on the book has had high standing with right-wing writers.
Thus, conservatives, such as Albert J. Nock in Our Enemy, the State, have drawn on Ortega's work for their criticism of the expansion of American government. Ralph Adams Cram relied heavily on Ortega's writings for his critical analysis of The End of Democracy, pp. 10–1, 24–5, 66, 86–8, 102–4, 112–9, 249–250. Both Nock and Cram quoted passages from The Revolt of the Masses that coincided with their own views without trying to give an analysis of Ortega's complete argument. Francis Stuart Campbell bolstered his very reactionary contentions in The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large, pp. 18, 35, 92, 100, 105, 330, 337, 340, 344, and 356, with references to Ortega, especially the American compilation called Invertebrate Spain. Norman L. Stamps referred to Ortega's Revolt of the Masses in Why Democracies Fail: A Critical Evaluation of the Causes for Modern Dictatorships, but he reduces Ortega's argument to a paraphrase of Gustave Le Bon's The Crowd. Representing a younger generation of conservatives, William Buckley, Jr., is reported to be writing a book on Ortega; see Ronald Martinetti, "I've Been Reading: Wild Bill Buckley," The Columbia University Forum, Fall 1967, p. 45.
With such friends, it is not surprising that Ortega has made enemies among American enthusiasts of democracy. In Patterns of Anti-Democratic Thought, pp. 96, 106–7, and 132, David Spitz identifies Ortega among the enemy, mainly on the basis of Cram's praise of Ortega in The End of Democracy. In The Revival of Democratic Theory, pp. 41, 85–6, and 144–5, Neal Riemer characterizes Ortega as an opponent of democracy, contending that the doubts Ortega raises about the average man lead logically to an espousal of a paternal, totalitarian dictatorship. In The New Belief in the Common Man, p. 246, Carl J. Friedrich includes Ortega among those who impede democracy by casting excessive doubt on the common man. In The New Democracy and the New Despotism, p. 75, fn. 2, Charles E. Merriam included Ortega among the anti-democrats, but on pp. 203–5, he used Ortega's ideas as an effective aid in analyzing the totalitarian problem. In The Accidental Century, pp. 213–219, 220, 223, 228, 229, Michael Harrington criticizes Ortega as an aristocratic spokesman whose theory of the masses was a reactionary impediment to the development of egalitarian democracy.
The ideological use of Ortega's work is not, by any means, always negative by American liberals and always positive by conservatives. The most critical book in English on Ortega was written by a conservative Catholic priest, José Sánchez Villaseñor, S.J., Ortega y Gasset, Existentialist: A Critical Study of His Thought and Its Sources, Joseph Small, trans. Several enthusiasts of democracy have drawn effectively on Ortega's ideas. T. V. Smith, in The Democratic Way of Life, quoted Ortega in his explanation of the intellectual responsibilities of the democratic citizen. Sigmund Neumann, in Permanent Revolution: Totalitarianism in the Age of Civil War, 2nd. ed., pp. 96–7, 247, sees Ortega as a liberal philosopher who analyzed the spiritual source of totalitarian dynamism. Perhaps the most eloquent and profound use of Ortega's thought on the democratic side is by Charles Lam Markmann in his justification of "letting every voice be heard" as the basis of making democracy work; see his excellent book, The Noblest Cry: A History of the American Civil Liberties Union, pp. 242–3.
Both liberal and conservative social theorists casually refer to Ortega as an "aristocratic" theorist. See Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology, p. 23, where Ortega is found to be against modernity; p. 26, where he is against science; and p. 298, where he is an exponent of an aristocratic conception of culture; William Kornhauser, The Politics of Mass Society, pp. 22, 26, etc., where Ortega is a major example of the "aristocratic" critics of mass society; Dwight Macdonald, Against the American Grain, p. 69, where Ortega is classed as a conservative; and Francis G. Wilson, "The Anatomy of Conservatives," in W. J. Stankiewicz, ed., Political Thought Since World War II, p. 347, where Ortega is offered as a specimen. Sir Herbert Read, himself anything but a reactionary, saw the matter differently: "Ortega was not, in any way, a reactionary figure ... ;" "Mediodía y noche oscura," Revista de Occidente, July 1966, p. 1.
See esp. La rebelión de las masas, 1930, Obras IV 1 p. 205.
When certain phrases are uttered, political commentators often perceive only those meanings that are consistently associated with partisan polemic. Their reflexes have been so conditioned by the reiteration of slogans that the sound of certain words, rather than their meaning, elicits a predictable response. No matter how inapposite this response may seem to the impartial witness, the partisan will persist in construing the terms awry, for by questioning his slogans he would cease to be a partisan. Ortega's political theory bears many loaded phrases: elite, aristocracy, duty, destiny, and the two introduced above—minorities and masses. From the left Ortega's writings seem to abound with terms that will start the flow of bile in readers whose reflexes have been conditioned by democratic dogma, and from the right his works are laden with phrases that raise hopes in American conservatives that Ortega can be enlisted in their cause. In many casual references, scholars call him an "aristocratic" or "conservative'' theorist; yet his political practice was quite democratic. The only ideological position that Ortega wholeheartedly accepted was au dessus de la melee, and he contended that the political mission of his generation was to transcend the worn out quarrel between liberalism and conservatism. In view of this situation, it is especially important that we follow the principle of basing our judgments, not on our reflexes, but on our reflection.
Many have had difficulty with Ortega's political thought because they have not looked beyond his phrases to the problems to which he referred. Until recently neither the American left nor right was prepared to appreciate Ortega, for neither entertained the premise of his politics: the illegitimacy of the established institutions. Now that Americans have begun to doubt the perfection of their political practices and now that new elements of the American left have even described themselves as "a prophetic minority," Ortega's pedagogical politics can perhaps find a more suitable audience.
For Ortega, politics was not primarily a system for determining who gets what wheni it was first a matter of reconstructing such a system that had ceased to work. Most of Ortega's political writings concern problems of law-giving, not maw-making. Ortega's columns in El Imparcial and El Sol show that, as a maw-maker, he was a liberal democrat who believed that laws should be made in accordance with the popular will. But the Spaniard with such aspirations had to ask two questions: was the given political system capable of responding to the popular will? and was the populace capable of articulating its will? To both queries the answer was no: the given system was a chaotic struggle of factions that could perhaps respond to contending class, economic, and regional interests, but not to the interests of the pueblo. The Spanish people—poor, undereducated, and disillusioned by endless political abuses—were thoroughly apolitical. Hence, the would-be democratic maw-maker had first to be the effective law-giver. He had to create a political system in Spain that would reflect the popular will, rather than a balance of factions, and that would develop among the people the desire and ability to express their will on matters of public policy.
None of the familiar systems for maw-making—democracy, oligarchy, monarchy, dictatorship—explain or guide the phenomena of law-giving. The task of making an established political system function is fundamentally different from that of establishing a new, reformed political system, for the former task entails the effective use of existing forms of power whereas the latter involves the creation of previously nonexistent forms. Because in law-giving men must act in ways that do not presuppose the possession of power, the activity seems quixotic and incomprehensible to those whose conception of politics has been molded by the conventions of maw-making, be these democratic, monarchical, or totalitarian.
Law-giving is inherently hortatory and moralistic; Law-givers must persuade people to accept inwardly new ideals of authority before institutions based on those ideals can be made to operate. Thus, words are prior to deeds. The opportunity for creating new agencies of community arises precisely because the established, institutionalized offices of leadership have become inadequate. Men find that they cannot act; in the absence of legitimate, effective centers of authority, no person or group can properly initiate policy for the whole polity. In such a situation, some will try desperately to impose their favored policies upon the community, and their efforts will lead to tragic destruction; others will more prudently control their urge to act and will try to conceive of new, possible forms of polity that can be spontaneously elicited from the community. When maw-makers are no longer able to act effectively for the whole community, it is time for law-givers to stimulate the whole community to act for itselt reforming itself in such a way that maw-makers can once again effectively act for it.
In this enterprise of law-giving, great restraint is essential. The man who wants to engender fundamental changes in a community cannot impose a predetermined program. Changes, when fundamental, are appropriate precisely because the system of power has become inadequate. The established means for working out and implementing predetermined programs have 'Ceased to function effectively. Owing to this situation1 the law-giver can at most stimulate a commitment by the people to new forms and possibilities. Thus1 in his relation to the populace, the fundamental reformer is heuristic and protreptic, not didactic and prescriptive: rather than command the people to acquiesce in his infallible will, he provokes them to the discovery of a better community within themselves.
In this heuristic or pedagogical politics, talented elites have an important place. Sometimes our conception of an elite is that of the officer corps of an army: men of special rank and training whose duty it is to command. Such an elite is a recipient of order, has nothing to do with law-giving, and was not Ortega's model for the gifted minorities. At other times, our conception of an elite is that of a moral remnant: men scattered through every rank of society who take upon themselves the tasks of being witnesses to the truth and justice. Their duty is not to command, but to inspire. An elite of this character has everything to do with law-giving and was the type of aristocracy that Ortega thought was essential for Spanish reform.
Ibid., p. 150.
At the point in his intellectual development that Ortega had reached in 1914, he conceived of gifted minorities as the prime movers of progress towards the reformation of Spanish life; and later in his life he would go so far as to state that all communities, like it or not, were aristocratic. But he meant—and this critics often overlook—that communities were aristocratic not in the way they made law, but in the way they constituted and maintained themselves as communities. And by an aristocracy, Ortega did not mean a corps of commanders, but the leaven of the spiritually committed and intellectually competent citizens diffused throughout the populace. The function of the members of this aristocracy was to conceive of more adequate principles of order, to embody these in their personal activities, and, by example, to inspire other persons to understand and to adopt these principles. Such a minority stood in the same relation to the people as the Socratic citizen stands to his peer; the characteristics to be brought out in the community must pre-exist in the people and the duty of the educative minorities is to put the question and to exemplify the answer in order to help the people perceive and manifest their own immanent characteristics. Without effective elites of this type, a people of magnificent potential might not be able to bring their genius to bear upon their common lives. This was Spain's difficulty.
Emerson, Journal, December 9, 1834, reprinted in Whicher, ed., Selections from Ralph Waldo Emerson, p. 19.
Hence, Ortega's primary goal was to create a capable minority for Spain, to create a prophetic, not a paternal, minority. In substance, this goal was neither democratic nor anti-democratic, for the mission assigned to the elite was to make a Spanish democracy possible. But the goal was quite consistent with both the humanistic educational tradition and the liberal political tradition. It was premised on the proposition that virtue is knowledge, and that therefore the common good, the virtue of all, depends on whether all have access to knowledge. An Enlightenment willingness to put confidence in man's capacity for self-perfection characterized Ortega's theory; yet he was not oblivious to the difficulties of getting men to exercise this capacity. Ortega's aristocracy was an elite of intelligence and talent whose purpose was to extend knowledge and to make it accessible to a greater proportion of the people. Rather than the paternal rule of the elites that came to govern Spain, the goal of Ortega's elite was to show Spaniards that they could rule themselves with more humanity and justice. Ortega's so-called elitism was based on the egalitarianism described by Ralph Waldo Emerson when he said: "Democracy, Freedom, has its roots in the sacred truth that every man hath in him the divine Reason, or that, though few men since the creation of the world live according to the dictates of Reason, yet all men are created capable of doing so. That is the equality and the only equality of all men. To this truth we look when we say, Reverence Thyself; Be true to Thyself. Because every man has within him somewhat really divine, therefore is slavery the impardonable outrage it is."
Salvador de Madariaga, Spain, pp. 309–310, gives an account of the first meeting of the League and Ortega's address to it, and this account is particularly interesting since Madariaga was present at the event. Julián Marías, Ortega, pp. 235–244, devotes a section to the League. He rightly states that the League was important because it was the first time Ortega tried to conduct, rather than just think, politics. But he tells us little more about Ortega's conduct and is content to summarize Ortega's thoughts about the league. A very interesting contribution to comparative politics and education might be made through a study of the various organizations for political education that have arisen in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the course of national fonnation and reconstruction.
Vieja y nueva politica, 1914, Obras I, pp. 267–308.
Ortega's first major public undertaking was the organization of the League for Spanish Political Education. The League comprised ninety-eight young intellectuals; the founding of it was an OCcasion at which they gathered as a group and gave themselves the task of enlarging and perfecting all the sectors of Spanish life that they could affect. On March 23, 1914, Ortega gave its convocational address, "The Old and the New Politics." In this speech Ortega fully expressed the conception of politics he had been developing and he movingly applied it to the Spanish situation. As the phrase "new politics" suggests, his arguments were not unlike those that many young American radicals have voiced since the 1960's, for civic pedagogy is the form of politics natural to all who find themselves living in the midst of illegitimate institutions.
Ibid., p. 273.
Ortega began with a premise accepted by most Spaniards except those who happened to be in power. This premise was that during crises—and none in his audience doubted that Spain had been in a prolonged crisis—the will of the people was not found in the established institutions. A crisis resulted when the institutional skeleton of the community was no longer able to support eftorts to deal with the community's real problems. During crises, the popular will was found in the projects and aspirations that defined the people's potential. "And thus it comes to pass that today we see in our nation two Spains that live together and that are perfect strangers: an official Spain that insists on prolonging the gestures of a dead age; and an aspiring, germinal Spain, a vital Spain, which although not very strong is still valid, sincere, and honest, and which, having been obstructed by the other, has not succeeded in fully entering into history."
Ibid., p. 277.
In spite of the obstructive function of official Spain, Ortega did not succumb to the slavish ressentiment that characterizes so many radical and reactionary movements alike. He held, as a basic pedagogical principle, that one could grow and develop only by pushing against resistance; and hence political development did not require the excision of obstructions~ a ruthless surgery on those who opposed the reformers' hopes, but rather the surmounting of obstacles as sporting proof of the true superiority of the new. Consequently, in the politics of crisis, one should ignore the traditional points of power—neither seeking them nor shunning them—and assiduously attend to one's proper business: bringing the nation's potentials to fruition. Since the old political structure was designed to deal with problems that existed no longer, it was a sham that was not worth serious attention. Instead, members of the League would attend to the people, their problems, their powers, and their proposals; the League would help clarify and manifest the possibilities that were to be found across the entire range of Spanish life. "We will go to the towns and villages, not only to seek votes to obtain acts of legislation and powers of government, but to make our teaching create organs of community, of culture, of technique, of mutualism, of a life that ultimately is human in all its senses, and of a public energy that will rise without cowering gestures against the fatal tendency in every state to envelop in itself the entire life of the society."
Ibid., p. 286.
Noblesse oblige! A small handful of men belonged to the League and they did not join it to gain attention for their special interests. They had little doctrine and they followed the slogan "justice and efficacy ." The League would function in a simple manner. It would hold before all those who were discontented with Spain, especially before educated young dissidents, the mission of Europeanizing, of educating Spain. The League sought members among doctors, economists, engineers, professors, poets, and industrialists; and to those who had the strength and courage to pursue more than their immediate interests, the League proposed a goal. At the age of thirty, Ortega made his appeal to the idealism of youth, calling the young in body and heart to a great task, not because it was expedient, but because it was good.
Ibid., pp. 286–7.
We shall saturate the farthest corner of Spain with our enthusiasm and curiosity; we shall scrutinize Spain and spread love and indignation. We shaH travel through the fields with our apostolic din; we shall live in the viti ages to listen to the desperate moans that issue there; we shall first be the friend of whomever we shall presently lead. We shall create among them strong bonds of community—cooperatives, circles for mutual education, centers of information and protest. We shall goad the best men of each capital up a commanding, spiritual elevation, for today they are imprisoned by the terrible burden of official Spain, which encumbers the provinces even more than Madrid. We shall let these spiritual brothers who are lost in provincial inertia know that in us they have allies and defenders. We shall cast a net of vigor across the limits of Spain, a net that will be at once an organ for teaching and an organ for studying the facts of Spain, a net, finally, that will form a nervous system through which vital waves of sensibility and automatic, powerful currents of protest will run.
To proceed in the manner of the League is to ignore the obvious realities of practical power. Was it a plausible, meaningful means of action for ninety-eight talented young men to turn their backs on traditional politics, to ignore the conventional measures of ambition and success, to propose, gratuitously and gamely, certain ideals of conduct and competence, and to suggest, with passion and eloquence, that they and their compatriots would live better by fulfilling these more exigent standards? Those inclined to scoff should note that among the young today rejection of official institutions is a commitment that move~ many; and if for no other reason than its power to deprive the established order of needed talent, it should be examined sympatheticaiiy in order to comprehend its positive rationale. Yet powerful currents puii in another direction and encourage interpreters to treat the League lightly.
Carr, Spain, p. 537; cf. pp. 524–63, esp. pp. 530–2.
With respect to the established institutions, the League was a negative influence; but then, as now, the established institutions had an inordinate prestige. Ortega's rejection was complete: Spanish institutions were so inconsequential that they did not merit active opposition. Hence, Raymund Carr, in his excellent economic and political history of modern Spain, appropriately discusses Ortega in a chapter on "The Protestors"; but Carr is wrong in implying that Ortega's positive endeavors were inconsequential because these commitments endured "characteristically only for a short period." To be sure, the League did not aim at institutional power and it did not endure. But Carr's judgment of Ortega's commitments, and many of his other judgments concerning Spanish history, reflect the deep contemporary bias in favor of institutional action over spontaneous action.
Because it would be an exercise in "useless" polemics, this critique is usually not explicitly stated, but one will frequently hear it in the course of discussion, especially among social scientists. The criticism has been put to me vigorously in conversation with Professor Juan Linz. With respect to Ortega, the criticism comes down to a lament that Ortega should have been someone other than the historic Ortega, but the criticism is most interesting not for what it tells us about Ortega, but for what it tells us about ourselves. It would be very illuminating if someone would do an extensive study of the different ways various influential scholars in the diverse disciplines conceive that historically significant actions are brought about, for a good part of our disagreements over the significance of various men and events may well be rooted in our confusions about how history gets made.
This bias towards institutionalized power underlies one of the more significant critiques of Ortega's life work. Exponents of this critique contend that between 1898 and 1936 Spain was a country undergoing political and economic modernization. To sustain its development more trained technicians were needed. But instead of turning towards the technical subtleties of engineering, economics, sociology/ political science, and business administration, the intellectuals were led by Ortega and Unamuno into excessively speculative/ theoretical concerns. Typically/ these critics might suggest1 the League for Spanish Political Education lacked institutional strength and its members made no organized effort to solve a single practical problem within their competence. The League proposed fine goals, but it never organized to ensure that these would be carried out. In the long run, all it did was briefly assuage the consciences of a few intellectuals who thought that they should do something for the nation but who were unwilling to accept the discipline and self-effacement that institutional effectiveness would entail. In short, if members of the League had been truly serious about reform, they would not have opposed a "vital," spontaneous Spain against official Spain; nor would they have argued for a new politics in place of the old; rather, they would have rolled up their sleeves and become the staff of a more competent, "vital" officialdom.
Ortega showed a keen appreciation for the importance of high technical competence within industry and government ministries. Thus, in saying that he was no technocrat, one is not saying that he scorned technical excellence. The question, rather, concerned the kind of shared· aspirations that might bring about and sustain technical excellence. To achieve technical excellence, a people had to aspire to much more than technical excellence, for the truly competent technician was the man who had set out to master the pinnacles of science and who found along the way that his proper contribution was working somewhere short of that goal. This view was fundamental to Ortega's analysis of the dangers to modern civilization inherent in a general lowering of aspirations, and he gave a good early expression of it in "Asamblea para el progreso de las ciencias," 1908, Obras I, pp. 99–110. The greatest menace to technology was the technocrat who believed that technology would alone suffice.
Today, when economic development has become one of the more fashionable topics of academic inquiry, this criticism seems correct. Ortega was no developmental technocrat. He discouraged corporate action on isolated problems; he opposed the kind of academic specialism that would have helped to increase the power and improve the efficiency of the administrative and technical bureaucracies; he relied on spontaneous, rather than organized, effort to improve the nation. The League was little more than a short-lived declaration of intention. Its program was not practicable; it called for renewed purpose and improved competencies without particularizing proposals. We have been taught to think that these characteristics are weaknesses; and if Spain truly needed only a strong shot of technical modernization, these criticisms would be cogent. But the Spanish problem may have been more complicated; and if this is so, the characteristics that seem to have been demerits may prove on reflection to have been the points that gave Ortega and the League their greatest strength and relevance.
Spontaneous civic action is not something that mysteriously erupts from a people, without rhyme or reason; like any other form of action, it is willed with care, and it becomes effective only with the delicate use of reason. Such action is spontaneous, and it is opposed to the institutional, because its power emanates from the personal activities of a variety of individuals, each of whom acts as an individual, not as a corporate official or follower. Thus, even though our personal activities may have great social consequences and are the result of careful deliberation, they are called spontaneous because, from the point of view of any institutional authority, they are initiated in accord with our own intimate intent rather than the will and convenience of official policy. Independent, spontaneous activities gain a civic significance whenever men separately inform their personal acts with purposes that are widely shared by others. All of Ortega's social theory was premised on the conviction that spontaneous civic action was fundamental and that institutional action was secondary and conditioned by the spontaneous.
Ortega made the opposite assumption from that which seems to have been made by most social scientists. Rather than say that personal choice was possible only within certain interstices of institutions, he said that formal institutions were possible only within certain spontaneous matrices. Institutions were effective only when they were legitimated by a prior spontaneous concord; and in the absence of spontaneous concord~ it was futile to try to engineer it by the deft or brutal manipulation of formal programs. Instead, one had to try to concert the spontaneous commitments of capable persons; as these persons independently informed their activities with common goals, a significant public potential would begin to become manifest; and as the prominence of this potential increased, more and more persons would define their aspirations with respect to it. On the basis of this concord, a new, effective set of institutions could be established.
"Madariaga, Spain, p. 310.
The Prospectus of the League was a declaration of intent, not so much of League policy, but of a direction that each person who subscribed to it would follow in the pursuit of his personal vocation. The League needed to endure only for one meeting, for in that one meeting its participants consecrated their lives to Spanish political education. Salvador de Madariaga, who was one of the League's members and who has shown an inspiring fidelity to its principles, has described this consecration best. "This memorable day was the beginning of real leadership in Spanish politics. The spring tapped by Don Francisco Giner and fed by the devoted efforts of the Junta, or Committee for the Development of Studies, had by now become a strong and clear river of intelligent opinion flowing into the troubled and muddy waters of Spanish politics. Great hopes were raised when this body of new men, uncontaminated by the responsibilities of the past and the intrigues of the present, declared their intention to take part in public life and to raise the tone and substance of Spanish politics."
The Pedagogical Missions were a project in which university students spent their summers in rural villages, getting to know the problems of the poor and trying to introduce the villagers to contemporary cultural and sanitary achievements. See Gabriel Jackson, The Spanish Republic at1d the Civil War, pp. 108–ll0, for a good description of the misiones pedagógicas, Much like VISTA in many respects, the missions put more emphasis than VISTA does on creating substantive communication between the future leadership elite and the rural Spaniard. There was not the condescension implicit in a "war on poverty"; there was the belief that the rural peasant could learn things of value from the urban student and the urban student could learn equally as much from the rural peasant.
This evaluation of the League is borne out by the fact that in later life its members independently made important contributions to Spanish politics and culture, contributions that were fully in accord with the intent of the League. Since the League did nothing more than attempt to concert the personal aspirations of its members, to inform their activities with a common goal no causal significance can be attributed to it; it did not function programmatically. Nevertheless, one could write a good history of the growth of the Republic and the pre-Civil War flowering of Spanish culture by celebrating the careers of the "generation of '14," that is, the ninety-eight members of the League. Among them were Manuel Azaña, prime minister and then president of the Republic; Manuel Abril, poet; América Castro, essayist and literary historian; Ángel Galarza, minister of the interior in the Largo Caballero government; Manuel García Morente, philosopher and translator; Lorenzo Luzuriaga, educational theorist; Salvador de Madariaga, diplomat and historian; Antonio Machado, poet, educator, and essayist; Ramiro de Maeztu, diplomat and essayist; Federico de Onís, educator, essayist, and literary historian; Ramón Pérez de Ayala, novelist; Fernando de los Ríos, professor of law, politician, and diplomat; and Luis de Santullano, director of the "misiones pedagógicas" under the Republic. Many other members achieved distinction in their chosen endeavors; and it must have been a great encouragement to each to know that the purposes he had decided to pursue were shared by colleagues in other fields.
Even though the League had no programmatic policy, its historic significance merits careful consideration. As was noted above, we think of the Spanish problem as one of economic and technical underdevelopment, which in part it was. But in seeing Spain as underdeveloped and in need of modernization, we see it through foreign, uncomprehending eyes. To be sure, Spain is economically backward; but that is a mere symptom. The real problem is more fundamental; and consequently, it is irrelevant to judge the League by latter-day standards of modernization. The League for Spanish Political Education was meant to deal with a different, related, more basic difficulty.
Owing to Spain's limitations, it was the first European nation to encounter the crisis of purpose pandemic throughout this century. In this peculiar sense, Spaniards were among Europe's historically advanced peoples: they first experienced the trauma of losing their colonies. After all, Spaniards had constructed one of the early nation-states of Europe, and their colonial expansion had been second only to that of England. But Spaniards had found it very difficult, with a nation that lacked a rich surplus of either men or materiel, to hold their colonies. Throughout the nineteenth century they invested much energy and hope in the enterprise; nevertheless their overseas holdings set themselves free or were taken over by stronger upstarts. By 1900 Spain was having difficulty keeping its meager holdings in North Africa and the millennial tide of the Reconquista seemed about to be reversed.
Spaniards had to face the demonstrated fact that they had become an insignificant power and a people without purpose. Nations are not natural entities that exist come what may; they are continually created and re-created as men grant allegiance to symbols and offices that define for each person a significant future and purpose. At the turn of the century, Spaniards witnessed the dissolution of their national purpose. Hence the Spanish problem was precisely the problem that has become so familiar in the industrialized countries; the problem was nothing more nor less than a collapse of national cohesion.
If all that Spaniards suffered from was political and economic underdevelopment, then the intellectualism and voluntarism, as well as the confidence in spontaneous action, which characterized the League for Spanish Political Education, would have been inappropriate. But Spaniards had sufficient internal resources to improve significantly their material standard of living, the quality of public administration, and the political status of the people. These improvements, however, were impossible because Spaniards lacked the national will and unity, the sense of common purpose, that would have enabled them to overcome the particular problems that impeded improvement. Whether all strata of the Spanish people had ever assented to a particular idea of the Spanish nation is a moot question. However, since 1898 the idea of Spain as a center of imperial grandeur had clearly become ridiculous to important groups of Spaniards, while for others it became a treasured memory, the remains of which had to be carefully preserved. Hence, public affairs were rent not simply by disagreements about the means of government, but by dissension over the very character of the nation that was to be governed. The intractability of powerful interest groups, the agrarian problem, and the regionalist problem were symptoms of a weakened, shattered national purpose; and until that purpose had been strengthened, there would be no way to elicit the sense of sacrifice and altruistic foresight that were the only means by which those impediments to national improvement could be surmounted. And since the reformation of Spain~s national purpose was stopped and negated in the Civil War, these impediments still persist.
How can one strengthen a sense of common purpose? How can one create new civic ideals when the established ones cease to move men or become irrelevant to the true problems of a time? Better technical training~ an expanding economy~ or a foreign war serve at best to postpone the urgency of these questions; public programs cannot answer them. When we come fully to grips with the difficulty of these questions, we will realize that our faith in the all-embracing efficacy of institutionalized authority is shallow and dangerous. Men are not slaves, and no amount of authority over men can create purposes in men.
Consequently, the Spanish intellectuals of the League should not be merely dismissed as impractical reformers. They tried to deal subtly and fundamentally with the real problems that lurk everywhere behind the glittering facade of modern civilization. Disillusion with the given community—whether it manifests itself in the apathy of the poverty-stricken, the criminal despair of the drop-out, the drugged fantasy of the escapist, or the terrorism of the revolutionary—is not a problem to be solved simply by a reliance on institutionalized programs in the political and economic sphere of life. In one form 0r another, these symptoms, which are symptoms of a crisis in spontaneously shared values and purposes, have been apparent in the recent history of every "developed" nation. And there is good reason to suspect that many of the programs designed to deal with these symptoms end ironically in reinforcing them.
Historic forces fail and tear themselves asunder in an act of hubris committed when men begin to believe that a hitherto successful system can be relied upon to master every problem. Man is limited. The intellectual procedures that he develops are imperfect; they solve certain problems, but in doing so they create other ones. After a mode of thought has been used effectively for a long time, it becomes habitual. Furthermore, after long use there will be many problems that were caused by the very inadequacies of the established way of thinking. These problems will require attention; and heedless men will try to use the familiar mode of thought to solve the very problems that have been created by its inadequacies. Hence, although the development in the past three hundred years of rational techniques in political and economic life has brought great benefits to most citizens of the modern nation, it would be a mistake to rely solely on these techniques for solutions to twentieth-century problems of value. In large part these problems have arisen from our failure to deal effectively with the vital concerns that lie beyond the limits of our political and economic techniques.
We are indebted to the Spanish reformers for their perception of the desirability, in dealing with a deep crisis of national purpose, for something in addition to the materialistic modes of reasoning by which even Spanish national power, backward as it was, had been markedly enhanced. Here we encounter the reason why "official Spain" was rejected by the members of the League. Official Spain was an empty but authentic work of nineteenth-century liberalism. To be sure, its implementation of rational policy in economic, political, and social life left much to be desired. But the limiting factor was not a lack of technical competence, it was a lack of national purpose. A commitment to official Spain would mean, in effect, that one was satisfied with the existing formulation of the national purpose and that one was content simply to rationalize and improve the pursuit of it. On the other hand, a commitment to vital Spain meant that one would try to create a more stirring national purpose. Such a commitment entailed a reliance on speculative intellectualism and spontaneous activity, for one could neither legislate values nor create purposes by materialistic modes of thought.
"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." In view of this truth, the reductionizing materialist is hard put to generate ideals and to avoid nihilism. Believing that he must explain his existence by reference ultimately to material reality, he finds that no thing is either good or bad; he feels deceived, not because his thinking puts the wrong values on various acts and objects, but because thinking, by itself, seems to place a value on them. Free valuation contradicts his materialism; and in order to maintain his belief, he must seek to think away thought, to reduce it to a material basis. To the degree that he persuades himself that his reduction is effective, he persuades himself that nothing is either good or bad, that all is permitted. All the same, thought exists, although it is not a thing, and as long as thought exists, valuations will be made, even by materialists who sincerely deny their power to do so. The function of thought is to transform the material world into an environment that man can inhabit. Mind fulfills this function by giving the great chaos of things the essential characteristic that, for human beings, the chaos lacks: thought assigns values; it creates order i it discovers what is and is not permitted. Human judgment is fallible: occasionally it assigns things the improper value, postulates a dangerous order, or permits the wrong and prohibits the right. But in the face of its imperfections, men are more likely to improve it through reflection, or thinking about thought, than they are by reduction, or thinking away thought. Repeatedly in history, when men have realized that they are confronted in public life by problems of order and questions of value, they have not turned to material nature, with respect to which these problems do not exist, for they realized that such a turn would be mere escapism. Instead, they began to reflect on thought, on culture, on man thinking.
In keeping with this tradition, the League for Spanish Political Education was a cultural, not a technical, group. By joining it, sensitive men agreed to plunge into all aspects of Spanish public life to try to make manifest the highest values in it. They wanted to initiate the general examination of life in the capital, in the provinces, and in the villages; and they had the hope that through such meditations Spaniards would eventually be able to say, "On these grounds we can all meet and share a significant, common destiny.~~ To encourage the development of national purposes they had to rely on spontaneous activity, an intellectual appeal to the young and the speculative criticism of established institutions. They were not out to modernize Spain, but to humanize it, and for this purpose their procedure was appropriate.
In Spain, Europe, and throughout the world, twentieth-century life has been beset by problems of order and value, and because the League for Spanish Political Education put purpose before power, it is historically relevant to these problems. The League stands for an important kind of political action, for its procedures differed radically from the practical, materialistic activities that have been relied on to maximize the economic, administrative, and military strength of nation-states. The new politics aims to improve the spiritual power of various peoples and to bring the crucial but intangible questions of ideals, aspirations, and values out of the realm of chance and into that of choice. It is important to recognize that the method and intent of the League has this historic significance, for historical accident aborted the League's practical development.
Unamuno was right: Europe undid Europeanization. Not long after the League for Spanish Political Education had been convoked, World War I began. Other questions besides those concerning the purposes Spaniards could share began to seem more pressing. Why had order collapsed? How long would the conflagration continue? Which side had the just cause? Should Spain enter the war? It was not a time in which men could concentrate on building a new national purpose.
Thus the League met only once, and then broke apart under the centrifugal force of events. But even if the League had held together its significance would not have been its corporate achievements. Long after the League was forgotten, its members were personally pursuing its policies. In keeping with the idea of a new politics, the institution itself was not important; reform was a personalistic, spontaneous endeavor: many different men would separately make their own contributions to a new Spain. Substantial reform would be achieved only. when these individual achievements aggregated into a perfected community.
Our task, then, is not to follow how Ortega fitted himself into the shifting conglomerations of his time. It is men who act, not institutions. Ortega's personal activities should be interpreted as the effort of one man to accomplish tasks similar to ,those that he had proposed through the League. In the course of his manifold activities, Ortega worked to strengthen the intellectual elite of Spain and to bring it into contact with the people. Whether he acted as a teacher, writer, publisher, or politician, his effort was to make intellect enhance the community by using it to increase the capacities of the people and to perfect their sense of common purpose.
Meditaciones del Quijote, 1914, Obras I, p. 311.
"El quehacer del hombre," 1932, Obras IV, p. 367.
This intellectual task was Ortega's vocation, consciously held and intentionally pursued. He was a civic pedagogue, a political teacher, and educator of the public. This vocation is not an arbitrary unity imposed by a biographer on an apparent chaos of Ortega's activities. He repeatedly professed this commitment, and it endured characteristically for a long period. Soon after he published the prospectus of the League, Ortega described his personal vocation: "these essays—like the lecture room, the newspaper, or politics—are diverse means of exercising the same activity, of giving vent to one desire .... The desire that moves me is the most powerful one that I find in my heart, and resurrecting the perfect name that Spinoza used, I will call it amor intellectualis." Ortega's love was for Spain, which he intended to bring to perfection by cultivating its intellectual powers. Eighteen years later, when he perceived that circumstances were forcing him to transform his vocation, to direct his amor intellectualis towards Europe rather than Spain, he reiterated the single-mindedness of his efforts. "I had to make my experiment at apprenticing the Spaniard to intellect in whatever way he could be reached: in friendly conversations, in the periodicals, and in public lectures. It was necessary to attract him to the precision of ideas with a graceful tum of phrase, for with Spaniards, in order to persuade one must first seduce."
For the quarter century during which he was Professor of Metaphysics at the University of Madrid, Ortega's career was an extraordinary personal effort at educating the Spanish public. Ortega fulfilled his own conception of the hero, he invented and pursued a great adventure in which he tried not to swim mindlessly with the currents of his time, but to channel them in new directions so that they would bring barren soils to life. The youth whom we have met was a man with a mission.
The people should fight for the law as if for their city-wall.