Man and His Circumstances: Ortega as Educator

by Robbie McClintock

Chapter V — The Partly Faithful Professor

"Sobre las carreras," 1934, Obras V, p. In.

Strictly, a man's vocation must be his vocation for a perfectly concrete, individual, and integral life, not for the social schema of a career.

Ortega

V — The Partly Faithful Professor

For over twenty-five years, Ortega's career, in the sense of a social schema, was that of a university professor. As had been anticipated, in 1910 Ortega won appointment to the Chair of Metaphysics at the University of Madrid. His character as a civic pedagogue is exemplified in the way he turned this career into an integral element of his personal vocation.

In giving Ortega the Chair of Metaphysics, the university was taking a surprising step, for Ortega had been outspoken about the existing inadequacies of the university and had made known his intention to try to change things. Articles unlikely to endear Ortega to the complacent academic establishment were "Sobre los estudios clásicos," 1907; "Pidiendo una biblioteca," 1908; "Asamblea para el progreso de las ciencias," 1908; and "Una fiesta de paz," 1909, Obras I, pp. 63–7, 81–5, 99–110, 124–7. Other essays that reflect the same views are "La reforma liberal," Faro, February 23, 1908, Obras X, pp. 31–8; "La conservación de la cultura," Faro, March 8, 1908, Obras X, pp. 39–46; "Sobre la pequeña filosofía," El Imparcial, April 13, 1908, Obras X, pp. 51–5; "La cuestión moral," El Imparcial, August 27, 1908, Obras X, pp. 73–8; "Catecismo para la lectura de una carta," El Imparcial, February 10, 1910, Obras X, pp. 133–B; "Pablo Iglesias," El Imparcial, May 13, 1910, Obras X, pp. 139–142; "Diputado por la cultura," El Imparcial, May 28, 1910, Obras X, pp. 143–6; and a lecture given in La Casa de Partido Socialista Madrileño, December 2, 1910 on "La ciencia y la religión como problemas políticos," Obras X, pp. 119–127. It is interesting to compare Ortega's views in this lecture with those of some radical students and professors today who are suggesting with some basis that in times of deep division even the seemingly most disinterested studies are not really apolitical. Somehow we need to learn how to claim protection for originating and exploring ideas without asserting the sterile pretension to disinterestedness.

How Ortega's expectations must have soared when he learned, at twenty-seven, that he had won the Chair! Here was a great opportunity; without having to spend years in academic obscurity, he would be able to use his new position to work systematically at educating the gifted elite that he believed necessary for Spanish reform. As he later put it, an "imperative of intellectuality" was a condition of progress in Spain, and there was no better way to cultivate intellectuality in Spain than as a professor of metaphysics.

Ortega's best presentation of these thoughts is España invertebrada, 1921, Obras III, especially pp. 51–71.

For Ortega, any substantial civic grouping such as a nation involved the linking together of diverse peoples in such a way that their diversities were preserved, perfected, and utilized. Nationality was not a common character shared by all. The ability to draw, in pursuit of a Kinderland, on the different characteristics of diverse peoples, gave rise to a nation in which men with many special geniuses could give, harmoniously and cooperatively, to the common effort what was unique to each. For this federation of diverse elements to occur, it was important that each be "in form," that each have a sense of his uniqueness, of the way that his special character might help enrich the whole. What Ortega called "particularism" developed within a nation not when its component members possessed an acute sense of their unique character, but when these members complacently confused themselves with the whole. Particularist groups, thinking they were the nation, would seek to make policy serve their interests without taking into account the interests of other members.

"Imperativo de intelectualidad," España, January 14, 1922, Obras XI, pp. 11–2.

Ortega thought that Spain's politics was hopelessly particularistic; this condition gave rise to the imperative of intellectuality. Such an imperative did not call on the intellectuals to take over power; as we have noted, an Ortegan elite was not an authoritarian elite. Instead, the imperative of intellectuality called on men who had carefully disciplined their powers of thought to confront "the masses," the uncritical members of all the particularist groups in Spain, with clear delineations of the actual complexity of the nation, the diversity of its members, and the intricacy of their interdependence. If a minority of gifted, articulate thinkers could confront the Spanish people with a cogent presentation of this diversity and intricacy, then a modicum of realism, humility, and altruism might creep into practical politics. "In the intellectual class there resides vaguely, very vaguely, the lone possibility of constituting a select minority capable of profoundly influencing our ethnic destinies and beginning to initiate the new organization of our country, which now destroys and atomizes itself day by day. I believe, therefore, that the Spanish intellectual is not at the hour of triumph, but at the hour of the greatest effort."

In its full sense, this effort would be two fold. In the end it would entail bringing intellectual clarity to bear on every aspect of Spanish life; but that culmination was possible only after a previous labor had been performed, namely, only after a substantial group of Spaniards had truly mastered intellect. It was this aspect of the imperative of intellectuality that Ortega could pursue as a professor of philosophy.

Meditaciones del Quijote, 1914, Obras I, p. 314.

Recall how Ortega's conception of Europeanization gave priority to intellectual rigor as the European characteristic that Spaniards sorely lacked. In general, Ortega took it as his task to enamour his compatriots with a feeling for science, that great tradition of theorizing about experience. Science was idealism, metaphysics, thought about phenomena, both physical and spiritual. Thus, Ortega's purpose, the imperative controlling his vocation, was to make the Spaniard "react intellectually to reality." To accomplish this goal, Ortega needed, through his prose or through his classroom, to influence the integral character of particular Spaniards, to inspire them with a feeling for speculative thought. This aim led Ortega to take up the career of an educator, of a professor of philosophy; and as an educator, he did not simply savor ideas in limbo in his philosophical reflections. As an educator, he had to see that ideas gave themselves flesh, for man thought various ideas so that he could use them in living his life. Hence, when Ortega spoke, as he often did, of transforming the Spanish spirit, he did not envisage exercising some mysterious power over the Volksgeist; he proclaimed his intention to have a real effect on the thought and character of actual men, first on those who would make up an elite diffused throughout the mass, and second on every man as the capacities of the elite began to resonate independently in each member of the mass. "I will achieve all my aspirations," he said, "if I manage to cut on that minimal portion of the Spanish spirit within my reach certain new facets that will reflect the ideal." One place where a bit of the Spanish spirit came within Ortega's reach was the classroom of the university.

See especially "Asamblea para el progreso de las ciencias," 1908., Obras I, pp. 99–110.

We have already seen how Ortega found the active concerns of politics and economics to be secondary, derivative elements in public affairs. In contrast to these, one of the fundamental factors in public life was the higher learning. Systematic philosophy was especially important, not for any direct effects, but for its indirect influence. A strong, continuing philosophic elite was the historical backbone of any European nation; for in times of trouble the members of this elite unobtrusively preserved the conceptual capacities by which public affairs could again be given a humane, progressive order, and in times of hope these men were a source of inspiration, constructive criticism, and informed instruction. On his return from Germany, several years before his university appointment, Ortega had clearly stated that the first order for educational reform was to bring the study of philosophy up to the level that the leading European nations had attained during the nineteenth century. It was this belief that brought him home from Marburg, and his appointment was a practical step giving him the opportunity to attempt the reform.

... (p. 122). For the condition of the Spanish universities and especially their philosophy instruction at the start of Ortega's career, see Marías, Ortega, especially pp. 125–173; and Manuel García Morente, Ensayos, pp. 201–7. For a more general view of the situation see Yvonne Turin, Miguel de Unamuno, Universitaire.

To demand radical improvement in one or another university discipline is easy; to implement such reforms is difficult. The university is a conservative institution. Its power to perpetuate learning is bought partly at the price of being doomed to perpetuate incompetence as well. But this fact should not cause despair. The university is particularly open to personal influences. Faculties rarely excel as corporate bodies; great schools of scholarship are the work of particular men. The vitality of an intellectual tradition does not depend on its being continuously represented by popular courses in the curriculum; it is more important that here or there a particular professor in one way or another profoundly moves certain students. Through such relationships Ortega himself had been initiated to systematic philosophy. And since the transmission of learning depended on such personal influences, he could hope that a university, although seriously estranged from the philosophical tradition, could make up its deficiencies and develop a corps of men who were at, or near, the front rank of speculative inquiry.

Only rarely does academic reform require action from administrators and senior professors. The real changes depend on the spirit of younger faculty members, of those who do not believe that the present world is the only possible one and who are therefore unwilling to call it the best. As young men define their style of inquiry, their purposes and powers as teachers and students, they define the future character of the university. If their elders reward the mediocre, preferring the familiar to the excellent, it simply means that institutions with present prestige will decline and others will take their place, for the truth will come to light. Here is the secret source of renewal: among the young there is a gravitation towards difficulty, which is less visible than the gravitation towards novelty, but which is in the long run the most powerful of all the forces making for beneficial change.

See the articles by Fernando Vela, Manuel García Morente, Xavier Zubiri, Luis Santullano, Gregorio Marañón, Blas Cabrera, and María Zambrano in the March 8, 1936 issue of El Sol.

Ortega's teaching provides an excellent example of the power of spontaneous reform. He simply began to teach in his own way, pursuing his own academic ends; students recognized his personal competence and the legitimacy of his purpose; other professors concurred with his goals; without fanfare, the reform was wrought. In this way, "the school of Madrid" emerged. By 1936 Madrileños took pride in the fact that their city was a flourishing philosophical center, and they gave Ortega much of the credit. The change was remarkable and is the first measure of Ortega's accomplishment as a teacher.

Xavier Zubiri, Sobre la escencia, tercera edición, 1963.

For a general discussion of the school, see Julián Marías, La escuela de Madrid in Obras de Julián Marías, V, pp. 207–507. Marías concentrates on Ortega's work in the studies included in this book, and he locates the school more in Ortega and certain of Ortega's contemporaries, whereas I locate it primarily in the students of these men who are now carrying on their work. For representative works by the members of the school see the following. Pedro Laín Entralgo has produced a variety of studies in intellectual history, medical history, and philosophy; Ortega's influence shows clearly in Laín's series of major studies: La espera y la esperanza: Historia y teoría del esperar humano, 1957; Teoría y realidad del otro, 2 vols., 1961; and La relación medico-enfermo: Historia y teoría, 1964. Julián Marías has written extensively on numerous subjects, but his most important work is Historia de la filosofía, which gives a good account of the philosophic tradition, showing how Ortega and other twentieth-century thinkers relate to it. José Ferrater Mora is one of the most cosmopolitan of contemporary thinkers. His El ser y la muerte: bosquejo de filosofía integracionista, in Obras selectas, II, pp. 297-484, draws effectively on both Anglo-American and continental philosophic traditions as well as on both theological and scientific studies of life and death. This ability to draw on all the current schools of thought is also reflected in Ferrater's La filosofía en el mundo de hoy, in Ibid., pp. 13-171, which is a very useful study for placing Ortega in twentieth-century philosophy. Finally, his El hombre en la encrucijada, Obras selectas, I, pp. 369-579, is a substantial essay in the history of philosophy. On the surface of things, Paulino Garagorri's work looks less substantial than that of those already mentioned, but such an appearance is deceiving. His studies of Ortega in Ortega, una reforma de la filosofía and Unamuno, Ortega, Zubiri en la filosofía española are useful contributions. In addition, the essays gathered in Ejercicios intelectuales show a wide range of interests, a lively style, and a capacity for penetrating criticism. These qualities, plus his work as managing editor of Revista de Occidente and his involvement in the reform movement in contemporary Spanish public affairs, make him one of the closest followers of Ortega, the only one who preserves the spirit as well as the letter of the master. Simply one work by Luis Díez del Corral need be mentioned, El Rapto de Europa: una interpretación histórica de nuestro tiempo, which contributes in important ways to extending Ortega's concern for Europe's future.

Whereas at the turn of the century the most progressive philosophic movement in Spain was Krausismo, by the 1930's Madrid was one of the creative centers of existential thought. To be sure, Unamuno had done the most to bring Spanish thought to the attention of those outside of Spain; but it was Ortega who had done the most to bring Spaniards abreast of European speculation. Prodded by Ortega, Spanish publishers discovered during the twenties and thirties that they could flourish by providing a substantial public with good translations of European thinkers, traditional and contemporary. Brentano, Dilthey, Husserl, Scheler, Simmel, Spengler, Spranger, Heidegger, and Huizinga attracted much interest. Talented young men took to the study of philosophy; and in the early 1920's, Ortega had one of them, Xavier Zubiri, go to Freiburg where Husserl taught. There Zubiri came under the influence of Martin Heidegger; and hence even before the publication of Sein und Zeit, a link was established between Ortega's version of existential metaphysics and Heidegger's. Zubiri has gone on to become one of the more able philosophers of Europe as is shown by the appearance in 1962 of his treatise, Sobre la esencia. In addition to Zubiri, Ortega's teaching had a significant influence on a number of other excellent philosophers—Pedro Laín Entralgo, Julián Marías, José Ferrater Mora, Paulino Garagorri, Luis Díez del Corral, Manuel Granell, and José Luis López Aranguren, among them—all of whom are in one way or another connected with the school of Madrid. Together, they constitute one of the more solid centers of contemporary thought. As examples: Laín's work on "the self and the other11 and his inquiries into the ethics of the clinical relation between doctor and patient, Marías's studies in the history of philosophy, Ferrater's reflections on the nature of death, Garagorri' s essays on Unamuno and Ortega and his continuation, in the Ortegan mode, of an active role for the philosopher in contemporary Spanish life, and Díez del Corral's profound reflections on European history are but a few examples of how members of the school of Madrid have brought clarity, profundity, and competence to bear on a wide range of concerns.

See, for instance: Julián Marías, "Ortega: historia de una amistad," Obras de Marías, V, pp. 377-381; Antonio Rodríguez Huéscar, "Aspectos de magisterio orteguiano," Con Ortega y otros escritos, pp. 19–30; Manuel Granell, Ortega y su filosofía, pp. 27-35; Paulino Garagorri, Ortega, una reforma de la filosofía, pp. 170-181. There were a number of commemorative issues of various journals dedicated to Ortega. Among them see La Torre of the University of Puerto Rico, No. 15-16, July and December 1956, and Homenaje a Ortega y Gasset, Institute de Filosofía, Universidad Central de Venezuela, 1958. The controversy over Ortega's allegiances at his death may be sampled even at the distance of the New York Times. The obituary in the October 19, 1955, issue stressed Ortega's part in overthrowing Alfonso XIII and founding the Second Republic and drew attention to Ortega's work as a Europeanizer (p. 33, col. 1). An editorial in the October 20 issue said that he had been a great Europeanizer, a liberal opponent of Fascism, a man whose hopes for Spain had been disappointed, but whose ideas lived on. In the October 25 issue an official of the Franco regime objected to these points, claiming Ortega was a man who had fled in terror from the Republic and who had seen the organic virtues of the Franco state. In the November 4 issue Victoria Kent who had participated with Ortega in the Constituent Cortes, objected to these claims, stressing Ortega's commitment to democratic liberalism.

From a memorial read at Ortega's grave when some thousand students brought a wreath to it the day after his funeral; quoted by Richard Mowrer, "Unrest in Spain," The New Leader, Vol. XXXIX, No.7, February 13, 1956, p. 14.

Together with his direct influence on the school of Madrid, there is a second measure of Ortega's teaching, namely his continuing inspirational influence in the Spanish university. After the Civil War, Ortega was barred from teaching, but even so he remained one of the more effective influences in Spanish higher education: insofar as students are free men, they will naturally follow the memory of excellence rather than fawn on imposed mediocrity. This influence became manifest at Ortega's death in 1955. Numerous speakers and essayists commemorated his influence as a teacher, for the fact that he had not been permitted to teach had all along been eloquent witness to his power to teach. Always a master at creating occasions, Ortega was so in death, for his funeral became one of those great events in which the human spirit affirms itself against those who would suppress it by shouting, as General Millán-Astray reputedly did when unable to answer Unamuno's criticism, "Down with intellect! Long live death!" The regime was able to censor the obituaries—and made a transparent effort to hail Ortega as one of its supporters; but it could not control the elegies of the inward heart. Through these, truths were spoken that could not be suppressed. In memorial after memorial, thousand of students eloquently payed homage to the men, Ortega and others, who should have been the students' teachers. "This posthumous tribute to Ortega y Gasset, professor of philosophy and letters, is the homage of those who would have been his disciples had he not relinquished, for reasons well known, his chair of metaphysics. It is an homage of a university youth without a university which is compelled to seek knowledge outside of classes, from books which are not textbooks and in languages which are not Spanish."

Manuel García Morente, Ensayos, p. 205

Xavier Zubiri, "Ortega, maestro de filosofía," El Sol, March 8, 1936.

Thus, what happened through both Ortega's presence and his absence as a teacher attests to his capacity; and when viewed in retrospect, there can be no doubt that Ortega's influence through the university was great. Manuel García Morente, Ortega's friend and colleague, gave unequivocal testimony to this fact: "the philosophic teaching that, during the past twenty-five years, Don José Ortega has given at the University of Madrid has actually created the basis of Spanish philosophic thought." And Xavier Zubiri gave a clue to the genius of Ortega's teaching when he described it as "the intellectual irradiation of a thinker in formation."

A major part of Ortega's commitment to renovate Spanish life through civic pedagogy depended on the fact that this irradiation took effect, that his teaching had power. And let us emphasize the word "power." Teaching is not a neutral act; it is a public commitment of considerable consequence. At his best, a teacher occasions change in those he meets; in doing so, he shapes the future-this is the teacher's power. With respect to this power, a detailed reconstruction of the particular lessons imparted by a pedagogue is less significant than the informing principles that allow the lessons to occasion change in their recipients.


Ortega had left Germany committed to reforming Spain by reforming, among other things, the university. In academe, his mission was to raise intellectual standards, to bring dormant traditions back to life, and to cultivate a love of intellect among those who had little comprehension of the capacities that a thoughtful life entailed. In pursuing such a mission one can easily plunge into pedantry. Ortega realized that intellect could flourish only when enlivened with imagination. Higher standards were useful only to those with higher aspirations, and consequently, while insisting on competence, Ortega provoked his students to essay the most difficult problems of thought. Here were the principles that gave Ortega's teaching its power: intellect and imagination. Thus, Ortega taught with a two-edged tongue: the discipline and hope that he had received as a student he tried to transmit as a teacher by simultaneously cultivating the tools and the telos of thinking.

Rodríguez, Con Ortega, pp. 24-5, quotation p. 24.

Granell, Ortega, p. 30.

Students aver that as a teacher Ortega had style. Those who spent much time with him report that he would use many means of discourse to teach at any opportunity, that always the expression of his thought was taut, and that each particular statement carried with it an intimation of his entire outlook. Ortega not only presented his philosophy, he exemplified it. Thus, the Puerto Rican educator, Antonio Rodríguez Huéscar, recalled that "in Ortega—in his teaching—we witnessed ... living reason in motion, personalized, making itself; Ortega did not have a philosophy, he was it." Few students could resist the lyric grace of Ortega's discourse. Manuel Granell, a member of the school of Madrid, has recorded how Ortega "seduced" him to give up plans to study architecture and to switch to philosophy. "Never would I have suspected that concepts could take on such flesh. The dry, cold Kantian expression received palpitating life. And suddenly, in the Critique of Pure Reason, he opened a small passage that led to the essence of love."

Maetzu, Antología, pp. 85-7.

The essence of love, an erotic theory of education: by the time Ortega had returned from Germany, he not only had one, but, believing that people had to feel attracted to learning in order to seek it out, he was ready to make use of his theory. Before his first class at the normal school of Madrid, there was much curious anticipation among the students, for his writing—as it always would—had stirred youthful spirits. Ortega arrived a moment late. The expectant students watched as he drew, silently, but with a dramatic flair, a copy of Plato's Theaetetus from his briefcase. Holding the book before the class, he announced that they were beginning a course in philosophy and that philosophy was the general science of love. As such, philosophy was an aspiration, a desire, not for erudition, but for understanding, for the greatest possible comprehension of the connection of all things to all things.

Granell. Ortega, p. 30.

As Ortega realized, such methods involve serious risks. Without care, the teacher who uses dramatic, poetic methods to arouse the interest of his students, can sacrifice his teaching to his drama and poetry. In his particular case, Granell noted how, when students started to take notes, Ortega stopped and warned them that he was presenting an example chosen to engage their powers of thought, not to present noteworthy doctrine. "I must try to seduce you with lyric means; but you must not forget that they are only this: means-means and not ends. Philosophers should permit no other seduction than that of metaphysical ideas." To carry off such a seduction one needs more than sensuous rhetoric. All love is a discipline; but none is more demanding than amor intellectualis. What erogenous zones of the spirit did Ortega arouse? How did he turn these desires towards the true, the good, and the beautiful?

Firstly, Ortega required competence. It may seem strange that the seduction of metaphysical ideas should begin with such a prosaic quality that at the start erected a barrier; but the expectation that seduction should be easy simply shows how far we have come to expect that everyone should win great thoughts with little effort; the cult of easy learning goes hand-in-hand with that of easy virtue. Ortega was not intimidated by the thought that rigor would reduce creativity. The idea of rigor intimidates only those who lack strong creative energy i whereas for anyone with sufficient spirit to command his opportunities, rigor is the quality that enables him to seize a thought and turn it into a work of art, science, or ethics. All love is a discipline, and the very essence of amor intellectualis is rigor, competence, and precision.

"La pedagogía social como programa político," 1910 Obras I, p. 509, for the definition of science; "Carta a un joven argentino ... ," 192.4, Obras II, pp. 348-9, for the requisites of a good thinker.

This fact is the basis of a vexing problem in the theory of language; for the terms to be invested effectively with meaning, they must be conventionally dependable and personally significant, a double criterion that is not easily met. With respect to philosophical terms, Ortega put greatest weight on the second criterion. On this importance of a fine sense of understanding in philosophy, see especially the beginning of Origen y epílogo de la filosofía, 1944, 1953, 1960, Obras XI, pp. 349–351. These very late strictures against knowledge without comprehension are completely consistent with his youthful deprecation of mere erudition in Meditaciones del Quijote, 1914, Obras I, pp. 316–7. The issue is well put from the opposite perspective by C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards, in The Meaning of Meaning, p. 19, where they stipulate that "we should develop our theory of signs from observations of other people, and only admit evidence drawn from introspection when we know how to appraise it." Although I would not like to argue that we learn how to observe other people only by using evidence drawn from introspection, I would contend that Ogden and Richard's formulation, if followed to the letter, would lead to a rather inexpressive realm of discourse. The tension between objective denotation and personal comprehension might be better maintained if we kept in mind (if I may so speak) that denotation is a conventional feature of speech that permits the communication of factual statements stripped of their human import. Comprehension can then be seen as something additional to the mechanism of communication, through which the recipient of a statement converts it into a thought. Since the listener must always invest the statements he hears with comprehension, the conception of the plastic pupil that is the basis of contemporary educational theory is inappropriate, fundamentally false.

Science, Ortega once observed, meant to speak precisely; and precision, he told a young Argentine, was the requisite of a good thinker. A teacher who wished to initiate his students into the delights of metaphysics should try to impart the standards of precise thinking. One does not, however, speak precisely by incanting the term "precision" and expecting all to understand. When logical positivists think of precision, they dream of a perfect language in which ambiguity is rendered impossible. Such precision was not Ortega's goal. Whereas the theorists of a perfect language aim at the precision of objective statement, Ortega sought the precision of subjective comprehension. He was not interested in training students to repeat, dumbly but accurately, the characteristic terminologies of various philosophers. The terms themselves were meaningless; and they could have meaning only for those who perceived the human problems that a philosopher tried to solve by recourse to the thoughts denoted imperfectly by his terminology. The attempt to do away with metaphysics by exposing the inadequacies of its language is based on a reverse word magic in which the shaman believes that by annihilating the words he can annihilate the thing. But the problems of metaphysics are not dependent on the words; the meanings of the words are dependent on certain problems of man.

Stuart Chase, The Tyranny of Words, passim and especially pp. 369-370.

A good example of this reverse word magic is Stuart Chase's chaste rebuke of The Tyranny of Words. Chase reproduces isolated sentences and paragraphs from various writers, including Ortega, to show how their willingness to use words imprecisely, meaninglessly, without strict observance of the ordinary definitions -makes them get stirred up about senseless matters. Chase's word magic becomes apparent in his expectation that any paragraph should be lucid even when it stands alone, independent of the context the author gave it. With this expectation, a work of art can be nothing more than the sum of its parts. Each word embodies a conventional significance; and regardless of the spiritual whole into which these discrete elements are woven, we are to judge on the basis of conventional meanings whether an isolated passage expresses something intelligible. If the separate parts prove unintelligible, Chase infers that the context, the inclusive whole the author forged from these parts, must be the figment of an excited imagination.

Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, Chapter XII, p. 156.

By this method words certainly will never be tyrannical, for they will never require a person to alter his established convictions about the way things are. But whenever tempted to make such criticisms from the part to the whole, we should remember Coleridge's caution. "Critics, who are most ready to bring this charge of pedantry and unintelligibility, are the most apt to overlook the important fact that besides the language of words there is a language of spirits (sermo interior), and that the former is only the vehicle of the latter. Consequently their assurance that they do not understand the philosophic writer, instead of proving anything against the philosophy, may furnish an equal and (caeteris paribus) even a stronger presumption against their own philosophic talent."

Coleridge meant by "language of spirits" the inner comprehension that arises in a man as he contemplates the wondrous and awesome aspects of his existence. The life of any man is problematic, and words are merely imperfect means that men use to make manifest to themselves and others what they think about their problems. Words receive their human significance from the context of the human problem that occasions their utterance. No matter how carefully defined, words do not serve to communicate fully unless speaker and listener tacitly share common concerns; these concerns give rise to the sermo interior, the realm of interior discourse that the true educator seeks to develop. Hence, Ortega contended, any teaching that did not first impart a personal comprehension of the difficulties that had occasioned a particular thought would merely impart a muddled set of ideas, the significance of which the student had no inkling of.

Rodríguez, Con Ortega, pp. 21-3, gives an account of his experience as Ortega's reader.

"Sobre el estudiar y el estudiante," 1933, Obras IV, p. 554.

Instructional reforms followed from this contention. Ortega adapted the age-old lectio to a novel purpose. A student would read aloud an important passage from a great work and Ortega would give a commentary to it. In doing so, he avoided simple attempts to explain the argument. Such explanations distracted the student from his proper concern, Ortega suggested, because a program of instruction that was designed simply to transmit subject matter was fundamentally false: it merely thrust upon the student a mass of material that he was not prepared to understand. Because most students sought subject matter alone, they usually falsified the very knowledge they tried to acquire. "The solution to such a tough and bicorn problem ... does not consist in decreeing that one should not study, but in profoundly reforming the human activity of study and consequently the essence of the student. For this purpose, it is necessary to turn instruction around and say that to teach is primarily and fundamentally to teach the need for a science, and not to teach the science the need for which it is impossible to make the student feel." Here was the principle of negative education, first noticed by Rousseau, applied to university pedagogy.

"Historia como sistema," 1935, Obras VI, p. 40.

Through historicism Ortega made students perceive the opportunity for metaphysics, the source of it, not in theory, but in man's vital experience. Historicist explanations, as he indicated throughout his essay on "History as a System," took account of the fact that everything human, including the pursuit of truth, beauty, and goodness, had an historical setting that was pertinent to understanding the character of the human effort. "To comprehend anything human, personal or collective, it is indispensable to narrate its history. This man, this nation acts this way and is as it is because before it acted in another and was something else. Life only becomes a bit transparent to historic reason." With an historicist presentation, a teacher could convey a precise understanding of the issues that had occasioned man's great philosophical systems. Even when explaining the most abstract issues, Ortega usually resorted to historical exposition, either showing how the issue arose in the history of thought or suggesting how it should arise in a hypothetical personal history.

Karl Popper has caused great confusion by giving an idiosyncratic definition of historicism in his influential book, The Poverty of Historicism. He proclaimed: "I mean by 'historicism' an approach to the social sciences which assumes that historical prediction is their principle aim, and which assumes that this aim is attainable by discovering the 'rhythms' or the 'patterns,' the 'laws' or the 'trends' that underlie the evolution of history" (p. 3). The serious difficulty with Popper's position is that his definition excludes those historians who would admit to being historicists and who have generally been considered historicists. The great historicists—Dilthey, Rickert, Croce, Meinecke, Ortega—are among the leading opponents to that approach to the social sciences that Popper called "historicism." Hans Meyerhoff has effectively identified the general features of historicism, and his proper meaning is antithetical to Popper's meaning. "(1) The denial of a systematic approach to history; (2) the repudiation of any single, unified interpretation of history, and (3) the positive assertions (a) that the basic concepts of history are change and particularity, (b) that the historian has a special way of explaining things by telling a story, and (c) that history is all-pervasive, that historical categories permeate all aspects of human life, including morality and philosophy." (Meyerhoff, ed., The Philosophy of History in Our Time, p. 27.) Ortega was a historicist in Meyerhoff's sense.

For Ortega, freedom was an intrinsic component of the process of historical determination, and human thought was central to freedom as an historical reality, for thought was man's free response to his circumstances. Major works pertinent to this matter are "Historia como sistema," 1936, Obras VI, pp. 11-50; "Guillermo Dilthey y la idea de la vida," 1933, Obras VI, pp. 165-214; "Prólogo a Historia de la filosofía de Karl Vorländer," 1922, Obras VI, pp. 292-300; "Prólogo a Historia de la filosofía de Emile Bréhier," 1942, Obras VI, pp. 377-418; En torno a Galileo, 1933, Obras V, pp. 13-164; and Origen y epílogo de la filosofía, 1944, 1953, 1960, Obras IX, pp. 349-434.

"Tesis para un sistema de filosofía," Revista de Occidente, October 1965, p. 6.

Ortega's historicism was a mode of explanation, not a set of ontological assertions about what had "really" happened in bygone times. Ortega did not suggest that thought was determined by historically inevitable forces. On the contrary, thought was man's free response to his circumstances; and to understand any particular thought, one needed to be aware of the circumstances to which it pertained. "The understanding," Ortega told his students, "and its radical form-philosophy-, are not definitive attitudes of man, but only historical ones, ones of the human present." Hence, to understand a philosophic system, students needed to comprehend its historical setting, to discover what human problems the system pertained to, and to make that system part of their repertory for dealing with the world when the problems to which the system pertained were also their problems.

This procedure was used by Ortega in the many philosophical lectures that are transcribed in his works. His recently published lectures, Unas lecciones de metafísica, give an excellent example of this effort. In addition, see "La percepción del prójimo," 1929, Obras VI, pp. 153-163; "Por qué se vuelve a la filosofía," 1930, Obras IV, pp. 89-109; "Sobre el estudiar y el estudiante," 1933, Obras IV, pp. 545-554; En torno a Galileo, 1933, Obras V, pp. 13-166; ¿Qué es filosofía?, 1929, 1957, Obras VII, pp. 275-438; "Conciencia, objecto y las tres distancias de este," 1915, Obras II, pp. 61-6; "Sensación, construcción e intuición," 1913, in Ortega, Apuntes Sobre el pensamiento, pp. 99-117; and "¿Qué es el conocimiento?", El Sol, January 18 and 25, February 1 and 22, and March 1, 1931. Ortega's ability to exemplify the uses of principles is described first-hand by Rodríguez, Con Ortega, "Aspectos del magisterio orteguiano," pp. 19-30. See also, Paulino Garagorri, Relacciones y disputaciones orteguianas.

Whatever its worth as a philosophy of history, Ortega's historicism was useful as a pedagogical means. A student who did not understand the vital problems that gave rise to an intellectual system had no personal control over the system. To be sure, he might be able to reproduce and analyze various arguments, but he would be unable to use them. To help students assert control over their intellects and to improve their use of thought in living their lives, Ortega tried to recreate through historical exposition the problems that men had sought to solve by creating metaphysics. Competence resulted from understanding, not mere knowing; and to understand a matter one needed, in addition to knowing its formal properties, to comprehend its function. Hence, one did not effectively disseminate the tools of intellect simply by explaining various doctrines; one had to exemplify their humane uses.

Ortega sought first to stimulate the student's power of thought. He cultivated this power in his students by imparting to them an historical understanding of philosophy. Note that a student who had mastered the power of thought would be free to exert himself on whatever problem engaged his interest. In this way, Ortega's first instructional endeavor contributed to a liberal education, to an education worthy of free men, for a young man who understood the historical uses of different doctrines would be free to adapt them to his personal purposes. Here the other concern of Ortega's teaching came to the fore-the telos of intellect.

Secondly, then, Ortega aroused a sense of mission in his students. In addition to gaining a clear comprehension of the uses of past doctrines students needed to define the purposes through which they could adapt past doctrines to present uses. Without a personal mission, even the best trained thinkers would be dependent on convention; and a man who was dependent on convention, whether his dependence was positive or negative, was not his own master. A teacher could not provide his students with a mission, but he could continually put the issue before them and suggest various possibilities for their consideration. Students responded to Ortega because he provoked their aspirations. Insistently, he advised youths to contemplate their destiny, to define their proper purposes. Frequently, he confronted students with the idea of a mission and the function that it served in personal life. Imaginatively, he suggested novel aspirations for consideration by the students he addressed.

The best discussion of this topic is in "No ser hombre de partido," 1930, Obras IV, pp. 75-9. See also Misión de la universidad, 1930, Obras IV, pp. 313-353; and "Misión del bibliotecario," 1935, Obras V, pp. 21-234. On the hero see especially Meditaciones del Quijote, 1914, Obras I, pp. 389–390. On the relation of destiny to the history of a community see especially Lección VI and VII of En torno a Galileo, 1933, Obras V, pp. 69-92. A corollary of Ortega's idea that a mission had great positive importance in a man's life was his conviction that stereotypes were of great danger to the authentic life. See "Qué pas a en el mundo," El Sol June 1 and 3, 1933, for an excellent example of Ortega's concern that the young resist the influence of stereotypes. In "Sobre las carreras," 1934, Obras V, pp. 167-183, Ortega tried to indicate the very limited, proper use that stereotypes might have in the service of authentic life. Later, his distrust of stereotypes came to the fore in his assertion that the social (properly understood as usages, dead conventions) was actually the basis of the "anti-social" in human life, imposing meaningless separations that hindered meaningful, interpersonal exchange; see El hombre y la gente, 1949, 1957, Obras VII, pp. 268–9.

According to Ortega, a person's mission was an activity that he had to do in the double sense that the person had certain things he could do, for they were within his sphere of possibilities, and that he not only had them to do, but he had to do them, he was obliged to do them, on the pain of voluntarily falsifying his best self. Each self, in conjunction with its circumstances, had definite possibilities, which would not become actual without effort, but which were not Utopian, impossible goals to pursue. Only the person himself could will to pursue his mission, for although many components of it were public, or at least publicly apparent, the most important element, his will, was locked in the recesses of his spirit. Ortega's conception of mission democratized and universalized his idea of the hero, the man who resisted the ready-made life that his surroundings offered and who invented his own program of life, an adventure in which he overcame the real problems in his circumstances. Every man had a mission, which each had to find in his circumstances; and, like the hero, every man finds that he can pursue his mission only through authentic, personal commitments, not through impersonal, external conventions. Ultimately, the quality of life in any community was a function of the degree to which its members freely aspired to fulfill their missions, their destinies.

A man became free by willing to pursue his mission. Each person's mission originated from his own powers and inspiration, and was always dependent on these; hence one's mission was the basis of one's dignity and strength vis-à-vis the manifold stimuli from the surrounding world. No slave can be made of a man who has a keen sense of his mission; a despotic ruler can only exterminate such a man, or drive him into open or covert rebellion. No inner strength, no independence can develop in a man who lacks a feeling for his mission, for he will have no basis for pursuing a consistent course of action in the face of the vicissitudes of experience. Consequently, a liberal education, an education worthy of free men, must somehow address the problem of mission; and one of the great threats to the liberal tradition is that the growing reliance on stereotypes in education, entertainment, and propaganda destroys the power of young men to formulate inspiring, personal conceptions of their destinies.

Plato's texts are fundamental: first Protagoras; then Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo; then Gorgias; then Republic; then Statesman, Sophist, and the Laws. Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War is also essential for showing how events operate as a powerful pedagogue, slowly destroying the public virtues of a people. Werner Jaeger's Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, Gilbert Highet, trans., is a profound contribution to our understanding of the Greek debate. It is too often treated, however, as the last word on the matter, which it is not. There is a useful review of the idea of areté in Robert William Hall, Plato and the Individual, pp. 34–66. Three general studies that help expand our understanding of the Greek debate are Merit and Responsibility: A Study in Greek Values by Arthur W. H. Adkins; Sophrosyne: Self-Knowledge and Self-Restraint in Greek Literature by Helen North; and Ilustración y política en la Grecia clásica by Francisco Rodríguez Adrados.

How can the teacher take up this question? The very nature of a mission complicates the task, for no man can authoritatively tell another what the latter's mission is. The Greek debate over whether virtue could be taught is essential to answering the educational question posed by Ortega's conception of mission. Socrates and Plato worked out the liberal position: virtue itself cannot be taught, but the intellectual skills by which a person can ascertain the proper virtue in any particular situation can be taught. Such skills the teacher could impart, but beyond those, he had to rely on the natural goodness of man, on the fact that no man would wittingly do wrong. The desire to be virtuous came from within the person, and the teacher had to limit himself to hoping that by judicious criticism he might awaken the unwitting to a sense of their error. The teacher could not exceed that limit and instruct others of their duties. Thus Socrates must let the befuddled Euthyphro continue with his impious plan; and despite all Plato's talk about the idea of the good, he gave no substantive definition of goodness itself.

In a similar way, Ortega did not propose to teach people their mission. As we have seen, he did teach his students to comprehend the use of concepts. This instruction would help to free them to think constructively about their personal destiny. But the teacher could Jo more; he could try to insure by criticism that the young would not be unaware of the problem of their mission. There was a great difference between a teacher who dogmatically proclaimed to his students that they must do thus and so, and one who told them that they should consider what it was that they must do. Ortega took the latter course. He believed that on examining independently their common problems, men would come up with coherent goals. The difficulty was to get the problems before the people. To accomplish this, Ortega devoted much of his effort in his academic courses, his public lectures, and his protreptic essays to making his listeners consider the question of their destiny.

Throughout his life Ortega exhorted students, professors, and the public at large to examine the mission of the university. Currently, we are becoming fully aware that the university will have a central place in any twentieth-century Kinderland, for as the possibilities of politics and economics are more and more nearly exhausted, the task of further humanizing life falls more and more explicitly to the men of culture. Ortega reflected on the mission of the university with a full awareness of the intrinsic power of intellect. He did not acquiesce to the apparent inevitabilities of his given present; he keenly studied the art of the possible.

The issue for the future is this: is the university the client of the state, or is the state the client of the university? This question restates the already familiar question: is practical politics the primary problem of public affairs and pedagogy secondary, or is pedagogy primary and politics secondary? We know in general Ortega's answers to these questions. Pedagogy was the primary force moving the public affairs of a community. The state was becoming a great danger, having become for many an end unto itself; and to provide an alternative center for progressive aspirations, the university should be built up as fulcrum for humane initiative. These convictions, fully developed, lead to a European Kinderland.

If education has precedence over politics, then the participants in the university have, despite contrary appearances, initiative with respect to their function in the community. Almost everywhere the formal arrangements appear to contradict this fact: universities are chartered and maintained by the political and economic powers that be. But Ortega believed that official politics, with the formal primacy of the state over the university, was a sham; vital politics coincided with the actual relations in the community, and in early twentieth-century Spain there was much evidence that the university was a major source of enlightened theory and humane practice in public affairs. Whether or not full community leadership would ever be located in the university, there were grounds for calling on students and professors to lead the university in unexpected, independent, controversial directions. Intellectuals could assert initiative if professors and students could spontaneously concert their aspirations towards great, cultural goals. All that Ortega said about the mission of the university was intended to produce this coalition.

Ortega's reflections pertain to a situation that has many parallels to current unrest in Western universities. There was a crisis of purpose in Spain as presently there is throughout the post-imperialist world. When people have lost faith in their traditions and expect little from official politics, they turn to alternative institutions. Thus in Spain, many hoped that the university could be a source of great reforms, if .... If what? If the university could stop being the meek servitor of the established interests and could begin to act independently. The university, that is, the aggregate of students and professors, would act independently if the cultural activities its members performed reflected their autonomous judgment of what was culturally most fit and proper, not the judgment by practical men of what was politically and economically most expedient. Then, and now, the effort to act autonomously was easily sidetracked in a senseless agitation against external interferences. Interferences would be left behind if-if students and professors could somehow concert their efforts at learning and teaching. In the 1920's in Spain, the students were well organized in their peculiar, anarchic way, and the university faculty was at least in part far more progressive than those in official power. The time was ripe for a university initiative, provided students and professors could combine the authentic pursuit of their proper activities into an effective reforming force.

Clark Kerr, The Uses of the University, p. 21.

Ortega's efforts to promote university reform, to make the university a powerful force for Spanish reform, aimed to unite faculty members and students in the cooperative pursuit of common cultural goals. In our day, many managers of the so-called multiversities instinctively misunderstand this possibility, for it contradicts their essential policy-divide and rule. For instance, in The Uses of the University, Clark Kerr observed that "although José Ortega y Gasset, in addressing the student federation at the University of Madrid, was willing to turn over the entire 'mission of the university' to the students, he neglected to comment on faculty reaction." This remark reveals an inadequate comprehension of both Ortega and the important educational possibility that was in question. In the realities of life, the mission depended on all who participated in the university, and it could be "turned over" to no particular group, neither to students, nor to professors, nor to administrators. The mission could be perfected, however, if all participating persons considered their destiny in the university and honestly refined their aspirations.

In his quip, Kerr did not dwell long enough on the setting in which Ortega enunciated his vision of the university's mission. The central issue was not whether either the students or the professors should dominate within the university; the central issue was the one that has been central since Plato criticized sophistry, and it will certainly continue to be central to academic development throughout this century. This issue concerned putting the school, the university, on an equal footing with the state. Without such balance, the ruler will not respect the thinker, and will expect the latter to do no more than menially improve the means for achieving politically sanctioned ends, whatever these may be.

See "Ortega y Gasset, candidato a la senaduría por Universidad de Madrid," El Sol, April 10, 1923, p. 4; notices concerning Ortega's public course "¿Qué es filosofía?" given in defiance of Primo de Rivera's order closing the University of Madrid, El Sol. March 23 and 27; April 6, 9, 1Z, 16, 19, 23, 26, and 30; May 3, 7, 10, 14, and 16, 1929; "De la 'Gaceta' de hoy: Se admite la renuncia de sus cátedras," El Sol, May 10, 1929; articles by Luis de Zulueta, El Sol, May 10, 1929, and by Manuel García Morente, El Sol, June 2, 9, 25, and 30, 1929; "Keyserling y Ortega y Gasset, al Ateneo guipuzcoano," El Sol, March 15, 1930; a pamphlet by a group of young intellectuals, Madrid, April 1929, ("Señor Don ... ," Obras XI, pp. 102–6); and so on.

The Mission of the University, a manifesto declaring the independence of the university from narrowly defined state service and control, appeared as a series in a daily newspaper during the fall of 1930. Spain was then in the midst of a revolution: the quasi-Fascist dictator, Primo de Rivera, had lost control of the country and renounced his power; the Monarchy was collapsing; a Republic, which not without reason would be called "the professors' Republic," seemed destined. Ortega had published his articles in fulfillment of a promise he had made while addressing the powerful student federation, the F. U. E. The students sought Ortega's opinions because he had been a leader in the campaign to free the university from state interference. In the agitation preceding the Republic, both students and professors wanted the university freed from the customary political interference; they thought, further, that men of culture should take up leadership and transform the university into a bulwark of a liberal Spain. The Madrid students invited Ortega to speak about these possibilities. There was little need for Ortega to comment on faculty reaction, since he was then recognized as a leading spokesman for the faculty. The students wanted to know what reforms he, a respected professor, thought should be made in the Spanish university. The position Ortega espoused showed his ability to call simultaneously for both discipline and hope, and his fidelity to his conception of Europeanization, that is, to his belief in the historic importance of fundamental principles.

In his speech on the ninth of October, Ortega did not present his personal conception of desirable academic reforms. Instead, he reflected with the students on the qualities that made reformers effective, for if students were to do their part, they would need to develop these qualities in themselves. Ortega spoke in a large hall, filled with a young audience that buzzed with excitement. He brought this excitement to a peak by reflecting on the historic power of enthusiasm.

23"Actos de la F.U.E.: Conferencia de Don José Ortega y Gasset," El Sol, October 10, 1930. It would be interesting to know why the transcript of this speech, an outspoken call to university students to gird themselves for involvement in academic and national reform, is not included in present Spanish versions of Misión de la universidad. The American translation by Howard Lee Nostrand includes the speech to the F.U.E. The translation gives only vague information on the dates of the Mission: the F.U.E. speech was given on October 9; the remainder of the book first appeared very quickly thereafter in the feuilletons of El Sol for October 12, 17, 19, 24, and 26, and November 3 and 9, 1930.

"If primitive humanity had not possessed this ability to inflame itself with far off things in order to struggle against the obstacles that it encountered close at hand, humanity would continue to be static." But then Ortega brought the students down to earth: enthusiasm alone produced no reforms; the reformer had to act as well as hope, and to act well a man had to be in form, or "in shape," as athletes put it. To get in shape for university reform, one needed discipline and clarity, an awareness of present problems and possibilities, and a knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of one's own character. The university and its mission could not be discussed substantively in a loud voice before a huge audience, Ortega told the students. These topics, he promised, would be the subject of a special course, which he characteristically conducted through the columns of the daily press.

Misión de la universidad, 1930, Obras IV, especially pp. 314, 316-7.

The Mission of the University, Nostrand, trans., p. 23.

Ortega began by observing that if students were to occupy themselves, as they should, with the effective reform of the university, they had to overcome their frivolousness and forthrightly contend with the mission of the university. Ortega commended one principle to students who were concerned with such reform: do not exhaust energy agitating against abuses, but build up force by fostering the proper uses of the institution. 0 University reform cannot consist wholly or principally in the correction of abuses. Reform is always the creation of new uses." Both the faculty and the students had to ask the "capital question": "What is the mission of the university?" If the members of both groups continually examined this question, and if each person, whether student or professor, was sufficiently in form to pursue his own answer to it, then their concerted actions would slowly create a reformed university. "History proceeds very often by jumps. These jumps, in which tremendous distances may be covered, are called generations. A generation in form can accomplish what centuries failed to achieve without form."

At this point Ortega stopped directly addressing students, for he would not paternally tell them what they should find the proper uses of the university to be. But he did continue. The mission of the university lent itself at least to Ortega's personal formulation. He himself acted on this mission, and he hoped that others connected with the higher learning would, on considering the problems, find that they had a similar mission and that they would also act on it. As students and professors spontaneously shared certain aspirations1 a better educational program would authentically develop; to impose a plan by administrative fiat would simply pervert the essential nature of the goal. Patience was the virtue of the true reformer.

Misión de la universidad, 1930, Obras IV, p. 353.

According to Ortega, the mission of the university was to overcome the multiplicity of studies and to reachieve a unity of culture. The reunification of culture would make the university, once again, a spiritual power, a power that could harmonize the political, social, and economic sectors of contemporary life by suffusing them with value. "Then the university would again be what it was in its best hour: an uplifting principle in European history."

Ibid., p. 315.

In Ortega's view, it was entirely possible and thoroughly desirable to make the university a progressive influence on European history. The university would not perform this function by maximizing its production of applicable knowledge and using it more aggressively to promote the political, economic, and military strength of the state. That Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton or that the German victory of 1871 was the victory of the Prussian schools and the German professor was a "fundamental error that it is necessary to root out of our heads, and it consists in supposing that nations are great because their schools -elementary, secondary, or higher-are good. This ... attributes to the school a creative historic force that it neither has nor can have." This was not the uplifting power that the university could possess; and, if anything, Ortega hoped the university would withdraw from many gratuitous service functions in the community. An historically significant university would be a university that served its own mission, not the interests of the state, and that managed, by virtue of serving its mission, to introduce into public affairs various ideas, aspirations, and abilities that would command historic responses.

An infatuation with practical political power can here pervert an understanding of the pedagogical possibility. Ortega carefully called attention to the error of thinking that the university could promote history directly, and in doing so he allied himself with those in the tradition who have denied that the educator could teach men to be virtuous. Nevertheless, such paternalistic expectations have become deeply ingrained in present-day views of how history is made; hence many think that history is made for men by their institutions and that institutions that cannot act directly cannot act at all. In keeping with these beliefs, many expect that the university will promote history through its instructional programs, which will cast present youth in a mold that has been predetermined to suit the future. Instead, history may still be made by men, and another way that the university may promote history is by being of discreet assistance to men as they seek to realize their unique potentialities. The university becomes a sterile servant of the status quo to the degree that it prostitutes itself to programmatic policies. The university wields the indirect power of culture. It shapes history by helping the young inform their hopes and discipline their powers, and thus spring surprises on their elders. Rather than the university program being the historic agent and the students being the plastic stuff upon which it works, free men may be the historic agents and the university may be a simple but significant occasion for their activity. Liberal education gains historic significance in this second manner, by helping the men who will make history make themselves.

By definition, an education is at once general and particular: it includes all the intellectual attributes that a particular person acquires during his lifetime. Not even the grandest institution gives an education, specialized or general; the institution offers instruction, the student acquires his education. It is an axiom of liberal pedagogy that responsibility and initiative reside in the person becoming educated; he is the one who must live with the ideals and skills that he acquires. Since in the end each man is his own teacher and the instructional agent is not the cause of education, educational institutions cannot be the servile agents of the established interests, for those institutions do not in fact have the pedagogical efficacy to mold the young to any externally determined form. To stay within the bounds of human possibility, educational institutions can and should do no more than provide the occasions wherein the young can forge themselves into something substantial.

The central question in the tension between liberal and paternal education concerns whether the student is considered to be a free, responsible agent prior to his education or whether his education is considered to be that which turns the slavish soul into a free autonomous person. The assumption, characteristic of the liberal tradition—that the student seeks to educate himself because he is a free man—has come under severe criticism in the past century. Herbart denied the compatibility of education with the doctrine of transcendental freedom. This incompatibility exists only if education is hypostatized and made into something independent of the student; into something that is done to him, not something that he does to himself. Having denied transcendental freedom, Herbart rightly made the science of education, the science that the teacher preeminently needed, into the major problem of pedagogy. Paternalism pervaded Herbart's pedagogy because of his denial of transcendental freedom. The child was seen to be a plastic being that lacked its own will and was to have a will molded in it. See The Science of Education: Its General Principles Deduced from Its Aim, Felkin and Felkin, trans., pp. 57-77, 83–90, 94-5, etc. To be sure, p. 61, Herbart tried to guard against the more extreme consequences of his denial but to little avail. He said that the teacher was not to create the pupil's power of choice, but merely to act upon the pupil's potential for choice in such a way that "it must infallibly and surely" come to fruition. In either case, Herbart began the fatal practice of thinking out of existence the pupil's right and power to refuse education and instruction. Cf. Herbart, Letters and Lectures on Education, Felkin and Felkin, trans., pp. 102-8. Of this passage, the question should be asked: is inner freedom the result of education or the condition of education? For Ortega on Herbart, see "Prólogo a Pedagogía general derivada del fin de la educación, de J, F. Herbart," Obras VI, pp. 265-291.

Even in classical times the rationale for the circle of studies that became known as the liberal arts was not easy to maintain. Plato made it clear in the Republic that their purpose was not to teach virtue, but to equip men to search for virtue. See especially VI:502–VII:541. Traditionally this has been the basis of the liberal position: rather than assert that the truth will make men free, the liberal recognizes that because a man is free, he must seek the truth. The goal of instruction in the liberal tradition is to make the student independent of his teachers.

Epistle 88 of Seneca's Epistulae Morales, Richard M. Gummere, trans., is of great importance for understanding this pedagogy of the liberal arts. The liberal arts are "useful only insofar as they give the mind a preparation and do not engage it permanently. One should linger upon them only so long as the mind can occupy itself with nothing greater; they are our apprenticeship, not our real work." (88:1) "'We ought not to be learning such things; we should have done with learning them." {88 :2) "'What then,' you say, 'do the liberal studies contribute nothing to our welfare?' Very much in other respects, but nothing at all as regards virtue. For even these arts of which I have spoken, though admittedly of a low grade—depending as they do upon handiwork—contribute greatly toward the equipment of life, but nevertheless have nothing to do with virtue. And if you inquire, 'Why, then, do we educate our children in the liberal studies?' it is not because they can bestow virtue, but because they prepare the soul for the reception of virtue. Just as that 'primary course,' as the ancients called it, in grammar, which gave boys their elementary training, does not teach them the liberal arts, so the liberal arts do not conduct the soul all the way to virtue, but merely set it going in that direction." (88:20) The importance of being able to follow studies without a teacher was subtly implied in Augustine's description of how, even though he did not need to rely on a teacher, he mastered the liberal arts yet derived little from them; Confessions, Bk. IV, Chapter 16. Unless we recognize the virtue of going without a teacher, his statement is absurd. Even more explicit is the Renaissance educator, Battista Guarino, in "Concerning the Order and the Method to be Observed in Teaching." He wrote: "A master who should carry his scholars through the curriculum which I have now laid down may have confidence that he has given them a training which will enable them, not only to carry forward their own reading without assistance, but also to act efficiently as teachers in their turn." W. H. Woodward, trans., in his Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators, p. 172.

This rationale of the liberal arts gives the basis for a revision of our understanding of the old-time collegiate curriculum and of the significance of its demise. As I have pointed out very briefly with Jean McClintock in our essay "Architecture and Pedagogy," The Journal of Aesthetic Education, October 1968, especially pp. 69-71, 75-6, the purpose of the old-time pedagogy was to equip the student as efficiently as possible for self-education. This rationale is well explained in the much maligned, but little comprehended "Yale Report of 1828," in Hofstadter and Smith, eds., American Higher Education, Vol. I, pp. 275-291. The way this curriculum functions is exemplified in Perry Miller's study of Jonathan Edwards, pp. 54-68. As Perry Miller makes obvious, there was very little substantive content in the old college curriculum, despite its ambitious "technologia." Jonathan Edwards was not the only young man who was effectively prepared by a narrow, formal curriculum to be able to get a rich general education by his own devices through the extracurriculum.

In addition to whatever academic value it had; the replacement of this old-time curriculum keyed to the self-education of each student, with an elective system, was a development that clearly served the needs of a growing, paternal, industrial state. The elective system was a system introduced in the name of the students' freedom: each could choose what subjects he would study. At the same time the system was extremely useful in distributing socially beneficial skills. The American educator, Francis Wayland, explained the rationale for this system well in "Thoughts on the Present Collegiate System," 1842, and his "Report to the Corporation of Brown"; see Hofstadter and Smith, eds., American Higher Education, Vol. I, p. 341; Vol. II, pp. 478-487. For these tendencies in the European university, see Nietzsche, Schopenhauer as Educator, pp. 59–62, but whereas Wayland was enthusiastic, Nietzsche was bitterly critical for Nietzsche saw that a specialized education not only disseminated useful skills, but it also made the acquirer rather dependent on that skill, increasing the moral inertia of men in high places. Owing to the paternal idea that an education is to provide a student with a certain set of skills, we have seriously hypostatized and even personified the curriculum. It is a standard assumption in schools of education that a well-designed curriculum has causal power over those who study it, and even friends of the liberal tradition create difficulties for themselves by putting their hope in the curriculum, not the student.

An indication of how contemporary educators attribute purposes to the curriculum rather than to students is to be found in Daniel Bell's excellent critique of general education, The Reforming of General Education, p. 152. Purposes that are properly embodied in men are spoken of as embodied in the curriculum. "In the more limited and specific ways that such purposes can be embodied in a curriculum, the content of liberal education ... can be defined through six purposes: 1) To overcome intellectual provincialism; 2) To appreciate the centrality of method; 3) To gain an awareness of history; 4) To show how ideas relate to social structures; 5) To understand the way values infuse all inquiry; 6) To demonstrate the civilizing role of the humanities." Take the first purpose, to overcome intellectual provincialism. If it is to be embodied in the curriculum, many intellectual provinces will have to be presented sympathetically. If it is embodied in the student, the curriculum will need to give effective instruction in the many languages, the use of which will permit the student to chart his own course through the various provinces. A cosmopolitan curriculum is a kind of intellectual Disneyland, whereas a true cosmopolitan has really made the Grand Tour, learning to use a rich inheritance—monetary or spiritual—with effect. I have discussed the rationale of study and the liberal arts more fully in "On the Liberality of the Liberal Arts," Teachers College Record, Vol. 72, No. 3, February 1971, pp. 405-416; and "Towards a Place for Study in a World of Instruction," to be published in Teachers College Record, Vol. 73, No. 2, December 1971.

In the past hundred years, however, educational theorists have plunged into pedagogical paternalism. What was once the student's responsibility has since become the responsibility of the teacher and the institution. Opportunities to receive instruction have been hypostatized into "an education" that exists independent of the persons who acquire it. This hypostatized education is attributed to teachers and institutions, which are thought to have the power to educate. Thus, one "receives" a college education by virtue of doing satisfactorily what a college faculty tells one to do. The pedagogical consequence of this hypostatization has been to shift nearly the whole burden of responsibility and initiative in formal provisions for education off the student and onto the teacher. This shift has had a grotesque effect on didactics: learning theory has become synonymous with conditioning theory.

Ortega's hopes for the Spanish university will be incomprehensible to the pedagogical paternalist. To be sure, Ortega made efficiency the key to a desirable program of instruction, but it was efficiency defined by the student, not the social powers that expected to be served by the university. As a national system for distributing socially useful skills, Ortega's university would become less efficient and less predictable. But his university was not to serve a paternal state, but to contribute to a republic of free men. By respecting, rather than subverting, each person's intrinsic dignity, the university would again become a constructive force in history, in an open, humane history made by responsible persons. The mission that Ortega envisaged for the university was to renounce the pedagogical paternalism that has been the foundation of the corporate state and to offer again an education worthy of free men.

Presently, many despair of life in industrial societies because they have a diminished sense of responsible freedom and of creative significance. The compulsions that people feel are manifold: libidos excited by the media drive us into promiscuity; organization—political, economic, and social—forces us into all kinds of established group endeavors, which suck the dignity from our sense of self; a premature taste for abundance lures us into debt and catches us in the endless effort to meet our payments on a mounting material wonderland. A young person who sees his future as a series of compulsions rightly judges that there is no reason to educate himself, to give his character a unique, significant form. Men in power think that they have learned to manipulate the public. Adeptly mobilizing idealistic activism here and the complacency of the silent majority there, they believe that the performance of essential social functions can be assured, regardless of particular persons' sense of non-participation. This political nihilism of the adult rulers simply intensifies the educational nihilism of the young by depriving them of an authentic sense of personal responsibility. Thus we incubate the citizens of an ever less-principled, characterless community.

Juvenile anomie can be overcome by one decisive act; let us suppress the bêtise that teachers and institutions are responsible for the success of education, and instead, let us recognize the fact that the one thing in life for which the young are absolutely responsible is their own education. This responsibility is unavoidable because the young have the ultimate power, whatever the system of didactics, to accept or refuse instruction, to seek out, select, tolerate, or ignore any particular preachment. A boy's duty is to make a man of himself; the responsibility of youth is to educate itself. No man or institution can do this for the young; life puts it up to them. In educating themselves, the young make or break themselves, for their ability to acquire that highest of all possessions, self-help, fundamentally determines the quality of their commonwealth. Teachers can only challenge—Sapere aude! Dare to discern!

Ibid., p. 335.

Ibid., p. 332, italics omitted.

On this point, Ortega was "muy siglo veinte," very twentieth century. He broke decisively with the paternalistic conception of the university for the nation's service. To be sure, out of context certain of his points sounded quite paternalistic. For instance, he contended that the university must "make the average man, above all, a cultured man .... " But the context of this remark was his insistence that the university was based on the students, and hence he was putting the responsibility to make the average man cultured primarily on the average man, that is, the student, rather than on the teacher or the curriculum. Ortega did not intend, as Clark Kerr mistakenly suggested, to hand over the entire mission of the university to the students. Ortega's intention was not so simple; he believed that no component of the university—students, professors, administrators—could authentically contribute their increment to the whole unless they recognized that students were the reason for being of the university. "In the organization of superior instruction, in the construction of the university, one should begin with the student, not with knowledge or the professor. The university should be the institutional projection of the student, whose two essential characteristics are a limited, insufficient power to learn and a need to know in order to live."

By recognizing that the university was the institutional projection of the student, the problem of curriculum was posed in a new manner. The alternative to paternalism by the faculty is not a pure and simple abdication to "student power." Lernfreiheit and Lehrfreiheit, the freedom to learn and the freedom to teach, go together inseparably; and the worst abuse of academic freedom for the faculties of American colleges and universities is our examination system, which impairs the student's freedom to learn in any particular course, and which thus undercuts the professor's freedom to teach. To be sure, there should be a check on achievement to uphold standards and to certify that competencies have in fact been attained; but that check need not come at the end of each separate course, and it would be closer to its proper place if it came when a student judged that he had mastered a whole subject, not a fragmentary course, and that he had acquired the qualifications for a degree. Reliance on course grades signals our distrust of a student's power to judge his own progress. When students are considered to be incapable of autonomous judgment, the teacher finds ascribed to him manipulatory power over the students; and with that power, the teacher seems to become responsible for the results of its exercise. This apparent responsibility inhibits the teacher's activity: if it is the teacher's fault that his students fail an examination, then the teacher will feel impelled to spoon feed his auditors. But the man studying, being capable of autonomous judgment, is responsible for his studies. Confronted with men studying, the man teaching finds that his responsibility is to make the matters that he personally considers important accessible to those who also consider them worthy of study. The essence of such a system is mutual respect between students and professor; the enemy of it is the urge to prescribe.

Ortega believed that the mission of the university could be realized cooperatively and spontaneously because he had the twin conviction that students who were unfettered and aware of their responsibilities to themselves would wisely choose what to study, and that professors who were autonomous and confident in their students would intelligently choose what to teach. The existing system, however, was perverted, in the Spanish case, not by misplaced examinations, but by the simple fact that the most important matters were ignored by both professors and students, for all were preoccupied with other people's business. To reform the university, both professors and students needed to get in shape, in form, and by an act of will attend to their proper business: the acquisition, not of skills, but of culture. Ortega asserted that professors who were in form would try to teach culture; and he was confident that, given the opportunity, students would want to make themselves cultured men. And for Ortega, "culture" had a special meaning.

Ibid., pp. 340-8.

Culture was not some objective good; it was important because the student was a living, throbbing person who had to act, like it or not, in a myriad of ways. Man was limited, an imperfect being; and yet he had to direct himself in the world, often in situations in which the potential consequences were final. Culture was the set of ideas by which men gave direction to themselves in the world. Culture was another way of talking about an education worthy of free men, for it was an imperfect but provisionally complete scheme of the world and of life by means of which a person could direct himself through his life. Culture included certain vocational skills; but the possession of only a particular set of skills was not sufficient as culture, for the man who possessed only particular skills would be dependent on a world in which those skills were needed. Culture was that comprehension of the way things were that enabled a man to readapt continually to ever changing situations and to maintain through those changes his unique, personal character. Culture was a definite, intellectual structure by means of which particular men oriented themselves in the chaos they found around them. Culture was each man's means for making a cosmos of the surrounding chaos.

Ibid., p. 335.

Ortega observed that students could not learn everything; they had to choose to learn this and to ignore that, or else they would overload their capacity to acquire knowledge. Students who chose frivolously would be shirking their responsibility to themselves and their future; the matter was too important to the young for them to leave it up to their elders. As far as many specialists were concerned, it would be convenient to ignore culture in the university, to forgo a sense of over-all orientation in order to gain omnipotence in a narrow matter. But, Ortega thought, the students would be foolish if they did not seek, above all, for culture in its proper sense. If students carefully nurtured their sense of life, its values, principles, and problems, then they would have the power to give a coherent direction to their more specialized activities; and if, on the other hand, uncultured specialists, who lacked a sense of the whole, continued to dominate the important, particular activities of contemporary life, then the community would remain dangerously directionless, unprincipled, and instable. Culture should not be shirked; anyone who thought he could safely ignore the difficult task of making himself cultured was blindly gambling that other men would be willing and able to provide the community with qualities that he himself believed unworthy of his personal concern. Ortega did not believe that the young really wanted to take this risk, and consequently he asserted that "the primary and central function of the university is education in the great cultural disciplines."

As a fact of academic life, the great cultural disciplines were not in the existing curriculum. University disciplines had long been organized to meet technical, rather than cultural, preoccupations, Ortega observed. This situation was harmful even to the future of the sciences, for it created a bevy of investigators who lacked any orientation to life other than that offered by the present state of their art. To rectify this situation, and more importantly, to reassert the mission of the university, professors should cooperate with the deepest demands of the students, and together they should try to create a new faculty, a faculty of culture. In doing so professors and students could give rebirth to the ideal of a liberal education; and doing that, they would lay the groundwork for a renewal of authentically liberal politics.

Culture had been pushed out of the existing faculties by demands from the surrounding society for more and more practical research. The scholar's strength and freedom, however, has always been his ability to wander, if not physically, at least spiritually; hence there were no compulsions preventing a change of direction. Students could initiate that change by taking responsibility for their own education. Having taken it, they would soon realize their need, to perfect themselves as free beings, for culture. Professors then could make good on the revitalization of liberal education simply by shunning the profits of practice and by seeking the consolations of culture. And in the highest sense there would be a great practical utility in such a course: it would reinvigorate the conscience of the community.

When teachers expected discipline and hope from their students, not simply in this or that special sphere, but in a complete view of life, and when students respected and responded to these expectations on the part of their teachers, then the spontaneous reform that Ortega hoped to achieve would be fulfilled. Then the Spaniard could expect that his community would be continually nourished by an influx of imaginative, competent, independent young men who would penetrate into every sphere of life and bring it closer to perfection. By respect for the autonomy of men and for the capacity of free men to make their history, the university could fulfill its historic mission and again become a powerful, indirect source of progress in European history.

If, by such reforms, Spain could get its educational institutions "in form," an open future, one that would bring significant change in the direction of Spanish public life, might become possible. A university in form would help develop a select minority that would work, not from the top by virtue of its special skills, but from every level by virtue of its sense of mission, intellectual clarity, and capacity to live life intensely.

"La elección enamor," 1927, Obras V, pp. 620-1.

Ortega's conception of Europeanization called for reform by resonance. A self-appointed elite diffused throughout the community had to set itself in motion; it had to make itself vibrant. On the appearance of an elite of vibrant spirits, the nation would turn towards its members in the same way that the admiring gaze of passers-by turns towards the vibrant man or woman walking down the street. "Imagine," Ortega mused, "that the general type of woman preferred by the males of today was a little, a very little more dynamic than the one loved by our fathers' generation. Doubtless the children would be thrust towards an existence that is a bit more bold and enterprising, more replete with appetites and efforts. Although the change in vital tendency would be slight, its amplification of the average life of the whole nation would ineluctably bring about a gigantic transformation of Spain."

Working for twenty-five years as an influential professor of philosophy, Ortega did much to help such an elite bring itself into existence. But he made himself only "a partly faithful professor," as he put it, for cultured elites have all too easily become mere ornaments on decadent societies. In order to fulfill the imperative of intellectuality, in order not to lose the benefits of love's labors, the intellectual must succeed in making reason resound. In keeping with this part of the imperative, Ortega complemented his work towards university reform with significant efforts at popularization through publishing.


The thinking faculty is common to all . ... All men have the capacity of knowing themselves and acting with moderation.

Heraclitus, 113, 116