MEDITATIONS ON HUNTING by Jose Ortega y Gasser


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Readers should be advised that Ortega was a hunter as well as a philosopher, and in this instance non-hunters are not likely to be consoled by his philosophy. Following his preferred policy of considering what is and has been before turning to questions of what ought to be, he offers select historical examples to suggest that hunting has been everywhere and at all times one of man's favorite diversions -- in fact a kind of vocation. It is not accidental that the other happiest pastimes cited -- racing, dancing, and conversation -- have an elite ring; part of his thesis is that aristocrats use their leisure to pursue dreams common to all. Hence no mention of such egalitarian hobbies as singing, decoration, etc. While he associates the sport with a heroic ideal (e.g., in noting its ""complex code of ethics of the most distinguished design"" and its similarities to ""the monastic rule and the military order"") he divorces the concept of the hunt entirely from its purposes and techniques. These he terms irrelevant on grounds that hunting in one form or another ""occurs throughout almost the entire zoological scale."" Having thus divided animals' hunting from feeding, he is free to idealize the food chain as the Great Chain of Being and conclude that ""the venal relationship"" is strictly and immutably hierarchical. The 18th century line leads at times to modern-sounding conclusions (restrictions are necessary; high-powered weapons are an unfair advantage) but they are conceived in a spirit of noblesse oblige. Sympathy for prey is dismissed as ""mandarinism"" and abusive practices as ""deficient modes."" While there is much here that is provocative, the interpretation is about what one would deduce from the price tags at Abercrombie & Fitch.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1972
Publisher: Scribners