PHENOMENOLOGY AND ART by Jose Ortega y Gasset


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Ortega was thirty-one in 1914 when he published his first and best work, Meditations on Quixote, a revolutionary attempt to create through Cervantes' ""way of looking at things"" a new and distinctive Spanish philosophy. This was a bold undertaking -- Ortega's countwmen traditionally preferring the sensual to the intellectual. To further complicate matters Ortega had been schooled in Germany, was a follower of Brentano and Husserl, and an adept in the then virtually unknown discipline of phenomenology. The Meditations, nevertheless, not only changed the mental habits of Spain, brought it into the 20th century, but also initiated Ortega's debut on the stage of world culture. The freest of the essays presented in this collection, ""Sensation, Construction, Intuition,"" ""On the Concept of Sensation,"" and ""An Essay in Esthetics,"" all three dating from the period when he composed the Meditations, are, like everything else about Ortega, brilliant, manly, and difficult. Ortega is a vigorous writer, always determined to make an impact. His general preferences are easy enough to state. For instance, this typical cautionary note concerning his vitalist philosophy: ""It is essential as Europeans adopt the point of view of life, of the Idea of Life, itself an advance over intellectualism, that they not let go of reason in the process."" Where things become dark and incantatory are in the subtle modifications, embellishments, and illustrations that Ortega's racy temperament, Latin to the core, produces when he attacks metaphysical or psychological problems per se. Philip Slater, in his introduction, claims that these essays help us ""to judge his originality and place him within the phenomenological movement as a whole."" That's not quite so. Ortega resists assimilation. He stands alone, potent and idiosyncratic, not really part of any group, though always a voice to be reckoned with.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1975
Publisher: Norton