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Jose Ortega Y Gasset on People

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Written by   1
7 months ago

Jose Ortega Y Gasset said:



“Man’s destiny is primarily action. We do not live to think, but the other way round: we think in order that we may succeed in surviving.


Ignorance is, in fact, man’s privilege. Neither God nor beast is ignorant--the former because he possesses all knowledge, the latter because he needs none.


Such is the radical truth concerning what the world is--because it expresses the world’s ‘consistency’ or that in which it originally consists as element in which we have to live our life. Everything else that the sciences tell us about this world is and was at best a secondary, derivative, hypothetical, and questionable truth--for the simple reason, I repeat, that we begin to practice science after we are already living in the world and hence when for us the world is already this that it is. Science is only one of the countless activities, actions, operations that man practices in his life. Man practices science as he practices patience, as he attends to his affairs, as he practices poetry, politics, business, makes journeys, makes love, makes believe, marks time, and above all, man conjures up illusions.


We feel so tranquil and at ease in pure Nature because Nature entertains no opinion about us. Here lies the hypersuspicious origin of our uneasiness. We are about to talk of beings--men--characterized by the fact that we know that they entertain an opinion about us. It is this that has put us on guard, with our souls alert; on the gentle horizon of the paradisal world looms a danger--the other man. And there is no doubt about it: more or less and little by little, he is going to become animate. And we shall all be to some degree confounded.


Now, what is usual, what is customary, we do it because it ‘is done.’ But who does what ‘is done’? Why, people. Very well--but, who is ‘people’? Why, everybody, nobody in particular. And this leads us to the observation that an immense part of our lives is made up of things that we do, not because we want to, not out of our own inspiration or on our own account, but simply because ‘people’ do them; so now people force us into human actions that proceed from them and not from us. But this is not all. In conducting our lives, we orient ourselves by our thoughts, by what we think things are. But if we draw up the balance sheet of these thoughts, ideas, or opinions by which and from which we live, we find to our surprise that many of them--perhaps most of them--we have never thought on our own account, with full and trustworthy evidence of their truth; we think them because we have heard them and we say them because they ‘are said.’ Here, then, we have this impersonal stranger, the implied agent of the passive voice, turning up installed inside ourselves, forming part of ourselves, and itself thinking ideas that we only voice.”

Latent Thoughts #28






Source: Man & People by Jose Ortega Y Gasset

Painting: Saint John the Baptist by Leonardo Da Vinci

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