Is The Tragic Sense of Life a book about transcendentalism?
Unamuno’s book does not explore the ramifications of tyranscendentalism so much as the existential stance, “What shall we do with it?” meaning the facticity of our own existence. For Unamuno, the inquiry into human action, especially faith over reason, begins with the exercise of our Free Will. If, as the philosophers of existentialism say, we have a sense of “dread” when we contemplate our existence without a Cause, we must confront the feeling of Tragedy, that we have “fallen” from a higher order, that we are being “punished”, that we are participating in someone else’s “plan.” All those feelings interfere with our Free Will. The best illustration of this idea is in Unamuno’s novel, La Niebla (the Cloud), in which a “fictive” character in one of Unamuno’s novels goes to Unamuno’s house and asks that Unamuno to please not kill him off in the novel. This odd (to say the least) action is like us with our “sense of life.” Are we a character in someone else’s novel, or do we have free will? Transcendentalism asks a different set of questions, concerning whether our civilization (America in particular) during the 19th century was at a turning point, a crossroads; it is much more a sociological inquiry than a philosophical one.