José Ortega y Gasset Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Graham, John T. Theory of History in Ortega y Gasset: “The Dawn of Historical Reason.” Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997. This is a clear look at Ortega’s theory of history.

Gray, Rockwell. The Imperative of Modernity: An Intellectual Biography of José Ortega y Gasset. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. An extensive intellectual biography of José Ortega y Gasset that shows the development of his thought in all his major works. It places him in the history of international modernism at the turn of the twentieth century and considers his reaction to Spain’s cultural isolation.

Oimette, Victor. José Ortega y Gasset. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982. A study of the development of Ortega’s thought against the social and political background of Spain in the first half of the twentieth century. It makes a good introduction to Ortega’s philosophy.

Silver, Philip W. Ortega as Phenomenologist: The Genesis of “Meditations on Quixote.” New York: Columbia University Press, 1978. Focuses on a specific facet of Ortega’s thought that had been neglected—namely, his existential phenomenology—and describes his relationship to German philosophers, particularly Edmund Husserl.

Tuttle, Howard N. The Crowd Is Untruth: The Existential Critique of Mass Society in the Thought of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Ortega y Gasset. New York: Peter Lang, 1996. An examination of the thought of Ortega and others.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

One of the most eminent Spanish philosophers, a figure whose influence was felt beyond his native country, José Ortega y Gasset (awr-TAY-gah ee gah-SEHT) was educated at a Jesuit school at Málaga and at the University of Madrid, where he received his doctorate in l904 at barely twenty-one years of age and where he later held the professorship of metaphysics. From 1906 to 1910 he studied in Germany. Returning to Spain, he obtained his professorship in 1911 and began publishing widely in newspapers and reviews. Essays on Marcel Proust and James Joyce established his reputation as a humanist. In 1923 he founded the Revista de Occidente, which became an important and influential periodical. His announced mission at the time was to “Europeanize” Spain and to combat its traditional cultural isolation.

Ortega y Gasset, long a foe of the monarchy, naturally favored the revolution that overthrew Alfonso XIII in 1931. Indeed, he has been called one of the “Fathers of the Republic” and was elected a deputy from León. The victory of Francisco Franco drove him from Spain, however, and he spent many years in exile in France, Portugal, and South America. For a time he held a professorship at the University of San Marcos in Peru. In 1945 he returned to Spain and established the Institute of the Humanities.

Ortega y Gasset produced writings on aesthetics, literature, and sociology. The first of his books to be translated into English, and...

(The entire section is 585 words.)


(Survey of World Philosophers)

Article abstract: Ortega’s books, journalism, and lectures commanded attention throughout Europe. His renown helped to bring Spain out of a long period of cultural isolation, and his thought contributed greatly to his country’s intellectual reawakening.

Early Life

José Ortega y Gasset was born in Madrid, Spain, on May 9, 1883. His father, José Ortega y Munilla, was a novelist and had formerly been editor of El Imparcial, a leading Madrid newspaper founded by his grandfather. The young Ortega was first taught by private tutors. Subsequently, like so many European intellectuals before him, he was schooled by Jesuits, at the College of Miraflores del Pala in Málaga. He later studied at the University of Madrid and at the universities of Leipzig, Berlin, and Marburg in Germany. In 1904, he received a doctorate in philosophy and literature from the University of Madrid, and in the years that followed, he deeply imbibed neo-Kantian philosophy. Ortega was named professor of metaphysics at the University of Madrid in 1910-1911. His association with that institution was to continue until 1936, when he went into self-imposed exile during the Spanish Civil War.

The same year that he received his chair, he founded Faro (beacon), a philosophical review. Shortly thereafter, he founded a second journal, Europa. These were the first of many periodicals he was to found during his long journalistic career. By roughly the age of thirty, Ortega was well launched upon his multifaceted career as philosopher, journalist, author, educator, and statesman. Having spent the years 1905-1907 at German universities, he had become conversant with northern European ideas. He believed that Spanish thought would tend to be superficial as long as Spain remained cut off from the cultural roots of Europe. In his own journals and in the newspapers, he tirelessly argued for a reintegration. By the time Spain’s intellectual reawakening came to pass, Ortega was famous throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

Life’s Work

For several years, Ortega had been writing on Spanish problems in his own reviews and in El Imparcial, but it was a speech he made in 1914 that catapulted him to national prominence. The speech, entitled “Old and New Politics” and delivered at the Teatro de la Comedia, denounced the monarchy. Shortly thereafter, the League for Political Education was founded, and Ortega participated in the establishment of its monthly organ, España.

Also in 1914, Ortega published Meditations on Quixote, which contained the germs of his philosophy. The work contrasts the depth and profundity of German culture with the perceived superficiality of Spanish and Mediterranean culture. At the same time, the German writer Thomas Mann was exploring in fiction the different frames of mind in northern and southern Europe. In 1917, Ortega conducted a lecture tour in Argentina. Upon his return to Spain, he became one of the founders of the liberal newspaper El Sol. The paper was intended to counter the conservatism of El Imparcial, which his father had once edited.

The 1920’s were a period of great literary productivity for Ortega. The title Invertebrate Spain is a metaphor for the nation’s lack of an intellectual elite that could lead it out of its morass. Many essays that Ortega originally wrote for El Sol appear in this book and in The Modern Theme. The latter explores the different concepts of relativity that have influenced the author and states his philosophy more systematically than do his first two books. Also in 1923, Ortega founded yet another magazine, La Revista de Occidente, a literary monthly that soon came to be held in very high regard. It was in this journal that many European writers first appeared in Spanish.

By the end of the decade, Ortega and his fellow philosopher Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo were recognized as the foremost intellectuals in Spain. In 1928, Ortega again traveled in South...

(The entire section is 1676 words.)


(Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

Author Profile

José Ortega y Gasset was a professor of metaphysics at the University of Madrid from 1910 until 1936. He had traveled and studied in Europe, especially in Germany, and when he returned, he brought European philosophy and political thought that had been ignored in Spain for centuries. An excellent and prolific writer, he wrote scores of newspaper and magazine essays and articles on philosophy and on general cultural topics. He studied and taught metaphysics, because he was interested in questions about the fundamental nature of reality. His quest for an ultimate reality led him to questions about the nature of knowledge and the nature of society. It was his social theories that made Ortega y Gasset...

(The entire section is 424 words.)