Jose Ortega y Gasset

José Ortega y Gasset was a well-known prolific and distinguished Spanish philosopher in the 20th century. Over the course of his career as a philosopher, social theorist , essayist , cultural and aesthetic critic , educator , politician, and editor of the influential magazine de Occidente, he devoted himself to writing on a wide range of topics.

  • When was he born:  05/09/1883
  • Where he was born:  Madrid, Spain
  • When he died:  10/18/1955
  • Where he died:  Madrid, Spain

Who was José Ortega y Gasset?

José Ortega y Gasset was a Spanish philosopher and essayist whose philosophy has been characterized as a ” philosophy of life ” and who was the main exponent of the theory of perspectivism and vital and historical reason .

He also wrote hundreds of essays and articles for newspapers and magazines, the most important of which are collected in twelve volumes, several of which have been translated into English, French and German. His main writings reveal an intellectual development that crossed the experiences of the world of life articulated in the perspectives of phenomenology , historicism and existentialism .

  • Biography of José Ortega y Gasset
  • Thought
  • Contributions of José Ortega y Gasset
  • Technique
  • Importance
  • Works by José Ortega y Gasset
  • Phrases

Biography of José Ortega y Gasset

José Ortega y Gasset was a Spanish writer and philosopher who was born in 1883 and died in Madrid in 1955, where both sides of his family were closely connected to the world of politics and journalism . His family was financially stable and belonged to the high bourgeoisie of Madrid, linked to journalism and politics. Ortega attended various Jesuit schools and studied at the University of Madrid where he was a professor of metaphysics .

He began writing for Spanish and South American newspapers and magazines in 1902. In 1923 he founded the Revista de Occidente . As a liberal interested in social problems , José Ortega y Gasset opposed the dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera, and in 1931 he founded, together with G. Marañón and Ramón Pérez de Ayala, the Agrupación al Servicio de la República, a political group being elected deputy in the Constituent Assembly .

For forty years, Ortega was one of Spain’s leading intellectual figures and the center of a broad intellectual movement that has been called the ” Madrid school .” As a writer, lecturer, educator, political guide, philosopher and creative sociologist, he made a deep mark on 20th century Spanish thought and literature .


Ortega y Gasset began a philosophical stage replacing realism and idealism . For him, the appearance of man is a historical process of decline; not of life but of the content of life. He thought that contemporary man was disoriented , because life has become easier, but at the same time it has become more complex.

For Ortega, the deep crisis facing Europe was rooted purely philosophical and could be solved only with the overcoming of the idealism . The demoralization that humanity suffers is the dark side of the growth of life.

His philosophy gave rise to ratiovitalism , as a third stage in the history of philosophy, which continued after realism and idealism . It was based mainly on the criticism of idealism because it saw it as an enemy of man. In his thinking there is the relationship between being realistic and living at the same time.

Contributions of José Ortega y Gasset

He taught that a good education that is not personalized cannot be considered an education, because for it to exist, there must be a face that affects the student or the teacher himself.

José Ortega y Gasset developed a metaphysics in accordance with vital reason that went beyond philosophical idealism without falling into realism. This metaphysics asserts that the ultimate or radical reality from which any other reality draws its roots cannot be reduced to any idea or theory, but is “my life” in the biographical, not biological, sense.


For Ortega y Gasset, if technique did not exist, man would not have been able to exist either . He sparked open-minded discussions among his students and a series of confrontations between ideas. In his different meditations on technique and other essays on science and philosophy, he distinguishes several phases in the evolution of it, and in the evolution of cultures and societies. The stages of the technique according to Ortega are:

  • The technique of chance : phase that corresponds to primitive societies.
  • The artisan’s technique : the technical acts are developed and the human being becomes aware of the technique as something special.
  • Technician’s technique : the machine is the most important instrument.


José Ortega y Gasset has been the philosopher who has managed to have the greatest influence on Latin American thought and thinkers during the first part of the 20th century. In addition, he has been the best known and most appreciated Spanish-language thinker during his time, within the circles of German philosophy , including Heidegger himself .

In many of his analyzes of the philosophy of history and politics , he managed to be ahead of his time by describing and suggesting options and points of view that today are a reality and proposals for the future, as is the case of the European Union , whose foundations philosophical and political were masterfully presented in his work Meditation of Europe .

Above all, Ortega y Gasset importance for our time, beyond his conservative positions of their work lies in the effect that has the focus thesis l of his thought, which is the idea of Reason Vital .

Works by José Ortega y Gasset

Some of his most recognized works are the following:

  • Old and new politics.
  • Meditations of the «Don Quixote».
  • People, works, things.
  • The spectator – I, II and III
  • Invertebrate Spain
  • Invertebrate Spain. Sketch of some historical thoughts.
  • The topic of our time.
  • The Rebelion of the mass.
  • Around Galileo.


Among the most recognized phrases of José Ortega y Gasset are the following:

  • Every day I am less interested in being a judge of things and I prefer to be her lover.
  • The life is a series of collisions with the future; It is not a sum of what we have been, but what we yearn to be.
  • Our most deeply held, most unquestionable convictions are the most suspect. They form our limit, our borders, our prison.
  • The infatuation is a state of misery mind that the life of our consciousness is narrowed, impoverished and paralyzed.
  • The men who are most capable of thinking about love are those who have experienced it the least ; and those who have lived it are often unable to meditate on it.

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