Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Written in 1928

"Philosophy cannot be read, it must be de-read -- that is, one must re-think each phrase, and this assumes that you break it into the words which form its ingredients; you then take each one of them, and instead of resting content with surveying its agreeable surface, you must throw yourself headlong into it, submerge yourself in it, go down into the depths of its meaning, look well to its anatomy and its boundaries in order to emerge again into the free air as master of its secret heart. When one does this with all the words of a sentence, they stay united not side by side, but subterraneously, joined by the very roots of their ideas; only then do they truly compose a philosophic phrase. For horizontal reading, the kind that slips along, for simple mental skating down the page, one must substitute vertical reading, immersion in the small abyss which is each word, a fruitful dive without a diving bell."
-- José Ortega y Gasset in
What is Philosophy?, translated by Mildred Adams and published in English in 1960. I read virtually all of Ortega in my late teens and early twenties, and find myself now, thirty-some-odd years later, back dipping into his work, somewhat chagrined to find that he was right to insist upon the experiential world as key to knowledge. I think to myself, if indeed he was the bridge between Nietzsche and Camus, who can be said to span the sickly half-century since the latter's death in 1960?

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