Introduction by Joseph Minich

There is a little bit of a story behind this essay that is worth telling. I discovered the writings of Julian Marias (after years of commendation by a dear friend) in writing an essay on the doctrine of God. 

Specifically, I have always been somewhat uneasy about the manner in which many evangelical accounts of the development of human thought abstract the latter from its lived conditions, horizons of intellectual possibility, and the relationship between these and whatever we call “the truth.” To truly grasp “what it is like” (in a thick sense) for a human being to know has always struck me as necessitating an account of man in the context of a concrete world, moving “toward” new horizons and possibilities (and therefore growth in knowledge). 

The tradition of phenomenology always struck me as asking the right questions and providing some helpful insights, but I was shocked when reading Julian Marias to discover that I was swimming in his thought rather than chopping my way through it. He writes with a clarity and degree of insight that is rare among European philosophers. Moreover, he writes (as I have come to known) as a persuaded Christian who is nevertheless brutally honest with the motions of his mind. His intellectual flavor is not that of a philosopher retrofitting philosophical nomenclature to pre-fabricated dogma, but rather as one journeying through vital reason through the concrete with with absolute and unfeigned honesty. And it is this itself – in a sort of Spanish counterpart to C.S. Lewis (see footnote 24 of this essay!) – which drives him toward a philosophical truth that was always “already there” in our faith (latent for the inquiring soul).

But very few people read Marias aside from his history of philosophy, even though he has so much to say about so many things. I thought this was in need of urgent correction. It turns out I am not the first to think so. More than anyone in the last century, Harold Raley has been seeking to introduce Marias to the English-speaking world. He has published two books on Marias, as well as translated some of his works (importantly, his Biography of Philosophy, which is distinct from the history). I was discouraged to realize that the latter was published in the 60s, and therefore that the author might no longer be writing. I googled his name and found an old email address on a website that had not been updated in years. I sent an email into the void, asking if he might be interested in writing a summary of Marias for Mere Orthodoxy for English speakers. One of the blessings of the internet is that it can connect profundity to audiences that might not otherwise come into contact with one another, and it was my hope that a Mere Orthodoxy piece would motivate scores of people to discover both Marias, and as it turns out, Raley himself.

I was delighted when Raley (now in his mid-80s) wrote back with cheerfulness and enthusiasm and immediately started working on the essay that you now have. This is almost certainly the only thing of its kind in English – a basic and accessible “big picture” intro to Julian Marias. Dr. Raley has been telling us all about Marias for years, and I am delighted that he has (at least!) one more chance to tell us all about what we’re missing. More than this, I am delighted and moved by Dr. Raley’s example of service and kindness to all of us. I hope I am as productive and cheerful as he if I tarry this long on this side of glory.

I am also very grateful to Jake Meador and the work of Mere Orthodoxy for making this kind of project possible. We live in an age of the internet, and while that brings many challenges, Christians should also think strategically about the ways in which it can be used to advance the cause of the kingdom of God. Mere Orthodoxy is increasingly becoming a key site of Christian education, publishing some shorter but also some longer essays that introduce the public to key Christian thinkers in our era. Jake’s willingness to shine the spotlight on Marias (and on Raley) might be used of God to bring an extra dose of sanity to us in these confusing and bewildering times. May God increase the tribe of partners in the kingdom such as these. Now, take up and read.

The Ortegan Propaedeutic: The Theory of Radical Reality

The philosophy of Julián Marías (1914-2005) incorporates and extends the metaphysical system of José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955).[1] From an early age until shortly before his death Marías wrote copiously on many topics: philosophy, history, literature, cinema, biography, sociology, religious questions, and geopolitical matters, including books on countries and cultural analyses, particularly the origins and originality of Spain and the salient features of Western civilization.

Although he differed with some Ortegan hypotheses and applied the system to areas untreated by Ortega, including history and religious themes, Marías never wavered in his conviction that the Ortegan metaphysical system of “radical reality” was the most comprehensive method for understanding human life. Despite years of official pressures and censorship, which led to exile in the case of Ortega and imprisonment for Marías, both thinkers were popular writers with large followings.

If Ortega wrote at “the height of the times,” to use his expression, Marías did so at “the depth of the times,” as he put it. Together they created a philosophy that despite its uniqueness, or perhaps because of it, has yet to make notable inroads outside of Spain and parts of Hispanic America.

We shall take as our starting point Persona (person [1996]), one of Marías’ last books. In the Prologue he summarizes decades of thought on the reality of the human person:

This work aims at an understanding of the human person, the most important and yet the most mysterious and elusive reality in this world and the key to all true understanding. The surprising thing is that despite this truth it has been tenaciously ignored. Throughout its long history, philosophy has given it little thought; theology somewhat more, but with a fundamental limitation: it has delved into the reality of the divine persons even though lacking an intuition regarding them and without accounting for the fact that their attributes differ essentially from those that apply to human persons.[2]

He points out that the reasons for this omission are, first, deficient methods of presenting the problem of human reality and, second, a lack of adequate categories for treating the human person without falling into biologism, on the one hand, or phenomenological idealism on the other.

For seven decades the creation and application of dialectical remedies to these and related deficiencies had been his untiring quest, a task implicit and imperative in the metaphysics he inherited from Ortega. As he neared the end of his life, Marías declared that having done what he could to develop a coherent philosophy of the human person he must now leave it in God’s hands to do with it as he would. In due course we shall return to Persona to extract certain results of his efforts. [3]

First, though, we must ask for more specifics. how we can speak of omissions and deficiencies regarding personal reality when probably nothing has been more prominent in contemporary Western philosophy than the theme of human life? For Marías this prolific commentary is a part of the problem and the cause of much confusion.

Western thought, he tells us, has always marched in step with the assumption that man is a thing: organism, animal, ego, psyche, consciousness, spirit, and similar designations, all of which are “things” in a physical or ideal sense. This assumption informed the age-old question, what is man?, a question which, in turn, presupposes a definition.

But if man is not a thing, but a reality of a totally different kind wherein these things appear, as we learn in Ortegan metaphysics, then the presupposition is invalid and can lead only to error. For Marías, what? presupposes things, objects, and abstractions, and for that reason cannot apply to persons. The proper interrogative for the latter is Who?, which sends Marías in another direction entirely. We shall retrace and summarize his dialectical journey in this writing.

Marías calls Ortega the “discoverer of a new continent of philosophy,” and describes his own role in their association as “filial”: “inexplicable without him; irreducible to him.”[4] But this relationship should not be mistaken for subservience. The “empirical theory” of personal reality that informs his mature writings complements and completes the “analytical theory” of life in Ortega. Although there is no mention of the “empirical theory in the Ortegan writings, their combined philosophy constitutes a challenge to both the cerebral reality of the phenomenologists and the materialist doctrines of the realists.[5]

The transition of Marías from disciple to creative philosopher centers on this doctrine of “radical reality,” which is circumstantial human life itself. It consists not of things, nor a sum of things, as the realists plead; nor is it the mind or ego and its cognitions as the idealists hold. All these assumptions and their corollaries have a derivative validity, but the all- encompassing reality is the radical reality of “my life,” the life of each person, not life in a biological or psychic sense but as we use the expression uncritically in everyday experience.[6]

In it, and nowhere else, do we meet or discover all other realities, real and unreal, trivial and transcendent, evidential and transmuted, mundane and mysterious, holy and unholy. The modes of encounter are many. Phenomenologically, I may discover things perceived to be infinitely remote and much greater or smaller than I: from stars and galaxies to quantum particles or waves; others appear to be intimate and real, though free of material form: love, faith, and friendship; similarly, still other things manifest sensorially or psychologically as pains, intuitions, dreams, dreads, hopes, doubts. Probably nearly everyone has pondered the unimaginable magnitude of the Cosmos and the physical puniness of mankind. But as Marías reminds us, the reverse is also true: the Cosmos is also in me as a part of my circumstance.

Although my circumstance includes everything around me, including my own body, my history and physical setting, only a fraction of it is material. Nor is a thing forever condemned to dimensional singularity, as seems to be generally the case in animal life. In common experience and from my native perspective, sticks and stones may seem to be trivial things, but for a scientist, chemist, or paleoarcheologist whose perspectives and perceptions have been cognitively enhanced, the encounter may reveal other features: geological age, chemical composition, or as relics of human cultures.

Likewise, “No man has ever seen God,” the Scriptures tell us, yet I perceive his handprint in creation or in the mystery of his transcendent absence. Squared circles are impossibilities in any real sense. Yet all these and other things and beings—trite, transcendent, or impossible—appear only in the all-encompassing reality that is my life. My body, or organic being, is also a part of my circumstance. I discover myself in life as a physical being, as “some-body,” already living, already named, and thus already socialized by language and associations with other persons, known and unknown.

All this, and more, is implicit in the Ortegan cogito: “I am I and my circumstance.” It includes my physical person, psychic and somatic states, and the entirety of my possible world, from nearest atom to farthest star. All this implies that my “radical” encounter with all other realities is not passive, but proactive, not a tabula rasa that merely receives or records impressions, but an encounter that is also interpretative, an encounter we call living.[7]

Were we limited to phenomenological perception alone, we could not distinguish between dangers and delights, and I would be helplessly subject to every possible peril. Things appear to me and, in turn, I release their immediate significance necessary for their manifestation and my need to make and live my life. This means that my circumstance and I need each other in order to be who I am and what it is. I know by interpretative perception that an approaching tiger I see may devour me unless I defend myself. Likewise, an artifact at hand may appear to me variously according to circumstances as a religious icon, a work of art, a tool, a cultural relic, or as a weapon to ward off the tiger. My circumstance offers possibilities, but if I would live well, it is up to me to choose or release its superior options.

The Latin verb eligere, to choose or select, is the root of intelligence and closely akin to elegance. In this sense, to humanize my circumstance is to release intelligently its superior, elegant features that enhance my life. In the last analysis, therefore, all the persons and things I encounter in my life appear on a value scale proportionate to who I am, how I propose to live, what I reject, what I know, and what I fail to know.

In an age characterized by regressive human reductionism, Ortega sought to reenchant the world.[8] If existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre dismissed mankind as “a useless passion,” and poet Matthew Arnold described a drear world that offered neither “hope nor help for pain,” Ortega set out on a happier quest with these words:

“There is in all things the indication of a possible plenitude. An open and noble soul will feel an ambition to perfect it, to help it achieve that plenitude. This is love—the love of the perfection of the beloved.”[9] His “tactical turn” away from the personal gloom and narrowness of late modernity was to become the foundation on which Ortega—and Marías to an even greater extent—built their more hopeful doctrines.[10]

A parallel movement, the twentieth-century revolt against the idealistic philosophy that had been in vogue in several iterations beginning with Descartes and culminating in Husserl was not simply abandoned in the Ortegan doctrine. Instead it became an instrumental component of a superior metaphysics in Ortega, and Marías.[11]

In 1957 Marías began writing a long book on Ortega’s life and his original contributions to philosophy: Ortega: Circunstancia y vocación (Ortega: Circumstance and Vocation). His chief reason for undertaking a task that took him more than two years to complete was, as he put it, because “Ortega counted on him.”

But it was much more than the fulfillment of a personal pledge. Ortega had departed, but his philosophy was still present, though not fully organized, and it was important to remind readers of his insights before his influence and intellectual profile faded from the public mind. Besides, Ortega had the puzzling trait of leaving works unfinished or never written at all.

His promised but unpublished Aurora de la razón vital (Dawning of Vital Reason) is a major case in point. Even his most celebrated book, The Revolt of the Masses (1930), which attracted worldwide attention and established him as a major European thinker, ends abruptly without exploring the enticing themes announced in the concluding chapter. For Marías, whose succinct definition of philosophy is “Responsible Vision,” Ortega’s contributions, perfected or not, were too important to let slip away. As Marías saw it, to save and complement Ortegan thought was to consecrate an important dimension of Spanish and Western culture.

Nor did his loyal association with Ortega wane with time. Twenty-six years after Ortega’s death he returned to him in another major book, Ortega: las trayectorias (Ortega: The Trajectories). By this time, Marías himself was a noted thinker and the popular author of many important books, including his bestselling History of Philosophy.[12] In the intervening years he had acquired a large following; many of his books were bestsellers, including his trilogy on the transition of Spain from dictatorship to democracy, and several were translated into English, Portuguese, and Italian.

Later, among other achievements, he was a participant in Vatican II, a popular lecturer in Europe, more so in North and South America, a journalist whose columns appeared in the leading newspapers of Spain, Argentina, Brazil, and, sporadically, the United States, visiting professor at Wellesley College, Indiana University, the University of Oklahoma, and lecturer in many others, recipient of several awards and prizes for literary excellence, and to the displeasure of the Franco regime, since 1964, member of the Royal Spanish Academy.

After his death, Ortega’s scattered papers were collected and published as Volumes X and XI of his complete works. Some, so Marías complains, were not meant for publication, but consisted of scribblings, prompts, random ideas, notes to himself, and annotations taken out of context. Ortega was generally acknowledged as the master prose writer of his generation, who according to novelist Pío Baroja, spoke even better than he wrote.[13] But sporadic bouts of illness, years of exile and censorship, and the exceptional range of his talents and commitments meant that he could not bring them all to fruition.[14]

Marías explains in his books and essays on the Ortegan doctrine that Ortega returned from his studies in Germany in 1912, wrestling with two perplexing problems: (1) the imposing presence of Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936) and (2) what he perceived to be the shortcomings of Husserlian phenomenology. Unamuno, Spain’s foremost philosopher at the time, passionately opposed scientific rationalism and what he saw as the deleterious impact of modernity on traditional Spanish culture. His major philosophical work Del sentimiento trágico de la vida (1913), (The Tragic Sense of Life), was a formidable challenge to Ortega’s own emerging doctrine.

Although Unamuno had little, if anything, to say in print about phenomenology itself, which at the time was still central to Ortega’s thought, he rejected out of hand its Cartesian ancestry: “The methodical doubt of Descartes is a comic doubt, a doubt purely theoretical and provisional—that is to say, the doubt of a man who acts as if he doubted without really doubting.”[15] He dismissed as “simpletons” the young Spanish “Europeanizers” led by Ortega who were committed to bringing isolated Spain into the European cultural orbit. Nevertheless, the two philosophers were cordial toward each other without being close, and Ortega wrote panegyrically at Unamuno’s death in 1936 that without him “an atrocious silence” had settled over Spain.

Despite their many differences, Unamuno shared with the young Ortega and many other European thinkers of the era an intuition that was to prosper under Marías: the conviction that the human person was emerging as the prime theme of modern, or post-modern, European philosophy. Yet it was hampered not only by the doctrinal errors mentioned above but by the linguistic and conceptual inadequacy of traditional language to express it. Philosopher Max Scheler (1874-1928), for instance, declared that for the first time in the 10,000-year recorded history of mankind human reality had become problematic and more to the point, that the human being was now indefinable, not a definitive reality at all but a “becoming,” a “between,” “a self-transcending being.”[16]

Probably neither Ortega nor Marías would quibble with the gist of Scheler’s statement. The German thinker’s influence on Ortega is well documented. But as master writers who possessed a solid knowledge of German, both Spanish thinkers might well cringe at Scheler’s awkward wording. But if the German language was deficient, obscure, or at least tentative, in dealing with the emerging concepts of personhood, equally so were Spanish, English, French, and all other European languages.

No wonder, then, that both Ortega and Marías, each in distinct yet related ways, set about to develop more supple vocabularies to express their new philosophy. They did so not by drawing terminology primarily from classical Greek and Latin, as philosophers had done for centuries, but by investing contemporary language with expanded meanings. Though proficient in both ancient tongues and several modern languages, Ortega and Marías were not cloistered thinkers who wrote primarily for other philosophical specialists, but popular writers whose aim was to communicate ideas with conceptual clarity and persuasive force to all readers.

Sartre once asked sarcastically whether Ortega was anything more than a mere journaliste de genie (a clever journalist). But though disrespectful in intention, the quip was unintentionally complementary in fact. Ortega took it upon himself—as Marías did in his time—to introduce contemporary thought to the Spanish and Hispanic publics, and if he could not reasonably do so in formal treatises, he would turn to newspapers and public lectures in the common vernacular.

As a result, thousands of readers seemed to understand Ortega and Marías as well as specialists who were accustomed to esoteric language and sometimes seemed peevishly displeased that mere philosophic amateurs dared intrude with fervor and enthusiasm in intellectual areas hitherto closed to them. Ortega’s celebrated comment that in order to persuade, one must first seduce, underscores his point and authorial principle.[17]

Marías has much to say on Ortega’s cogito, “I am I and my circumstance,” a doctrine that appears for the first time not in the German thinkers, who progressed no further than the concepts of physical Umwelt and existential Dasein, but rather in Meditations. Let us hear one such comment in its entirety:

If Ortega had said simply ‘I and my circumstance’, he would not have achieved the philosophical innovation that he does in the Meditations on Quixote. Such a formulation would be acceptable, in the last analysis from a realistic or idealistic perspective, provided one does not lose sight of the fact that the subject refers to an object. When Fichte speaks of the contraposition ‘I and not-I’ (Ich und nicht-Ich), or when the mature Husserl, attempting to extract the final consequences of the idea of Brentano’s intentionality and trying to correct the Cartesian Cogito with the formula Ego cogito cogitatum (I think about thinking), they are left with only an intentional reference.[18]

They mistake method for reality.

Ortega stated in History as a System that his philosophy does not arise from “Greek calends” but from life in fieri, in its ever preemptory and progressive happening, which properly speaking cannot be detained for static analysis, as Husserl proposed with his notion of reduction, or epoché. The forward movement of life inherent in the Ortegan doctrine corresponds to the forward, or ‘facial,” description of living in the empirical theory of Marías.

As for the notion “consciousness of” as the prime reality in Husserl, Ortega points out that consciousness of reality cannot also be reality itself. If “consciousness of” is equivalent to the ego, or the “I”, then it cannot be inside itself, for life is outside, directed toward the outer world. To claim otherwise would be a contradictory tautology. At this juncture he leaves Husserl and expounds his own doctrine of “radical reality.”[19]

Marías explains that “The decisive factor is the first ‘I’ in the Ortegan formula, the one which does not simply ‘signify’ but which designates or denotes and points to me, to my reality.”[20] He concludes with this bold assessment: “The torso of this submerged ‘iceberg’ on which rests the celebrated theme of Meditations on Quixote, is nothing less than an original presentation of the central problem of metaphysics. It surpasses idealism but does so without falling anew into realism.”[21]

While Meditations on Quixote was the first mature exposition of the doctrine of the radical reality of human life, Ortega offered a fuller version in the eleven public lectures delivered under the rubric “¿Qué es filosofía?” (What is Philosophy?) in 1929. The popular response to these lessons, a public phenomenon that featured overflow crowds and Ortega at the peak of his fabled oratorical brilliance, convinced him that he had freed European philosophy from the sick ward of idealism:

We are now outside the confines of the ego, the sealed room of the sick, a room made of mirrors that despairingly reflected back to us our own profile. We are outside, in the fresh air, our lungs again open to the cosmic oxygen, our wings ready for flight, and our hearts directing us to that which is lovely.[22]

Ortega lived and continued to write for more than two decades, but though he remained a revered public icon to the end, never again would he rise to the euphoric levels just described. With his passing in 1955, responsibility for their philosophy fell almost wholly on Marías. To be sure other intellectuals studied Ortega, but only Marías continued to create and expand the doctrine. For forty-five years he responded to the challenge with his characteristic energy and in keeping with his lifelong motto: “Por mí que no quede,” which corresponds roughly to “I do my part.” Hear now what he did.

The Empirical Theory of Personal Reality

We said earlier that of all the disciples, colleagues, and associates of Ortega who formed what is commonly referred as “The Madrid School of Philosophy,” Julián Marías remained the most loyal and dedicated not only to Ortega personally but also to his philosophy, particularly his metaphysical doctrine of life, or more exactly, “my life,” the life of each person, as the “radical or ‘root’ reality in which all other realities are rooted.[23]

At this point, always bearing in mind Marías’ many contributions to what toward the end of his life Ortega began calling “our philosophy,” it is also important, so it seems to this writer, to mention differences between the two philosophers.

Unlike Ortega, whose religious beliefs remained something of a mystery, Marías, though ecumenical by his generous spirit toward all Christians because of their common origin, was devoutly Catholic and unfailingly faithful to the Church, its sacraments and dogmas, particularly as they relate to the dignity and uniqueness of persons. But his faith was by no means blind. Quite the contrary; not only did he profess Christianity; insofar as possible and in keeping with scriptural injunctions, he sought to understand it. Intellectually he was persuaded that Christian truth could withstand any human test or doubts regarding its veracity. It made sense for him that truth was rendered stronger when revealed truth converged with the discoverable truth of science and philosophy. Creation, and most of all human creation, was intelligible precisely because it appears intellectually and philosophically as creation and reveals an order suggestive of an intelligent Creator.[24]

For this reason, unlike Ortega, Marías did not hesitate to direct his own critical thinking to transcendent themes of personal creation, death, and immortality. It was Marías who explained how the philosophy of radical reality coheres to a surprising degree with Christian theology and its vision of human life. He suggested that Ortega had little to say on these topics because Unamuno had said so much about them.[25] And can one fail to suppose that the clerical attacks directed against him banished any wish to comment publicly on theological and ecclesiastical matters? Yet when Ortega was asked directly about his religious beliefs not long before his death, he said simply “I have always been in God’s hands.”

Here let us clarify several points. We have seen that Marías inherited the foundation of his own doctrine in the form of the Ortegan metaphysics of “Radical Reality” embedded or implied in the formula, “I am I and my circumstance,” adding for the sake of clarity the other half of the cogito: “and if I do not save it I do not save myself.”

But now we must ask ourselves, is this not a mere play on words? Is not the philosophy of human life the same as the philosophy of the person as modern thinkers generally assume? What else is there to say after we have described human life as the “radical reality” in which all other realities are “rooted”? The answer is almost everything related to the reality of personhood. Consider its features.

Human life has a structure that we discover by means of an analysis of “my life,” in the sense implied earlier, that is, not primarily a formal scientific or philosophical analysis but by the manifold art of living. This analysis of my life, the only life directly accessible to me, reveals the conditions or requisites without which “my life” would not be possible, which means that they must apply in each life and are therefore universal.

These conditions include, in the first instance, circumstance itself. In our case the circumstances are earthly, though theoretically it would hold for any and all worlds. The analytical theory implies many things but omits even more. It does not differentiate between the sexes, nor does it speak of sexuality, friendship, and love. Even less does it mention a range of characteristics which Marías describes as “sexuate.”[26]

These, he explains by means of the neologism, are all those features which without being specifically sexual or sexist, are nonetheless conditioned by one’s gender: pink clothes for baby girls, blue for boys; customs and dress codes that apply, or have applied, to women; others for men; socially approved names for boys and a corresponding list for girls; and intersexuate friendships, a topic to which Marias gives much attention in two books on women.[27]

Sexual relationships may be confined to certain ages and times, but sexuate dress, attitudes, customs, and even speech and behavioral patterns continue throughout life, from earliest childhood to old age. And they hold true for the celibate as well as the married.

To the “radical reality” of human life that Ortega explored in Meditations on Quixote, there corresponds the complementary assertion of personhood that Marías describes in Metaphysical Anthropology (1970): “If now we return to the rigorously philosophical point of view, that is, to the perspective of radical reality, to the intrinsic theory itself, one form of which we call metaphysics, if we attempt to see man from life itself, and strictly speaking, from my life, previous to all interpretations, especially the scientific ones, we see that his life takes place as a man, in the precise way we call humanity. Man, therefore, is not a thing, nor an organism, nor an animal, but rather prior to all this he is something much deeper: a structure of human life.”[28]

Here Marías faced a problem: is it possible to pass directly from the analytical structure to the individual reality of the person as such? The answer is no, as Marías points out by using Cervantes as an example:

This is what has been missing in the doctrine of human life: the zone of reality that I call the empirical structure. To it belong all those features, which, without being ingredients of the analytical theory, are not chance or casual occurrences in the life of Cervantes, but rather empirical elements that are also structural and therefore previous to each individual biography; these features we count on since they function as the underlying assumption of each life.[29]

For instance, we read that Cervantes lost the use of an arm in the battle of Lepanto, and we deduce that he had arms. Likewise, we learn that he was married to Catalina de Palacios, and thus we know that he was a man and could have a specific relationship with a woman. Then we read that he wrote Persiles in his old age and died in 1616.

None of these things surprises us, for these and other features and occurrences are usual and function as norms and expectations. Yet none appears in the analytical theory. It does not speak of marriage and mortality, nor mention limbs, and old age. It admits the linguistic dimension of human life but has nothing to say about actual languages. None of these and other features is a requisite of human life.

Yet they belong to it empirically as human life actually appears and as we discover and expect it to be. We are not startled to see a person with two eyes and ten fingers, for these are empirically-based expectations. Theoretically, human life could take many other forms, as science fiction reminds us, but in this world the empirical structure of human life appears in certain forms. Yet this empirical structure of human life is susceptible to change.

As Marías notes: “Seen from this perspective, the empirical structural appears as the arena of possible human variation in history.[30] Hence the justification of the title of Marías’ most ambitious book: Metaphysical Anthropology. “Metaphysical” refers to the “radical reality” of human life as metaphysics, or theory of the real, while “Anthropology” is the science of humankind’s empirical structure as modes of lived and possible experience.

“My life” is a gerund, a verb of continuing futuristic action or being, which in principle, and perhaps in fact, continues forever. Living is apprehending reality in its connectedness, which not by chance is also the description Maríias offers for reason in general. In other words, living is the concrete form of reason and the form of understanding my circumstance in order to go on living. This means that as a futuristically-inclined being, I am not merely with things but instead that I am always doing something with them, something we call living. It happens dramatically and dynamically.

In this sense, human reason is narrative reason, just as the life of societies and nations corresponds to historical reason. Definitions will not do. In order to understand a human life, we must think of it as a drama and tell it as a story. But if I live futuristically in the sense I have just described, I do so not in random disorder but within certain categories, which Marias calls “installations within my circumstance.[31]

Here we must distinguish between installation, which is a biographical concept, and spatial, physical, biological, psychological, or historical categories, which apply secondarily to certain features. It is one thing, for example, to say that we are “installed” in a language and from it we interpret the world in a certain way, and altogether another to point out that language is subject to categories such as anatomy, physiology, linguistics, semantics, and logic. To say that I “live” in my language in a biographical way that precedes all attempts to objectify it, means that the “objective” features may acquire validity only after I “possess” my language biographically.

Other forms of installation include my bodily condition or corporality, the senses, the sexuate condition, age, race (as a cultural and historical precipitate), worldhood, and caste or social class. We are prepared to object that some of these installations may, or will, change (age and thus corporality, and perhaps social class) until we remember that installations though relatively stable over time, taken as a whole they are the structures of life wherein changes or modifications are possible.

This is why they invite narration. Life is what I do within my forms of installation in the world and what happens to me as I live. In Marías’ words, “The forms of installation are, therefore, forms of happening, or if you prefer, forms for happening, inseparable from happening, without which they would lack meaning and reality.”[32]

Life is a matter of time, trouble, desire, and choice, and all of them tug at us with varying intensity. To these competing forces Marías gives the label of vector. Mathematically speaking, a vector is a directed magnitude, which when applied to human life means importance and significance measured in terms of desire. In life there is almost never a single vector or desire but several of varying intensity, and we must choose among the options.

Some vectors, like distant worlds, exert only faint pressure on us, whereas others contend fiercely for our favor. When several vie, the compromise we chose may not coincide precisely with any of them. This desiderative plurality may be thought of as “slant” (sesgo) and “inclination.” We are “inclined” in a certain biographical way, and this gives everything that comes within our purview a certain “slant.” As Marías explains “Slant is the manner of being of things when they are realities lived from a vectoral structure,” adding, “Things take a slant when they are struck by the vectoral arrows of biographical projects.”[33]

My world is circumstantial, yet not passively so. I incline preferentially to things and they respond by assuming a certain slant relative to my biographical efforts to live my life. World is earth and cosmos extending as horizons, limits, and ideal ranges of my projective enterprise. As such, it is order and not chaos. Other forms of worldhood could, and may exist, other circumstantial realms are possible, but empirically and as far as we know by experience, bodily human life takes place only within this earthly worldhood.

Yet the world is always more than we know, never exhausted, ever opulent in new possibilities for living. Now we acknowledge a singular fact that takes us empirically beyond the abstract designation of “human life.” Our worldly installation occurs in two human modes, man and woman. By reconciling in Metaphysical Anthropology our common experience of “sexuate” and bodily life with the general metaphysical theory of “radical reality” in Ortega, Marías takes full possession of his doctrine and method.

From now on he moves with familiar ease across the terrain of human life. With singular intelligence, eloquence, and sympathy he sheds light on the relationships of love, friendship, and hope that are the foundation of human life. And now with this said, we return to our starting point, Persona, to consider some of the final fruits of his labors performed from and within the full metaphysical theory, which he polished during Ortega’s lifetime and completed in his.

The title Persona is as succinct as it is exact. It presupposes the metaphysical underpinnings of the general theory but concentrates on what was most important to Marías: the human person, or perhaps better said, the beloved human person. As he declares: “The highest perfection we know as reality is a person.”[34] And we know that he spoke and wrote more about persons than any other topic. By means of the philosophy he helped create, combined with an uncommon intuition finetuned by a lifetime of observation, he was able to understand and value persons in all their uniqueness from within.[35] It seems fitting to remind ourselves that his purpose in Persona, and indeed in one way or another in all his philosophy, is to understand “the most important reality of this world, and at the same time, the most mysterious and elusive: the human person.”

But if Persona is the final leg of a long philosophical journey, it is more than a mere summary or recapitulation of previous works. In the first place it is replete with original thoughts. Secondly, there runs throughout all his work a concern not only for concepts themselves but also for the proper literary genre in which to express them. For this reason, although we recognize his unmistakable style in every book he wrote, each one reveals stylistic innovations according to theme.

We recall that his twenty-year delay in writing Metaphysical Anthropology was a case in point. Marías was always busy and his agenda replete with projects and engagements, yet, curiously, he never gave the impression of being hurried or impatient. Somehow, he always had time to visit, write articles, and converse with friends. His writings are characterized by two unique qualities: stylistic courtesy and page quality. It was not that Marías simply wrote, as though in a vacuum, he did so with an image of his readers in mind, anticipating their questions and foreseeing their difficulties. An admired stylist, he acknowledged the inherent risks of writing, but commented in Persona that not to run the risk was equivalent to running away from philosophy.

This presence of persons is the starting point of Persona. I perceive persons phenomenologically as incarnated beings, yet if I would begin to understand them, I cannot reduce them to the status of mere substance, not even rational substance, as philosophers once taught. Incarnation is the mode of human insertion in the world, but we transcend our physical being by living futuristically in plans and projects.[36]

The things around me seem to be existentially sufficient and complete in themselves, but though physical beings ourselves and thus subject to the world’s distresses, we live toward the future and thus to one degree or another transcend our physical limitations. This means that as persons we are partially unreal, ever emerging into further life. It also means that we dramatically articulate our past and future, unlike things that appear in themselves to possess neither dimension. This is why, Marías tells us, life admits of degrees, permitting disillusionment and dissolution but also accommodating conversion and repentance in both a secular and religious sense.

Marías reminds us in Persona and elsewhere that chance may intervene to interrupt our plans.[37] But its intervention may work to our good. For example, he says in human affairs chance sometimes breaks in to disrupt schemes and restore us to freedom. In the best of cases, it opens the way to a new and better destiny. For life, he tells us, must allow flexibility, the possibility of incrementation if we are positioned too low, or descent if we have gone too high. For much of our life may remain latent, mere possibility. Self-discovery comes late for some, but late or soon, the ancient imperative holds true: know thyself.[38]

The trivialization of personal life is anathema to Marías for it means that the person finds no meaning in living, or further, that there is no purpose in life and no reason to continue it, that it is an accident, an inconvenience, a tragedy. Whether there is an ultimate purpose in life is a question in which he has a passionate interest, for himself certainly, but probably more so for those he loves.

But to trivialize it in ways that range from suicide and murder to mere self-effacement and indifference cannot be justified by anything in his philosophic idearium. On the contrary, to him the world is full of marvels and marvelous projects, the greatest of which is the project of oneself, for once created and placed in life, man makes himself.[39]

Finally, Marías reminds us that as persons we cannot think of ourselves as inexistent. For as we imagine our inexistence, we place ourselves there as living witnesses to our non-being. The notion is contradictory. At another level, he finds it surprising that people who cannot accept the total destruction of anything, can readily admit the absolute annihilation of the highest and most intense reality that we know of: the human person.[40]

Love in its different levels is the means through which we have living knowledge of other persons; through it we perceive and understand what is personal in them without the occluding factors that habitually intervene between them and us. This will prove to be the confirmation that the human person, before being intelligent or rational, is an amorous creature, a being created in love. The fact that this perspective has not been tried is perhaps the main reason why the meaning of what a person is has eluded almost the entirety of human thought.[41]

Although in these and similar comments he veers in sympathy with theology, Marías does so as a philosopher. His faith, never shaken, admits no doubt of human immortality, but as always, he seeks truth not only with his heart and soul but also with his strength and mind. He was not a person to do things halfway. Hear now his final written words on the matter of personal survival:

This leads us to consider the unlikelihood of annihilation of the human person. If we are obliged to accept as evident a person as a created being, then we have to consider and justify the sense of personal annihilation. From this perspective the continuation of a person appears to be coherent with the form of reality we have discovered in personal life.[42]

Julián Marías was a person of truth not only in his philosophy but also in his life. Shortly before his death an interviewer asked him what he was proudest of in his life. “Never having lied,” he answered without hesitation.

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Carpintero, Helio. Julián Marías, una vida en la verdad. Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, 2008.

Donoso, Anton. Julián Marias. Boston: Twayne, 1982.

____. José Ortega y Gasset: A Bibliography of Secondary Sources. With Harold Raley. Bowling Green, Ohio: The Philosophy Documentation Center, 1986.

Dust, Patrick (editor). Ortega y Gasset and the Question of Modernity. Minneapolis, The Primus Institute, 1989.

González Fernández, Enrique. Julián Marías: Apóstol de la divina razón. Madrid: San Pablo, 2017.

Marías, Julián. Antropología metafísica. La estructura empírica de la vida humana. Madrid: Revista de Occidente, 1970.

____.Innovación y arcaísmo. Madrid: Revista de Occidente, 1973.

____.La mujer en el siglo XX. Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1980.

____.La mujer y su sombra. Madrid. Alianza Editorial, 1986.

____.Ortega: Circumstance and Vocation, Norman, Oklahoma: The University of Oklahoma Press, 1970.

____.Ortega: Las trayectorias. Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1983.

____.Persona. Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1996.

____.Razón de la filosofía. Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1993,

____.The Christian Perspective. Houston: Halcyon Press, 2000.

____.Una vida presente. Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1988-89.

Ortega y Gasset, José. Meditaciones del Quijote. Madrid: Revista de Occidente, Vol I, 1963.

____.Obras completas. XI vols. Madrid: Revista de Occidente, 1961-69.

Ouimette, Victor. José Ortega y Gasset. Boston: Twayne, 1982.

Raley, Harold. A Watch Over Mortality: The Philosophical Story of Julián Marías. New York: SUNY Press, 1997.

____.Husserlian ‘Reduction’ Seen from the Perspective of Phenomenological ‘Life’ in the Ortegan School,” Analecta Husserliana, Vol. 36 (1991) 371-85.

____.Reflections on Ortega y Gasset’s ¿Qué es filosofía? Revue Internationale de Philosophie. Directed by Francesco de Nigris. Brussels, Belgium. No. I (2015), 69-92.

____.Phenomenological ‘Life”: A New Look at the Philosophic Enterprise in Ortega y Gasset. Analecta Husserliana, Vol. 29 (1989), 93-105.

____.Responsible Vision: The Philosophy of Julián Marías. Clear Creek, Indiana: The American Hispanist, 1980.

Scheler, Max. Vom Umsturz der Werte. Bern: (Franke Verlag), 1972.

Unamuno, Miguel de. The Tragic Sense of Life. London:

Macmillian and Co. 1931.

  1. The most comprehensive writing on Marías’ relationship with Ortega, as his mentor was commonly called, and many notable figures of his time is his three-volume autobiography Una vida presente (best translated as “A Life Recalled). Madrid. Alianza Editorial, 1988-89, as yet untranslated. English-speaking readers may rely for general guidance on the following works: Victor Ouimette, José Ortega y Gasset. Boston, Twayne, 1982, and Patrick Dust (Ed.) Ortega y Gasset and the Question of Modernity. The Pimus Institute, Minneapolis,1989. For the first of Marías’ volumes on Ortega, see Ortega: Circumstance and Vocation. Norman, Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma Press, 1970. For Ortega’s influence on Marías, this writer’s two books on Marías: Responsible Vision: The Philosophy of Julián Marías. Clear Creek, Indiana. The American Hispanist, Inc. 1980; A Watch over Mortality: The Philosophical Story of Julián Marías. Albany, SUNY Press, 1997.
  2. Julián Marías, Persona (Person). Madrid, Alianza Editorial, 1996, p. 9. (Unless otherwise indicated, this and subsequent translations are by this writer.) Persona, along with Mapa del mundo personal (Map of the Personal World [1993]) and Razón de la filosofía (Reason of Philosophy [1993]) though slender in volume, are inversely rich in content. Having laid the foundation of his doctrine in earlier works that were necessarily more extensive, Metaphysical Anthropology (1970), for example, Marías was able to draw conclusions in his final books with admirable linguistic economy and conciseness. It is important to note, however, that each of his scores of writings exhibits its own exegetical sufficiency, which lends them individual clarity and collective cohesiveness. None of these later works has been translated into English.
  3. In his comprehensive study (589 pp.), Julián Marías: Apóstol de la divina razón (Apostle of Divine Reason [2017]), Fr. Enrique González Fernández, friend and disciple of the philosopher, documents several trying episodes of Marías’ life either unreported by other researchers or mentioned only in passing. These included a long period (1939-1952) of persecution marked by betrayal, imprisonment, and verbal assaults by Marxists, reactionary clergy, and Franco sympathizers; and the final years of his life (2000-05) during which he lay bedridden with intense pain but without protest and with Christian resignation. He remained alert and creative to the end. (In his last letter to this writer in 2004 Marías told of reviewing from his bed and from memory all his thousands of published pages and reciting hundreds of pages of beloved poetry in several languages. He was blessed with a photographic memory that enabled him to write quickly and review comprehensively, rarely needing to consult primary sources.)
  4. Obras (works), Vol. II, xxiii. Elsewhere he comments with fine irony that unlike what usually happens in human genealogy, in philosophy it is the son who recognizes the father.
  5. Marías explains that even though he became aware of the missing “empirical theory” as early as 1947 and made formal reference to it in 1952 (“Human Life and its Empirical Structure” [Obras, IV, 341-347]), not until 1968 was he prepared to attack the problem frontally. For even though the ideas were formulated, the stylistic innovations required for their proper expression were not. In his brief prologue to the work mentioned above Marías gives the sequence of works leading up the complete theory.
  6. Here we also use the term “thing,” as Ortega used cosa, its Spanish equivalent, in the conversational meaning of anything nonspecific or unknown.
  7. Meditations on Quixote (1914), (Obras, I, Madrid. Revista de Occidente, 6th ed. 1963, pp 365-400) was the first mature version of “radical reality”. But though a mature statement of his doctrine, the second iteration in What is Philosophy? Offers a greater explicative context. See this writer’s essay “Reflections on Ortega y Gasset’s ¿Qué es filosofía? Revue Internationale de Philosophie. Directed by Francesco de Nigris. Brussels, Belgium. No. 1, 2015, pp. 69-92.
  8. Although Ortega does not dwell at length on the person of Don Quixote in the Meditations, the pathetic knight errant incarnates the leit-motiv of the work. Authentic life is heroic, Ortega tells us, for it consists in the boldness to be oneself by overcoming limiting custom and convention and initiating an original gesture (Meditations, Op. Cit., p. 390). Elsewhere Ortega declares: “The hero has no customs; his life is an incessant creation” (Obras, II. Madrid, Revista de Occidente, 1963, p. 178). Don Quixote himself responds to all who ridicule him by stating categorically: “I know who I am.”
  9. Obras, I, p. 311 ff. Ortega then adds these comments: “In these essays I wish to propose to readers younger than I, the only ones to whom, without immodesty, I can address myself, that they expel from their spirit all habits of hatred and aspire mightily that love may return to administer the universe.” He goes on to define philosophy as “the general science of love.” In a moment of similar inspiration, Marías declares: “. . . reality is marvelous. Its inexhaustible richness appears to the eyes of the one who dares to look upon it. Hence the intense pleasure that accompanies philosophy when it is contemplation, interpretation, apprehension, and possession of reality” (Razón de la filosofía [Reason of Philosophy]). Madrid, Alianza Editorial, 1993, p 256).
  10. . Ortega retained his brilliance but lost much of his youthful optimism as age and bouts of illness and perhaps depression seemed to sap his earlier exuberance. Among other forebodings, he declared in 1952: “Western civilization has died a beautiful and honorable death.” Obas, IX, p. 660. On the other hand, Marías, who was firmly grounded in his faith, exuberantly healthy until an advanced age, and positioned solidly in a supple metaphysical method, wrote many of his best books in old age.
  11. After first describing phenomenology as “a stroke of good luck,” Ortega realized by 1913 that it could not be the philosophy that he and his German classmates were seeking. By the time he returned from Germany in 1912 Ortega had in place the three main elements that would culminate in his own philosophy in 1914: (1) “my life” as the irreducible “radical reality”; (2) the theory of circumstance, the “other half” of one’s life,” which must be understood not in the environmental or organic sense it acquires in Uexkúll but as interactive situational being; and (3) descriptive perspective, the Husserlian core of what he learned in Germany.
  12. Marías was twenty-six when he completed the work in 1940. Exiled at the time in Argentina and without seeing the manuscript, Ortega nevertheless approved its publication by Revista de Occidente, his family-owned press. The book appeared in 1941 and sold out in three days. Since then it has gone through dozens of editions and reprintings—more than eighty at last count—and has been translated into several languages. It must certainly rank among the most widely sold philosophical books in modern times.
  13. Baroja also suggested that Ortega was the best Spanish writer since Cervantes. Pío Baroja, Obras completas, Madrid, Plenitud, 1947, 755. From experience in translating both Ortega and Marías (more the latter than the former), this writer can verify what other translators have experienced: Ortega’s poetic prose does not lend itself easily to translation into English, whereas what writer Enrique Lafuente has called Marías’ “diamantine” style does so readily. Consequently, while Marías is recognizably himself in English, the anglicized Ortega sometimes sounds unflatteringly melodramatic and overblown.
  14. For an English-language guide to Ortega, this writer recommends Victor Ouimette’s José Ortega y Gasset. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982. Also Patrick Dust, (Ed.) Ortega y Gasset and the Question of Modernity. The Prisma Institute, Minnapolis, 1989. Among the thousands of writings on Ortega in many languages, Distinguished scholar Anton Donoso and this writer collaborated on a volume of secondary sources on Ortega: José Ortega y Gasset: A Biography of Secondary Sources. Bowling Green, Ohio, Philosophy Documentation Center, 1986. The volume contains 4,125 entries, and hundreds of additional studies have appeared since. Indeed, as Marías has gained prominence, Ortega has enjoyed a limited resurgence because of their association. For insights on Ortega’s intellectual trajectory I venture to recommend again my essay: “Reflections on Ortega y Gasset’s ¿Qué es filosofía? Op.cit. The issue includes insightful essays in French by noted Ortega and Marías experts: Francesco de Nigris, Ignacio Sánchez Cámara, Enrique González Fernández, and Nieves Gómez Alvarez.
  15. Miguel de Unamuno, The Tragic Sense of Life. Macmillian and Co., London, 1931, 107.
  16. Max Scheler, Vom Umsturz der Werte (1972) (On the Overthrow of Worth). Ed. Maria Scheler. Bern, Gesammelte Werke, Franke Verlag, 1972, III, 186. Scheler’s comment demonstrates both the importance of the concept and the linguistic inadequacy of the era to describe it.
  17. Two eminent American scholars, Nelson Orringer and Phillip Silver, have argued that Ortega owned much more to Germany than he admitted. In his Ortega y sus fuentes germánicas(Ortega and his German Sources). Madrid: Gredos, 1979, 375 pp., Orringer claims that Ortega pilfered most of his ideas from German thinkers—and that Marías did the same with Ortega. Silver says that despite his claim that he broke with Husserl, Ortega remained a phenomenologist all this life: Ortega as Phenomenologist, The Genesis of Meditations on Quijote. New York: Columbia University, 1978. 175 pp. In other writings this writer has rejected both theses, first, by pointing to Ortega’s own admission of his indebtedness and differences regarding his German mentors and, second, that nothing like Ortegan philosophy, and even less in the case of Marías, can be found in Germany. This dismissive disposition on the part of several scholars is based most likely on the pedantic notion that a philosopher’s sources and influences are also his or her destiny as thinkers. Speaking of his own loyalty to Ortega, Marías writes: “… it is not fidelity to the past; it is fidelity to the future. By this I mean fidelity to the projects and endeavors, to the objective.” Innovación y arcaísmo (Innovation and Archaism). Madrid, El Alción, 1973, p. 19. On a related topic, Helio Carpintero, psychologist, philosopher, and disciple of Marías, reminds us that Marias owned much to several other Spanish professors: the philosophy of radical reality in Ortega; the primacy of the person in Unamuno, and the theme of God in Xavier Zubiri. It is this regard, it is significant that Marías’ first book was on Unamuno, not Ortega. In several untranslated books Carpintero offers many insights into Marías’ doctrines, for instance, his Julián Marías, una vida en la verdad. Madrid, Biblioteca Nueva, 2008. This is one of many books by eminent Spanish and Latin American scholars that cry out for translation.
  18. Ortega: circunstancia y vocación, 380-81.
  19. In Ortega, Obras completas, Vol. VI, 22. In this same context Ortega makes the startling statement that man does not have a nature; what he has is a history. History is reason, precisely the superior reason, because it explains on the maximum scale why human things are as they are. This is why he declares elsewhere that “man is the novelist of himself, and that if we would understand anything truly human, we must tell a story. For his part, Marías states in Metaphysical Anthropology that each human life is understandable by narrating it Op. Cit. p. 87. Hence the close affinity of drama and philosophy in Marías. In private correspondence to this writer shortly after the publication of Metaphysical Anthropology, Marías expressed disappointment that readers were treating the work as a text or treatise and not as the dramatic work with internal movement he intended it to be.
  20. Ortega: circunstancia y vocación, 381-82.
  21. Ibid, 395.
  22. Obras , VII, 411.
  23. Except for the first five years of his childhood in Valladolid and a year away from Spain as Visiting Professor at Wellesley College (1951-52), Marías lived the rest of his life in Madrid. But until well into old age by conventional standards, his yearly itinerary took him regularly to North and South America, and on other occasions to many countries. In Madrid he studied under Ortega and other illustrious members of the “School of Madrid. There he met and married (in 1941) classmate Dolores Franco y Manera with whom he had five sons. He recalled with nostalgic fondness his years at the University of Madrid: “The School of Philosophy and Letters of Madrid during the years I spent there—1931-36—was a marvel to behold . . . a school of fellowship, veracity, intellectual rigor, respect, and freedom. My debt to that school can be repaid in only one way: by being faithful to it, to what it was for five years and should have been forever.”
  24. Marías gives an overview of his thoughts on Christianity in The Christian Perspective. Houston, Halcyon Press, 2000. He admired C.S. Lewis and took a similar stance on many aspects of “mere” or pure Christianity. In this spirit he questioned the validity of certain “accretions” added over the ages to core doctrines and was pleased with the innovations of Vatican II. He resisted the notion, common to some religions and certain sects of Christianity, that all truth is contained in holy writ. Christianity, he explains, is not the entirety of truth, but the light by which we may discover truth.
  25. Marías made these and related comments in an unpublished lecture delivered in Soria (1973) the contents of which were made known to me by Marie-Claude del Agua. Other published works coincide closely with this lecture. This writer has compiled many of them in Responsible Vision, Op. Cit., pp. 29-57. The youthful Marías hoped that Xavier Zubiri, his university professor and author of Naturaleza, Historia, Dios (Nature, History, God), Madrid. Editora Nacional, 1963, would develop a truly Christian philosophy. It was not to be. In 1993 he commented: “For a long time I have thought that the only acceptable meaning of the expression ‘Christian philosophy” is the philosophy of Christians as such, that is to say, that conceived from the perspective in which they find themselves as a consequence of the religious condition that causes them to look in certain directions . . .” (Razón de la filosofía, Madrid, Alianza Editorial, 1993, p. 284).
  26. This writer introduced the neologism sexado into English as the cognate “sexuate” in several studies and translations, all the while thinking of the errors that Freudianism and related branches of psychoanalysis could have avoided had the differences between “sex” and “sexuate” been known.
  27. La mujer en el siglo XX (Woman in the Twentieth Century). Madrid. Alianza Editorial, 1980; and La mujer y su sombra (Woman and her Shadow). Madrid. Alianza Editorial, 1986. In addition to his many insights, Marías’ writings on woman may be seen as correctives to the inveterate notion that friendship between men and women is either impossible, censurable, or covert or sublimated sexual attraction. Indeed, he believes that these intersexuate friendships are among the richest and most rewarding of human relationships. Both books honor many women, and above all his wife whose death in 1977 caused him to suspend his writings for more than a year. The quality of his writing never dipped, but only gradually did he begin to regain a measure of his former spontaneity.
  28. Antropología metafísica. Madrid: Revista de Occidente, p. 84. (Subsequently published in English: Metaphysical Anthropology. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1971.) Citations in this essay refer to the Spanish language texts. As stated earlier, both Marías and Ortega wrote for vast publics and with a minimum of technical language.
  29. Ibid., p. 89.
  30. Ibid. p. 91. The analytical structure occurs as stable, enduring forms; the empirical structure subject to variation and change, lends itself most readily to narration.
  31. Marías points out that because Spaniards have not had a long philosophical history and most of what they have written has been in Latin, not Spanish, philosophers in other languages have not had the advantage—or the problems—of dealing with Spanish and its two verbs of being: ser and estar (from latin esse and stare, respectively). While ser may refer to any form of reality—or unreality—estar, which is source of -stance in circumstance, deals most often with placement. The interplay between the two verbs, as one would expect, is one of the prime difficulties speakers of other languages encounter in their study of Spanish.
  32. Metaphysical Anthropology, p. 88.
  33. Ibid., 96.
  34. Persona, p. 91.
  35. Those knew Marías have remarked how perceptive he was about people. He appeared to discern character with a word and falsehood at a glance. He was all about truth and he inspired truthfulness in others.
  36. Persona, 18. In this same context Marías observes that incarnation or bodily being offers a surprising analogy to the account of human creation in Genesis.
  37. Persona, p, 25. Marías discusses chance and its significance for human freedom at length in Metaphysical Anthropology, 257-67.
  38. Persona, p. 28.
  39. Ibid., p. 86.
  40. Ibid., p. 175.
  41. Ibid., p. 176.
  42. Ibid., 176.

Posted by Harold Raley

A native of the Deep South, Harold Raley spends much time observing people in all levels of society. His thorough command of English, French, and Spanish greatly helps him understandand write about the people he moves among. He has traveled widely in the Americas and Europe and studied the literature, history, and philosophy of France, Spain, the United States, and England. A published author of a dozen books, Dr. Raley also has academic credentials and has taught for universities in Texas, Alabama, and Oklahoma. He and his wife Vicky live in Friendswood, Texas.

  • I wonder if Ted Chiang’s short story “Exhalation” somewhat captures this idea of Radical Reality (particularly, the paragraph in this essay mentioning the “facial description” brought this to mind).

    If you’ve read it, I’d be interested in your thoughts. (The story can be found in the book by the same name, but which is a collection of Chiang’s short stories. As an aside, more than most fiction authors, I find that Chiang’s work is usually fruitful as an entry point for philosophical discourse.)