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134Philosophy and Literature Ortega as Phenomenologist: The Genesis ofMeditations on Quixote, by Philip W. Silver; xi & 175 pp. New York: Columbia University Press, 1978, $12.00. This penetrating study is at once a performance and an exposition of Ortega's notion of "historical reason." Its occasion is a troubling void at the center of his corpus: if one takes seriously Ortega's claim (made in protest against the apparent novelty of Martin Heidegger's analysis of Being-in-the-world in Being and Time [1927]) to have already discovered the primacy of "human life" when he wrote his first book, Meditations on Quixote (1914), it is puzzling, even disturbing, that there is no major treatise announcing and arguing this discovery. Because the Meditations explicitly withholds the "apodictic evidence" necessary to such argument, that work can be regarded only as the first "implementation" and not as an "originative" account of the discovery. But this leaves us in the dark as to how—and how fully and when—Ortega reached his new orientation. In the face of this, many have decided against his claim to originality, rejecting it as (at worst) the self-serving hindsight of a talented plagiarist. Against this rejection, Professor Silver sets an insightful, scholarly reconstruction of Ortega's circumstances, goals, and development in 1911-14, the period of his second visit to Marburg. The key element on Silver's analysis is Ortega's complex experience with Husserlian phenomenology. The early Husserl's abandonment of the phenomenal/noumenal distinction and his drive for an intuitive recovery of "things themselves" offered a way beyond the idealistic constructivism and abstraction of Marburg neo-Kantianism. Searching to integrate Germanic "ideality" with Spanish "impressionism" through the formulation of an authentically Spanish esthetic, Ortega evidently thought he had found in phenomenology "both a proto-'esthetic' and . . . the 'First Philosophy' he had returned to Germany to discover" (p. 55). With the publication of the Ideas in 1913, however, Husserl declared for idealism. In Silver's view, this seeming "betrayal" was enormously generative for Ortega. Provoked by Husserl's emphasis on pure consciousness and the methodological priority of reflexive viewing and aided in his objections by his readings of Scheler, Brentano, and (partly through Brentano) Aristotle, Ortega was moved to assert the practical and performative character of consciousness as, in his word, ejecutividad. Thus he discovered the priority of "human life"—the actively interpretive and decisive engagement of self with circumstance—over consciousness as such. By this "repudiation" of phenomenology, however, Ortega in fact "discovered its future direction" (pp. 88-89): he was the first to practice an existential and "mundane phenomenology," preceding Heidegger and the later Husserl alike. Will Professor Silver's study persuade anti-Ortegan sceptics? It seems unlikely. The detail, complexity, and pointedness of his reconstruction make his thesis plausible, yet these qualities also underscore its interpretive character. Moreover, his reliance on Danilo Cruz Velez's "illuminating account of Heidegger's 'overcoming' of Husserl" in showing the emergence of the Ortegan concept Shorter Reviews135 of "life" may be ill-advised: even those predisposed to accept Ortega's originality will be troubled to read Silver's acknowledgment that "I have simply replaced Heidegger with Ortega in Cruz Velez's version in my reconstruction of what must have been the steps that carried Ortega beyond Scheler and Husserl in 1914" (p. 85, n. 49). But perhaps this is really a secondary matter. Silver's project and point of view shed valuable new light on a host of otherwise obscure pre- 19 14 essays, as well as on the Meditations. Above all, he shows Ortega's substantive kinship with the phenomenological movement, especially in its basic drive beyond idealism to a recovery of the world in its primordial presence. In light of this inner bond, both the long-standing superiority of anti-Ortegan Germanists and Ortega's own rather incongruous defensiveness seem beside the point. Vassar CollegeMitchell H. Miller, Jr. The Greek Concept ofJustice: From its Shadow in Homer to its Substance in Plato, by Eric A. Havelock; ix & 382 pp. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978, $16.50. Classical scholars have long worried over the ways in which the Greek words that are generally translated by justice, dike...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 134-135
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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