I was wondering what is the general opinion about Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset. Here in Spain he is the philosopher, the go to when asked about an important thinker. There aren't many other Spanish philosophers with "first rank" work (María Zambrano, Gustavo Bueno and maybe Unamuno).

I have a vague memory of someone saying that Ortega y Gasset did nothing original and copied German philosophers. I read The Revolt of the Masses and didn't like it that much (it wasn't a mindblowing new conception and/or analysis of society). Later I read two shorter essays and really loved them, but I am not sure if the ideas there are his or not.

I would really like to know if he only introduced European ideas in Spain or did in fact contribute something new to philosophy. If so, are these contributions well regarded in the community?


  • 1
    See e.g. José Ortega y Gasset for references. Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 15:57
  • He was well educated in German philosophy. It is said he copied Heidegger too much. I don’t know Heidegger enough to give an opinion. This idea of “generations” is very interesting. Also, “I am my life and my circumstances.” Which may be better translated as “I am my life and my surroundings.”
    – Gordon
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 17:44
  • My feeling is he (Ortega) suffered later in life from cardiovascular disease (arteriosclerosis) an educated guess, and his capacity was diminished. Also Julian Maria’s philosophy was/is good. These were both philosophers of life. It is a great disappointment to me that I don’t know Spanish because Marias has some videos in Spanish on YouTube and I would like to listen to them.
    – Gordon
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 17:50
  • Keep in mind, Julian Marias was heavily influenced by Ortega. Not the same as Ortega, but influenced by him. Marias wrote many good and interesting books too. As an example, Julian Marias, “Antropologia Metafisica”. This was a great book. As you can see the thoughts of an important professor here: review by Dr. Wilson, Amazon. amazon.com/Metaphysical-Anthropology-Empirical-Structure-Human/…
    – Gordon
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 19:17
  • English work on Marias’s Philosophy, again influenced by Ortega. “A Watch over Mortality: the Philosophical story of Julian Marias” by Harold Raley. State Univ NY Press, 1997.
    – Gordon
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 19:49

1 Answer 1


The great thing about Unamuno is that he stood up to Franco very publicly. Yes he appreciated the Roman Catholic faith, but not the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman church that also made a pact with Mussolini (and later with Franco).

So at the end of the day, Unamuno was a Basque through and through. A true, unique individual.

Ortega I think he was wisely an atheist. Am I right? Well I think so. It would be impossible back then to modernize with the Church’s hands around the neck of Spain.

I mentioned Heidegger above. The idea proposed by Julian Marias was that Ortega came before Heidegger, therefore he was independent of the influence of the ideas of Heidegger. But you can see a review here on Marias’ book on Ortega. There is no use for me to repeat it. Here https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262011323_Ortega_By_Julian_Marias

Sometimes Marias got a little carried away with trying to prove Ortega was original. But we should emphasize that no philosopher is completely original. We have a long history of philosophy now!

But I do think Ortega is very much worth studying. What is your opinion, Pedro?

I think Ortega did produce some original philosophy. He was influenced by German philosophy, but Ortega did original things with it. A special, unique emphasis by Ortega: Life. But this life, one’s surroundings, is not exactly the same as Heidegger’s present—to-handedness.

Newer secondary literature:

“Ortega’s Mereology, Theory of Knowledge and Metaphysic as the Foundation of Julián Marías’ "Metaphysical Anthropology" Authors: Francesco De Nigris Source: Anales del Seminario de Historia de la Filosofía, Vol 35, Iss 1, Pp 205-232 (2018) Publisher Information: Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 2018.

I think the more you know of the history of philosophy, the more you appreciate Ortega and Julian Marias. Marias said in his “Historia de la Filosofia” (1966) that true philosophy can only be metaphysics. This was saying something radical, and important, in 1966! But their philosophies are not as simple as they first appear to be.


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