Existentialism and Life Energy TheoryJune 27, 2021
Gasset’s philosophy is about life.
He is not interested in analyzing the world in a cool and detached way. Instead, he wants to examine how philosophy can be creatively intertwined with life.
Ortega believes that the mind is not passive but active—something that allows us to overcome our circumstances and improve our lives for the better. In his “Reflections on Don Quixote” published in 1914, Ortega states: “I am myself and my circumstances.” Descartes says that it is possible for us to conceive of ourselves as thinking beings, yet we can still doubt the existence of the external world in which our own bodies are located. But Ortega states that seeing ourselves apart from the world means nothing. If we want to think seriously about ourselves, we always have to see ourselves in certain conditions—often oppressive and limiting conditions. These limitations arise not only from our physical environment, but also from our behaviors shaped by our thoughts and habits, including our prejudices.
While many people live without reflecting on the nature of their conditions, Ortega says that philosophers should not only strive to better understand their circumstances, but actively seek ways to change them. In fact, he argues, the task of a philosopher is to uncover the assumptions that underlie our beliefs.
To transform the world and connect creatively with our own existence, says Ortega, we must look at our lives with a new eye. This means looking not only at our external circumstances, but also within ourselves in a way that reconsiders our beliefs and prejudices. Only if we do this can we devote ourselves to creating new possibilities. However, there is a limit to our ability to change the world. Our habitual thinking is ingrained, and while we see ourselves free enough to imagine new possibilities and new futures, our external circumstances may be standing in the way of seeing these possibilities. The futures we imagine will always collide with the reality of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. This is why Ortega sees life as a series of conflicts with the future.
Ortega’s thinking is compelling on both a personal and political level. It reminds us that every change initiative will be challenging and that we have a duty to oppose limiting conditions, even if they are not always successful. In Insurrection of the Masses, he warns that democracy in itself threatens the domination of the majority, and that to live by the laws of the majority—to live “like everyone else”—is to live without a personal vision or moral code. If we are not creatively involved in our own lives, we are not alive. This is why for Ortega the mind is vitally important; The mind carries the energy of life within it.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook