I. SITUATION OF THE HEGELIAN PROBLEM-The Greek World: Nature-The Christian World: Spirit.

II. THE METAPHYSICS OF HEGEL-His point of Departure: The Absolute Spirit-Structure of the Absolute Spirit: Becoming and its Moments (Being, Essence, Conceptual Thought)-Reality and Historicity: Eternity-Philosophy as Absolute Knowledge of the Absolute: The Dialectic.

III. THE CENTRAL QUESTION: Unity of Being, Spirit, and Truth-1) Aristotle, Descartes, Hegel-2) Essence of Consciousness: Intentionality-3) The Idea of Human Existence: Eccentricity-The Three Metaphors.

IV. CONCLUSION: Ontology and Philosophy-Solitude, Root of Philosophy.

[199] {225}



Philosophy is not just another occupation of man, not even the most sublime; it is rather a fundamental mode of man's intellectual existence. For this reason it is not born from an arbitrary play of thoughts, but from the unsettled, problematic situation in which time, his time, has placed a man.

Our situation, today perceived as a problem, is the situation in which Europe has lived and developed during the course of many centuries. As Europe continued to create itself, man was able to feel himself comfortably lodged there; yet now that it has reached its maturity man indeed feels-as Hegel said-refuted here in his own proper existence.

The intellectual maturity of Europe is Hegel. And this, not just by virtue of his Philosophy, but his History and Legal theory as well. In a certain sense, Europe is the state, and perhaps only in Hegel has an ontology of the state been produced. The truth of Europe is in Hegel. I am well aware that this assertion sounds a bit exaggerated. That matters little. Once Ortega y Gasset told me that history is undone by dint of justice. If we exaggerate, the important thing is to know that we are exaggerating. What confers upon Hegel his rank and historical magnitude in Philosophy is just that character of maturity and intellectual plenitude which in him grasps the whole evolution of metaphysics, from Parmenides to Schelling. Consequently, every authentic philosophy today begins by being a conversation with Hegel, a conversation, in the first place, about us, from our situation; a conversation, moreover, with Hegel, not about Hegel, i.e. by making a problem-and not just a topic of conversation-for us out of what for him was likewise a problem. Philosophy is eternal repetition.

In today's fast-paced world one experiences a special pleasure in seeking to calmly re-explore the Hegelian problem in some of its most important dimensions. "As strange," said Hegel at the beginning of his Logic, "as a people for whom {226} their political rights, inclinations, and habits have been abrogated, is the spectacle of a people who have lost their metaphysics, a people in [200] whom the spirit, occupied with its own essence, does not have therein any real existence whatever."

In order to again find it we must retire, as Hegel later says, "to the tranquil anterooms of thought which has turned in upon itself and remained there, where the cares and problems which animate the lives of peoples and individuals are silent."

What is Hegel's problem? What is the road which opens before him? What is our situation?

Hegel's position in the history of philosophy is, as I said, the situation determined by the fact that in him philosophy acquires its complete maturity.

What is it, in fact, that Greek philosophy said about the universe? When a Greek confronts the universe, asking what is Nature?, he understands by "Nature" the conjunction of everything which exists: a conjunction, not just in the sense of a summation of the infinite number of things there are in the universe, but above all, in the sense that all these infinite things naturally spring from Nature, each with its own personal and individual destiny. Therefore this conjunction is natura, physis, Nature. To this physis, as totality of the universe, the Greek man directs himself in order to concretely formulate the question: what is "that which is"?

Now, this question turns out to be motivated by something. It is not a question which Greek man formulates arbitrarily or by chance about the universe. The universe, Nature, that which is out there, is subject to perpetual change. Hence, faced with this change, man asks: what, definitively, in its ultimate, internal, and true root, is Nature, that which always remains? Nature is the arkhe, the principio of its modifications, and the telos, the end where they all lead. In this way change offers to the Greek something essentially required for beginning and {227} end, for arkhe and telos. Consequently the Greek concept of nature leads to the point where the mobility of that nature recoils upon itself, so to speak, and acquires a final point of support in the Theos, in God. God, the divinity, is not, for Aristotle, anything but the absolute which calls forth proper variations in the universe. As cause of being, the Aristotelian God does not produce things, but causes Nature to produce them, by setting it in motion.

Only insofar as they are emerging from that physis, only insofar as they spring forth and form part of Nature, is it that things, properly speaking, are for a Greek. They are; or as [201] Aristotle will say they possess in themselves ousia, a there being, so to speak, which constitutes the permanent source from which emerge all the manifestations and all the possibilities which integrate what constitutes that which we commonly refer to as "thing." For this reason Aristotle said that the problem of what that which is, is ultimately reduces to the problem of what that which constitutes the permanent source of a thing is, to wit, what Aristotle called "substance," ousia. That is, things are what they are in virtue of being the support from whence emerge all the properties they offer me. If I say of this house that it has fixed dimensions, then the house is, in a certain sense, that which supports the qualifier or predicate of its dimensions. The properties of a thing are thus manifestations of its substance. Now, on account of being the substance, i.e. the support or root out of which the properties of a thing are born, this thing is not fully what it is except where and when its substance actually and formally is actuating. This is what Aristotle understood when he said that the supreme form of being is energeia, actuality, action. In the actuality of a thing (with the double meaning which, even in English, this word has: on one hand, that which is acting; on the other, that which now has actuality, in the present), in the actuality of a being is where one definitively encounters its ultimate, radical truth. Truth is the manifestation of a thing. For this reason Aristotle says that "being true" is the highest form of reality. To the vision of the manifest actuality of a thing, which permits us to distinguish its nature from {228} that of all others, the Greeks gave the name noein, vision of true and radical being of things. Being, truth, and vision appear in essential unity. From Parmenides' phrase "Being and the vision of what is are the same" all of Greek thought may be extracted. For this reason the absolute moment of the universe, the God which Aristotle sought in order to give the universe a substantial and definitive character, involved in himself the noein in the form of pure actuality; he is a thought who thinks himself. This absolute of the universe moves without being moved, in the same way as the object of love and desire; and he suffers no change whatever.

This is the moment at which the course of all Occidental metaphysics will be decided, the moment at which Greece will [202] determine once and for all the ultimate meaning of the word truth. Given that a thing is truly offered to us as subject and support of its manifestations, it is fitting that man direct himself to it and make it explicit, i.e. the subject of discourse. Then, not only do I see what a thing is today, but moreover I know what it is. I say of things that they are such and such. I say of this house that it is large, of this table that it is dark, etc. To this phenomenon of saying Greece gave the name logos. Hence, all Greek philosophy is certainly a question about being; but a question about being inasmuch as its truth stands revealed and explained in a saying, in a knowing what a thing is. Through the logos we submerge ourselves explicitly in the vision of what the universe truly is. To live in the midst of that vision, to participate in it is, said Aristotle, the supreme form of human existence.

For Aristotle, theory, explanation, is nothing other than immersing oneself in the universal reason of the universe.

Within this enormous metaphysical construction, seen in the light of the subsequent evolution of human thought, there is perhaps only one reality and one concept which has escaped the Greek mind. And that is the concept and reality with which the European part of the Occident {229} begins its metaphysical speculations: the concept of spirit.

It would be a considerable task to chronicle the moments which integrate this concept. Motivated by religious considerations it acquires conceptual maturity for the first time in Origen and St. Augustine. Spiritus sive animus is that entity which can turn in upon itself, and which, upon doing so, exists separated from the rest of the universe. This moment is going to be decisive for the entire structure of philosophy. Because in fact, upon feeling itself cut off from the rest of the universe, the human spirit does not remain simply in itself: it turns in upon itself so as to discover thee the manifestation of the infinite spirit of the divinity. Philosophy, after Greece, thus begins by being essentially theology. That is, it has separated the human spirit from the universe in order to project it eccentrically onto the divinity, onto that divinity about Whom the Fourth Evangelist told us that He is essentially logos, verbo, word. Hence, when the intellectual, at the beginning of our Era, sought to become aware of and think intellectually about his belief, he showered all the Hellenic speculation onto the logos of St. John and interpreted the Word of God as the reason or explanation of the universe. Since man is [203] created in the image and likeness of God, he surely possesses the reason, the logos, which Greece attributed to him, but he does so through participation in the universal reason, which, in contrast to what the Greek believed, is now found in the divine spirit.

From here metaphysical speculation launches itself, so to speak, along a vertiginous path in which the logos, that began by being the essence of God, ends up being simply the essence of man. This is the moment, in the 14th century, when Ockham says that the essence of the divinity is free will, omnipotence; and hence rational necessity is a property pertaining exclusively to human concepts. It is at this moment that Descartes appears in the intellectual arena. {230}

Descartes finds himself, for the first time in the history of human thought, in the tragic and paradoxical situation not only of being separated from the universe-that Christianity had already realized at the beginning of our Era-but also separated from God. The moment nominalism reduced reason to being a thing of doors within man, a determination of his, purely human, and not the essence of the Divinity, at this instant the human spirit became separated from the Divinity. Alone, then, without a world and without God, the human spirit began to feel insecure in the universe. And what Descartes asks of philosophy, when he beings to philosophize, is just this: to once again find a point of support, something secure. When Descartes says that all things can be doubted, he only wishes to say, in the final analysis, that none of them offers a guarantee of solidity upon which to rest the human spirit-at least not the way they have up to now been presented to it. The ultimate secure redoubt is that in which rational necessity still subsists. In this way the I, the human subject, becomes the center of philosophy, but in a particular way. Ultimately the I, the ego of Descartes, functions in philosophy because what it asks of philosophy is a secure truth. Thus its certainty and not its reality is what decides the central character of the I in philosophical thought.

In the second place, the Cartesian subject does not find itself [204] situated in just any way in the universe, but rather insofar as the rest of the universe is known by it: everything Greece said about the universe, about the absolute being of nature, remains in a certain way enveloped by the subject, but enveloped in a particular form, viz. insofar as it is known securely by him. In the security of knowing, of the I, man discovers what the consistent part of nature itself is.

In this way, from Descartes to Kant, and especially from Kant to Schelling, the contraposition is produced between the {231} nature about which Greece speaks to us and that of the other order, of that other world, the world of the spirit.




If we wish to capture in a formula just what distinguishes Nature from Spirit, we would find, as did Hegel, a quite simple one. Nature is that which is out there. And Spirit is this which I myself am. Nature is, therefore, being there, or as Hegel would say, being in itself; Spirit, being for me, being for itself, selfness. This is the moment at which Hegel's thought will blossom.

As Hegel said, it is true that for many centuries-and especially from Descartes to Kant-philosophy has moved in this element of the spirituality of the spirit. It is likewise certain that in Kant, and more concretely in Fichte, the spirit is not just a second world juxtaposed with the primary one of nature, but rather that here the spirit claims a rank superior to that of nature in that nature is known by it. But up to now, says Hegel, no one has understood in what radical sense one can speak of nature and spirit.

Giving the word "universe" a meaning broader than did Greece, we can say that, in contrast to the Greek, our universe is found to be composed of nature and spirit. The unity of the universe depends, then, on the meaning which this and has. And what does it involve?

Schelling repeatedly insisted that the and was nothing other than of type of fundamental identity, in which Nature ceases to be Nature and Spirit ceases to be spirit: an identity, and therefore, a simple indifference; and by being simple indifference, it is-says Hegel-something like the night wherein all cats are grey. This does not mean that said point of contact is neither nature nor spirit, and consequently, simple indifference; but that now it is nature and also spirit. That "and" is positively what there is in nature and in spirit. Nor does any of this mean, on one hand, that nature is already made, and on the other, that spirit is already made too, and that they are then going to be joined by some type of addition. Their nexus is something more than a simple copulation. {232}

The important point about that and is not that it forms the nexus linking nature to spirit, but that it expresses the common foundation which nature and spirit have in it. For Hegel the [206] identity of nature and spirit is not a simple formal identity, something empty, as it was for Schelling, but rather signifies just this: that through nature and spirit pertaining essentially to each Other, there is something which is a postively common foundation of this pertaining. To understand nature and spirit is to see how that foundation underlies both; how this foundation inexorably becomes Nature and Spirit.

Now, how are we going to classify this common foundation? In it Nature and Spirit, i.e. everything there is, moves or is based. Insofar, then, as this foundation encompasses in itself everything there is-on one hand the Greek nature, that which is out there; on the other, the spirit, which is securely known through itself, with Descartes and modern philosophy-that foundation, from which everything emerges, is in an eminent and fundamental way the authentic and true All. It is the foundation of everything else; as Hegel would say, it is the absolute in itself and for itself.

To this absolute Hegel, with some impropriety, gave the name "spirit." He called it "spirit" because in it one finds just the decisive element of that spirit about which Descartes and Schelling spoke to us, viz. immediate presence to oneself. But it turns out that this spirit is not properly spirit, because we are not dealing with a spiritual reality in the usual sense of the word, but only the concrete fact that this absolute is the foundation, the root, of the spirit, and therefore root and foundation of the entities which are present to themselves, of the spirits. Nonetheless, recalling that the Hellenic and medieval tradition characterized spirit by that immediate turning, in upon itself, Hegel continues to call this absolute spirit just that, absolute spirit.

But at this point not only has Hegel not created his philosophy, he has not even begun to develop it. The greatness of Hegel's thought rests, in large measure, on his not having permitted himself to launch philosophical programs without having first realized them in himself. {233}

To say that the All is absolute spirit, that it is the absolute, means that nothing has being, or therefore is truly known (since knowing is knowing what a thing is), if it is not understood in its ultimate root in that absolute spirit, i.e. if it is not understood as a moment of it. For this reason Hegel says that truth is never found in things, nor in the result. The result is the cadaver which the force originally engendering the thing has left behind. Truth is not the result, says Hegel, but the all, that which links the result to its [207] principle. The definitive truth is a thing; the ultimate truth of its being, for Hegel, is found therefore in that articulation which each concrete thing has with the absolute spirit, with the fundamental reality of the universe. To this internal articulation Hegel gives the name "system." Thus Hegel says that the true figure under which philosophical truth appears is the system. "System" does not mean a conjunction of ordered propositions, but that internal articulation which each thing, in its being, has with the absolute being of the universe. To say that a thing is based in the absolute spirit is the same as saying that it remains therein as one of its moments. This is the point of departure of Hegel's philosophy: the absolute as subject. But, let it be understood that I have in mind not an absolute in the sense of absolute thing, but absolute as absolute foundation of all things, the all-inclusive principle, therefore, of what used to be called "thoughts. " Consequently it is completely erroneous from an historical or metaphysical point of view to say that Hegel begins with thinking. Indeed, it is true neither that nature is in thinking nor that the possessing of the absolute occurs in thinking, but just the reverse. The fact that the absolute is transparent to itself is what constitutes thought. Thought is not explanation of the immediate, but the immediate explanation of thought.

The problem of Hegel is born at this instant, when one tries to see, in an efficacious and actual manner, how the absolute is, in fact, the absolute foundation of everything there is, i.e. how the absolute must sprout forth out of itself {234} in order to engender the totality of infinite things which we then call "nature" and .spirit." Hegel does not begin, then, with either nature or spirit, but with the absolute, nothing more than the absolute. Hence this beginning is likewise absolute. What does this mean?

To be sure, one must shun the natural temptation impelling us to think too much about the absolute. The difficult thing, in order to capture Hegel's absolute, is not to think of much, but just the opposite, to think of nothing.

If I say of the absolute that it is, for example, human spirit, or that it is substance, in the Greek sense, I say something about the absolute, but something distinct from it, because otherwise I could not say of it that it is that other thing. Whence it follows that any attempt to say something concrete about the absolute is simply to go away from it. Hence the radical beginning of philosophy in the force of the absolute cannot be, for Hegel, anything but that installation [208] of himself in it, that finding himself immediately there. To this finding himself in the absolute Hegel gave the name "pure being." Pure being is, then, immediate, absolute emptiness. Because at the moment I wish to think, up to its ultimate consequences, what this pure being is, I find myself with the notion that pure being is everything just by dint of not being anything, of not being any one of the many individual things. If I wish, then, to apprehend up to its ultimate extreme what I think when thinking about being, I find myself having converted it into an emptiness, so that I am now thinking about nothing. This is an insostenible situation; I must, then, retreat to the point of departure, to being, so as to avoid the conclusion that this being is nothing. This attempt to avoid the nothing, which the absolute must realize in order to maintain itself being, is just becoming. In this way the absolute spirit goes outside of itself, because it finds itself absolutely contradictory. And, when seeking to avoid this contradiction, it immediately turns back on itself. The absolute can only exist by becoming.

In this way, when the absolute spirit goes outside of itself, it engenders its becoming, and in this its becoming it becomes something. Thus Hegel shows how the absolute spirit, through its own proper internal constitution, is the foundation of what Greece had called being in itself. Now, when we have something, this something is presented {235} as being just that-something, and consequently as something sufficient unto itself, And the truth is that nothing is sufficient unto itself, but that being something is becoming something. Hence, the fact that there is something is owing to the fact that there has been a beginning of it. The truth of something is, then, being in itself what it already was in its absolute principle. And this is what has traditionally been called essence. Thus, the absolute not only engenders a thing, but, referring the latter to the former, shows us or manifests to us actually tie absolute principle from which it emerges. Upon doing so, the absolute is not only principle of the thing, but moreover its being is to be principle-ing; i.e. returning again to the absolute, we understand it not only in respect to what it produces, but in the producing, in the principle-ing itself. Hence the distinction between the principle and what is principled disappears. The absolute fully possesses itself in its grounding activity, and this possession is conceiving or concept, i.e. absolute knowledge. To the adequate concept of this absolute Hegel gave the name idea. [209] Therefore the idea is freedom.

In this way Hegel gradually describes the genesis of the entire universe. Consequently the fundamental motives of the whole history of philosophical thought are concentrated in Hegelian philosophy and there reach maturity. Being-said Greece-is actually found in truth; but truth-says Descartes-is actually found only in a true certainty; and a true certainty-Hegel will finally say-is that certainty which recoils upon the true being of the subject.

Thus, when the subject returns on itself, it finds itself not with another thing, but with its very self. It follows, then, that all generation of the universe, the entire history of the universe, is not, in its ultimate and definitive thrust, anything but the turning of the spirit in upon itself, the realization of the Idea. In each of the steps the absolute spirit has taken, not only has it not left itself, but in reality what it has done has been to find itself with itself. This permanent finding oneself with oneself is what has traditionally been called 'eternity'. For this reason history, in the Hegelian sense of the word, is not metaphysically speaking a succession of things which occur in time, but the essence of that succession, {236} historicity. The essence of history, historicity, is eternity. History is the concretized reality of the Idea.

For Hegel, to capture the absolute spirit in its eternity is to know the absolute in an absolute way; in this, and nothing else, does philosophy consist. Philosophy is the absolute consciousness the System of the absolute. Therefore Philosophy is, as Plato said, dialectic, articulation, system of the Idea. Philosophy is not a thinking about the absolute, but is the explicit form of the absolute itself. Whence its history pertains essentially to Philosophy.

By the same token, it would be juvenile to seek to attack the theses of Hegel's philosophy one at a time. Precisely because philosophy reaches its full maturity in Hegel, it is useless to take the moments of his brilliant thought one by one. The only way to dispute with Hegel is to take his thought at its point of departure, i.e. in its totality. What is the point of departure for Hegel? In what strange manner do thought or spirit and nature of things come to be unified? [210]




In reality, Hegel is a man who has invented very few philosophical concepts; perhaps none. On the other hand, he possessed an incredible facility for assimilating them. And the concept which determines the entire development of Hegelian thought is nothing but the concept of knowing, of certainty. Why, when I cannot think of being as something concrete, does Hegel say that being becomes nothing?

We earlier observed that when Descartes situates man in the center of the universe and of philosophical knowledge, he is not moved to do so by any interest in what is especially human; what motivates Descartes is exclusively the necessity of finding himself secure, the necessity of discovering an absolute certainty. When he says of the I that it is a thinking being, that ego sum res cogitans, he is not bothered about what this ego is in itself. He does not ask himself, as a Greek would ask himself, what is it that a res, a thing, must have in order to be an ego? That which occupies Descartes' mind is exclusively what this "I" does; and what this "I" does is nothing other than know. Whence, for Descartes-or at least, after Descartes-knowing does not constitute an activity among n activities which man has, {237} but constitutes his proper being. It is not true, then, that man is, and besides, knows; but that man's being is his knowing. And as knowing contains what a thing is, it follows that at the moment I know of being, I am being. From here all Hegelian philosophy starts. And this is the question: up to what point should one affirm that knowing is, plain and simple, the being of the man and the being of things?

Hegel's position is not, to be sure, arbitrary. If, on one hand, he encompasses the Cartesian tradition, on the other he encompasses the entire Hellenic tradition. The question about being was not born in Greece by chance; it was born through the concrete way in which, for the first time in history, Greek man perceived himself existing on the earth, through the way the Greek stumbled upon the universe. And what constitutes the uniqueness of Greek existence is just this: man, in Greece, for the first time [211] begins to exist in the universe seeing it and talking about it. Seeing and talking (in this sense) are the two great discoveries of Greece. Therefore it is not by chance that the two great products of Greek culture are the plastic arts and rhetoric: to see things, to see them as they are, in themselves, in their Idea-as Plato would say-; but in addition to say something about them. And this is the very heart of the matter.

To see things is to see what is there. Now, what characterizes man and differentiates him from animals is not simply his finding himself with things that are there, but that these things are before him. In other words, what distinguishes man from animals is not that things are put with man, but that they are put before him. For this reason, because things are put before me, I can propose to myself to say something about them. This telling myself about them is what the Greeks primarily called logos, saying. And only insofar as I tell myself something about things can I say that same things to others, can I talk with them. Talking is based upon the saying, in the sense of saying to myself

But talking, may, by itself, be expressed in infinitely many ways. Only when talking or saying is based on seeing, on that which is there, is it manifest what things are. Owing to the fact that talking or saying refers to a seeing, in talking that moment of the present which characterizes {238} the "logos" of an indicative proposition is endangered. If nothing more than the simple vision of the world had ever existed, all of philosophy could easily have degenerated into a mystical orgy, a mental frenesi. With just Parmenides' expression that the vision of what is and being are the same, philosophy would not have passed beyond the level of an intellectual intuition, such as we find repeated in Schelling. This was one of the most brilliant contributions to philosophy made by Plato.

Language imparts a dash of rationality to the vision: the logos, upon becoming logos of a vision, requires that the vision adopt a logical structure. For this reason Greek philosophy was essentially rationalistic.

But it did not occur to any Greek to say that being a man meant no more than seeing and saying. It is true that Aristotle defined man by saying "an animal who has logos, who has reason. " But he is very careful to say that man is ousia, thing, and this is what constitutes the decisive character of Greek thought. The logos is not the being of man, but an essential property of his. [212]

It has sufficed to link the idea of the logos with the Cartesian conception of the thinking spirit in order to obtain all of Hegel's metaphysics.

But it is just this, I repeat, which is the problem.

In a marvelous essay my teacher Ortega said that Philosophy has nourished itself on two metaphors: the first is just this Greek metaphor that man is a fragment of the universe, a thing which is there. And on this his character of being there is his other character of knowing founded and based. Knowing is the footprint things leave in human consciousness; knowing is impression. Now, Descartes severs the link which joins knowing to what man is and converts knowing into the being itself of man; mens sive animus, he said. The "animus" or "spiritus" has become "mens," in knowing.

At this moment the second metaphor appears, in which man is not a fragment of the universe, but something in whose knowledge there is contained everything that the universe is.

Is this philosophical situation viable? Up to what point does true knowledge constitute man's authentic being? In {239} other words, upon what does the unity among being, spirit, and truth depend? This is the central question which must be posed to Hegel.

In reality, Hegel overlooks an elemental facet of thought, and that is that every thought thinks something. This facet, through which thought thinks of something, has recently been baptized with the name "intentionality" (Husserl). Every thought is a thought of something. Now, this which momentarily has managed to seem like a solution to the problem, not only isn't its solution, but is indeed a dislocation of it.

It is not enough for me to say, in fact, that every thought thinks of something, because I must determine why every thought thinks of something. Thought, we may say for now, is an activity among the various ones man which man has, and it could happen that this of is found in thought because it characterizes in a prior sense the entire substance of thought. Perhaps because man cannot be the center of the universe he consists only in projecting this universe in front of him, and not inside, as Hegel maintained. Consequently, thought is also thought of something. In this moment of constitutive eccentricity of the human being his existential character would be concretely founded. Ex-sistere means having a subsistence without need of causes. Things are not what would exist outside of thought, but thought what would exist [213] outside of things (Heidegger).

In this way, perhaps the time has come in which a third metaphor, likewise ancient, is imposing its felicitous tyranny, though for how long no one knows. This metaphor does not mean considering human existence either as a fragment of the universe or even as a virtual enveloping of it. Rather, human existence has no other intellectual mission than that of illuminating the being of the universe; man will not consist in being a fragment of the universe, nor its envelopment, but simply in being the authentic, true light of things. Therefore what things are they are only by dint of the light of this human existence. What (according to this third metaphor) is "constituted" in the light is not things, {240} but their being; not what is, but that which is. Yet at the same time this light illuminates, founds, the being of things, but not from any doing of mine; I do not make them my pieces. It is only necessary that they "be"; en photi, in the light, is where things actually acquire their true being, said Aristotle and Plato.

But the heart of the matter is that every light requires a luminous source, and the being of light, in the last analysis, consists in nothing but the presence of the luminous source in the thing illuminated. Whence arises, in what does the ultimate reason of human existence as light of things consist? I do not wish to answer this question, but simply leave it posed, and thereby indicate that the first problem of philosophy-the last, rather-is not the Greek question What is being?, but as Plato says, something which is beyond being.




In a brilliant vision, Aristotle said somewhat obscurely that philosophy arises from melancholy; but from a melancholy which is the exuberance of health: kata physin, and not from the melancholy of sickness, kata noson. Philosophy is born from melancholy, i.e. at the moment when, in a way radically different from the Cartesian, man feels himself alone in the universe. Whereas for Descartes that solitude meant retreating into oneself, and for Hegel consists in not being able to go outside of oneself, Aristotelian melancholy is just the opposite: he who has felt radically alone is he who has the capacity to be radically "accompanied." When I feel alone, the totality of what there is appears to me, in as much as I lack it. In true solitude others are more present than ever.

The solitude of human existence does not signify a breaking of ties with the rest of the universe and converting oneself into an intellectual or metaphysical hermit; the solitude of human existence consists in feeling alone, and therefore confronting and finding oneself with the entire rest of the universe.

Let us hope that Spain, land of light and melancholy, will decide at some time to elevate herself to metaphysical concepts.

Lecture given in Madrid, 1931, and published in Cruz Y Raya, Madrid, 1933.