Translator's Introduction

Xavier Zubiri is a man whose knowledge is both extremely broad and very profound. These essays are the fruit of his long meditation on some of the most urgent and important questions confronting twentieth century man. Zubiri addresses these questions fully cognizant of his vantage point, as heir to 25 centuries of intensive intellectual struggle; and he permits no aspect of them-philosophical, theological, historical, or scientific-to escape him. It is this complete integration of knowledge which makes this book at once searching and difficult, but unique and compelling as well. For at last the reader can perceive that man is indeed rector of the immense quantity of knowledge he has amassed, and that this knowledge can be a tool for understanding his situation in the universe rather than an oppressive, "menacing heap", to use Jacques Barzun's splendid phrase.

Zubiri makes no attempt to parade His immense learning and scholarship before the reader, but uses it as necessary to make his arguments clear and convincing. These essays are not directed particularly to scholars, but due to the nature of the questions addressed, some general familiarity with the subjects dealt with is presumed and quite essential for a grasp of Zubiri's thought. Even with this, the reader may not be able to fully comprehend any particular essay at one sitting; in this respect, of course, Zubiri's book is no different than that of any great philosopher. But the effort necessary to understand will be richly rewarded. Of course, there is no need for the essays to be read in sequential order; the reader may choose those dealing with subjects of interest to him.

Special thanks are owed to Mrs. Yvonne Daughters, of the National Institutes of Health, for help with innumerable difficult passages; and as well to Professor A. R. Caponigri, of the University of Notre Dame , for discussions about Zubiri's philosophy and the meaning of many technical phrases and words. Finally, I wish to thank Prof. Zubiri for hours of extremely valuable discussions about the essays in this volume and contemporary philosophical questions generally.


[v] {VII}

Preface to the Sixth Edition

I have not deemed it appropriate to make any changes in this new edition of the book, other than to correct the errors, some serious, left from prior editions. The published essays have their date indicated as much for me as for the questions treated; and bear in mind that what thirty years ago was the "new" physics no longer is new. With respect to both me and the problems dealt with, time has realized its work. There is nothing but to respect it. I have only permitted myself to add to the third part a new chapter: Introduction to the Problem of God. It is basically a lecture given some 15 years ago, which will enable the problems treated in the chapters In Regard to the problem of God and Supernatural Being: God and Deification in Pauline Theology to be situated in proper perspective. I gratefully acknowledge the opportunity given me by Editora Nacional to clarify this portion of my thought.

X. Zubiri

[vi] {IX}


This book is comprised of a series of independent works, written under quite varied circumstances over the course of 10 years. In whole or part, they have already been published in domestic or foreign periodicals, which are often difficult to find today. Much against my will, and only at the insistence of voices which I cannot ignore, I have agreed to the idea of bringing them together in these pages.

In general I limited myself to reproducing the original text, though in some of the essays I have modified expressions, and in others developed an idea which seemed opportune to stress. In the essay dedicated to Socrates and the Greek Idea of Wisdom, I have inserted several new pages. The text of In Regard to the Problem of God is that which served as the basis for a detestable French translation which I completely disown. Finally, the book contains three previously unpublished works: Our Intellectual Situation, which was my final university lecture; The Idea of Philosophy in Aristotle, and Supernatural Being: God and Deification in Pauline Theology. In order to facilitate reading of the book I have somewhat arbitrarily grouped the studies into three parts, from the third of which the book draws its title.

Despite their varied character, taken together these essays are endowed with a certain unity. The reader should not think that this unity reflects any underlying system. {X} On the contrary, it thematically and deliberately bespeaks a modest reaction before some of the more serious undercurrents presently agitating philosophical thought, in the broadest sense of the term. Such undercurrents are sometimes born of internal conflicts; in other cases they are due to the pressure of science, philosophy, or theology. The unity of these studies is conferred upon them solely by the situation in which the "philosophical mentality" is today implanted-something which, naturally, is quite distinct from the personal mentality of each thinker, and never identifiable with him, but in a way still inseparable from him. By way of introduction, I have summarily dealt with this situation in the first pages of the book.

In addition, these writings represent the general line and spirit in which I developed my university courses starting in 1926. 1 cannot but think with affection about the students and disciples of [vii] those years, to whom I have consecrated the greater part of my modest and silent labor. Many times I have been asked to publish my lectures. It is too much to ask of me. My work today proceeds at a snail's pace. But in these pages, at least, is the substance of some of those lectures.

If there is still a beginning student whose eyes should chance to fall upon these fragmentary lines, full of repetitions, let him recall that philosophy is a perpetual search. "Let us seek," said St. Augustine. "like those who are going to find, and we shall find like those who are about to seek, because when a man has finished something, that is when he begins. " (De Trin., IX, 1). Bear in mind that at all levels of the arduous struggle of the intellect-from the ingenuous beginner to the most subtle thinker-a singular fruition is hidden, one which, faithful to my office, I have sought to awaken in the soul of those who have asked for my help. As Plato said, "It is impossible for anyone except the lover of wisdom to have savored the delight that the contemplation of true being and reality brings."(Rep.582c7-9). But this is a delight which is not immune to weariness. Plato himself had Socrates say, "Investigating reality left me exhausted." (Phaedo 99 d). But if a man is able to rise above himself, he will be more than amply compensated for his efforts. For this is not some hollow {XI} delight, but one full of the plenitude of the being of what is real. Centuries later Plutarch would write, "I believe, moreover, that the felicity of eternal life, which is the patrimony of God, is simply this, that nothing which occurs escapes His full knowledge; for if we despoil Him of thought and complete understanding of reality, His immortality would be a simple duration, but not a life (De Is et Os., 351, d). God is happy because He possesses the fullness of life, founded on the transparent plenitude of being, in the plenitude of truth. We, who are men, only glimpse this happiness from afar, replete with "philia"; we are "philosophers", lovers of knowledge of what is most real in reality, of a knowledge which permits us to be the most real ' part of ourselves. Of love and friendship Aristotle wrote, "It is the most necessary thing in life". (Nicomachean Ethics, 1155a4).


December, 1942


Author's Introduction to the English Edition

This book brings together a series of studies published at diverse times during the years 1932-1944.

The fact of pertaining to those years gives the book its unique character, and this is essential for orienting the reader. For that period of time has a twofold significance. First, it concerns each of the studies taken by itself; and secondly, it concerns the totality of them. Permit me to explain.

Above all it concerns each of the studies, because each has its exact date, and should be read with reference to it. This I cannot stress too much. There is, needless to say, a considerable distance between the date of publication of each study and the present time. And during this interval many things have happened. Primarily, it has been a time in which I have conserved the essential part of my ideas, but still have been compelled to develop them along the appropriate lines.

Thus, consider the concept of history. In the study "The Phenomenon of Humanity: Greece and the Living on of the Philosophical Past", I conceived of history as a happening of possibilities. I still fully maintain this view, but it has borne me to an even more radical concept: history as a happening of possibilities as 'founded in history as a capacitating or "capacitation". Only thanks to this capacitation is the occurrence of possibilitation and possibilities given-indeed, can it be given. History as capacitation was the theme of a study published in Realitas 1, p. 11-41 (Madrid, 1974).

The same occurred in a certain way with the study "In Regard to the Problem of God." The problem of God was discussed as a structural moment of man: this is religation. But this religation needs further conceptual development, development in the line of a systematization of the problem. I have already indicated this in the study "Introduction to the Problem of God" published in the fifth Spanish edition of the book. But I have also developed the idea of religation in another direction, that of religation as a structural moment of man. This is what I have termed his "theologal dimension". It has been the theme of various of my courses, as yet unpublished, and especially of two: the course on [ix] The Theologal Problem of Man: God, Religation, Christianity (Madrid, 1972) and later the course on Man and God given in the Faculty of Theology of the Gregorian University (Rome, 1973). A sketch of this point of view was published in the volume of homage to Karl Rahner (Madrid, 1975). 1 wish to note that the study "Supernatural Being: God and Deification in Pauline Theology" is one which is essentially historical. Its specifically theological content has since been more precisely developed in my courses at the Sociedad de Estudios y Publicaciones [Society of Studies and Publications, Madrid].

Finally, in other cases the actual state oil scientific knowledge is much richer and more precise than in those earlier years. For this reason the study "The Idea of Nature: The New Physics" would today have had to deal with many other essential concepts. To be sure I still maintain the idea of nature there expounded, but the problem of elementary particles leads to essential philosophical problems. For example, What is the elementality of a particle? What is a virtual particle, and what is the individuality of a particle? What is the breaking of symmetry, etc., etc.? They are philosophical themes with which today I would have to come to grips; but, I repeat, I maintain the idea of nature expounded in 1934.

Moreover, the time period 1932-1944 has a meaning which goes beyond that of fixing the date of my studies. This period constitutes an epoch of my intellectual life. The difference between "period" and "epoch" is essential because it is inscribed within the very concept of time.

Time, in fact, is not a summation of dates, but rather possesses a proper unity which is not merely additive. Dates are nothing but moments of this unity which we call time. What is this unity? This is not the place to treat such a difficult problem. In its merely descriptive aspect I have expounded it in Realitas II (Madrid, 1976). But now I do not allude to this descriptive concept but to a more profound one: the structural unity of time. Time is not something separated from things but rather is only a moment of them: things are not in time, but rather are temporal. I will shortly return to this idea. In virtue of it, on account of being temporal, these things qualify their time: it is time itself which is qualified. And this time thus qualified is what I call structural unity of time. This structure, then, rests on the nature of things.

If temporal things are those which we call physical things, then [x] these physical things confer upon time a unique quality: number and measure. Physical things, in fact, have a successive actuation. Succession is a purely physical character. Now, succession confers upon time a unique quality. Time is the measure of the succession; one hour, two days, ten years, etc. Time as measure is thus chronometry. If temporal things are living things, their time is biologically qualifying. And the quality of time biologically qualified is the age. Age is not a number but a unique temporal quality. Young, mature, old, etc. are biological structures, and their temporal quality is the age. Of course, age can be measured because living beings are also physical things. But this number is not age itself, only the numerical aspect of it. The age of a cell can be given a number, but this number is not age. If temporal things are of psychic nature, or rather psychophysical, then time has a distinct structural quality. Psychic life constitutes, as has been said since the beginning of this century, a stream, a flow. Thus it has been called the flow of consciousness (we leave aside for now this appeal to consciousness). So, the psychic flow, the psychic stream, confers upon time an original quality: it is duree, duration. The numerical character of what endures is not duration itself, but rather the numerical character assigned by the numberer. Duration is prior to its presumed numerability; its measure is extrinsic because duration in itself cannot be adequately comprehended through numbers. When temporal things are in men in the integrity of their life, then a new temporal quality arises: the life of man in this its totality has; an essential constitutive moment: this is the project. Thus, the project qualifies his time with a unique quality, viz. time as happening. Here we have the four structural unities of time, the four qualities of time itself: measure, age, duration, happening. There remains the problem of what time is in itself. This is the modal concept of time which I call temporality. But I cannot here enter into that problem.

Each one of the temporal structures has aspects which are quite diverse. Thus happening can be biographical, social, or historical. When human projects falling within a period of time correspond to what we might call a common inspiration, then the time of happening has a proper temporal aspect, viz. the epoch (which can be by turns biographical, social, or historical). An epoch is a happening qualified by a common inspiration. So now we see that an epoch is not the same thing as a period of time. The epoch is a quality of a period of happenings. A change of common [xi] inspiration is the beginning of a new epoch.

Hence, the period 1932-1944 is in a strict and rigorous sense an epoch of my intellectual life. My philosophical reflections corresponded during this period to a common inspiration which is difficult to define, but easy to perceive.

Philosophy found itself determined prior to these dates by Husserl's phenomenological lemma: zu den Sachen selbst, "to the things themselves". Needless to say, this was not the dominant philosophy prior to that time. Rather, it had been a mixture of positivism, historicism, and pragmatism based ultimately on the science of psychology; and this basis was expressed as a theory of knowledge. Out of this situation, Husserl created phenomenology by means of a thoroughgoing critique: a turn from the psychic to things themselves. Phenomenology was the most important of the movements opening a unique field to philosophizing as such. It was a philosophy of things and not only a theory of knowledge. This was the remote common inspiration of the epoch 1932-1944: philosophy of things. Phenomenology thus had a double function. First, that of apprehending the content of things. Second, that of freeing philosophy from slavery to psychology or science. And this latter function was for me the decisive one. To be sure, the influence of the first function is quite clear not only in me, but as well in all those who have dedicated themselves to philosophy since this date. But my personal reflection had a unique inspiration within this common inspiration. Because, What are the things about which one philosophizes? Here we have the true question. For phenomenology, things were the objective and ideal correlate of consciousness. But this, for reasons that were somewhat obscure, always seemed to me insufficient. Things are not merely objectivities, but things endowed with a proper entitative structure. To this investigation about things, and not just about objectivities of consciousness, the names "ontology" or "metaphysics" were given indiscriminately. Heidegger himself thus called it in his book Sein und Zeit. In this epoch of my philosophical reflection the concrete common inspiration was, ontology or metaphysics. With it phenomenology was relegated to being a preterite inspiration. This does not refer to an influence-though inevitable-of phenomenology on my reflection but to the progressive constitution of a philosophical ambience which is of an ontological or metaphysical character. An inspection, even if superficial, of the studies contained in Nature, History, God will [xii] reveal that this is their common inspiration. The book already represented in incipient form a superceding of phenomenology. Therefore, as I expressed myself in the study "What is Knowledge?", what I zealously sought is there called Logic of reality. I gathered all these studies in the present volume as a testimony to an epoch which is concluded.

A new epoch has succeeded this one. Because we may ask, Are metaphysics and ontology the same? Are reality and being the same? Already within phenomenology Heidegger perceived the difference between things and their being. And with this metaphysics for him remained founded on ontology. My reflections followed an opposite route: being is founded in reality. Metaphysics is the foundation of ontology. What philosophy studies is not objectivity, nor being, but reality. Since 1944 my reflection has constituted a new epoch: the rigorously metaphysical epoch.

In it I bring together, as is obvious, the cardinal ideas of the previous epoch, that is to say of the studies already published in this volume. But these ideas acquire a metaphysical development which goes beyond all objectivity, and beyond all ontology.

This was no easy task. Because modern philosophy, despite all of its variations, has been erected upon four concepts which to my way of thinking are four false substantivations: space, time, consciousness, and being. It has been thought that things are in time and in space, that they are all apprehended in acts of consciousness, and that their entity is a moment of being. Now, to my way of thinking this is inadmissible. Space, time, consciousness and being are not four receptacles of things but only characteristics of things which are already real; they are characteristics of the reality of things, of some things-I repeat-which are already real in and through themselves. Real things are not in space or in time as Kant thought (following Newton), but rather real things are spatial and temporal-something quite distinct from being in time and in space. Intellection is not an act of consciousness as Husserl thought. Phenomenology is the great substantivation of consciousness which has run through modern philosophy since the time of Descartes. Nonetheless, there is no consciousness; there are only conscious acts. This substantivation was introduced in much of the psychology of the end of the 19th century, for which psychic activity was synonymous with activity of consciousness, and it conceived all things as [xiii] "contents of consciousness". I believe this also includes the concept of "the" subconscious. This is inadmissible because things are not the content of consciousness but only the objects or boundaries of consciousness; consciousness is not the receptacle of things. Psychoanalysis has conceived of man and his activity by referring them always to consciousness. Thus it speaks to us of "the" conscious, "the" unconscious, etc. Man would ultimately be a stratification of zones qualified with respect to the conscious. This substantivation is inadmissible. "The" activity of the conscious does not exist; "the" conscious does not exist, nor "the" unconscious, nor "the" subconscious. There are only conscious, unconscious, and subconscious acts. But they are not acts of the conscious, unconscious, or subconscious. Heidegger went a step further. Though in a particular form (which he never managed to conceptualize or define) he brought to conclusion the substantivation of being. For him, things are things in and through being; things are therefore entities. Reality would be nothing other than a type of being. This is the old idea of being real, esse reale. But being real does not exist. Only what is really being exists; realitas in essendo, I would say. Being is only a moment of reality.

In the face of these four enormous substantivations, of space, time, consciousness, and being, I have advanced an idea of the real which is prior to them. This is the theme of my book Sobre la essencia (Madrid, 1962): philosophy is not philosophy of objectivity or, being, nor is it phenomenology or ontology; but rather it is philosophy of the real as real; it is metaphysics. Thus intellection in turn is not consciousness but rather mere actualization of the real in the sentient understanding. This is the theme of the book which I have just published, Inteligencia sentiente (Madrid, 1980).

In this way the present book Nature, History, God is an epoch which is not so much superceeded as assumed into the metaphysics of the real, in which for the last 35 years I have been engaged. This is, I repeat, the epoch determined by the common inspiration of the real as real. It is an epoch rigorously metaphysical. In it I have found myself compelled to give a distinct idea of what is intellection, what is reality, and what is truth. They ,are the central chapters of the book Inteligencia sentiente.

[xiv] I sincerely thank my friend, the fine physicist Thomas B. Fowler, for his initiative, his enthusiasm, and the fidelity with which he has realized the translation of this book. Thanks to his labor I can now be read in America and other English-speaking countries. Many thanks as well to all those who have made this edition possible.

X. Z.


November, 1980