[97] {107}


[98] {108}


The Three Concepts of Philosophy-Philosophy as Strict Knowledge- Difference Between Philosophical Knowledge and Scientific Knowledge-Philosophy as a Knowledge About Things as They Are.


History of Philosophy as history of the Idea of Philosophy-Development and Maturity.

[99] {109}



To occupy oneself with history is not a matter of simple curiosity. It would be so if history were a simple science of the past. But:

1. History is not a simple science.

2. One does not occupy oneself with the past, inasmuch as it no longer exists.

History is not a simple science, but rather there exists an historical reality. Historicity, in fact, is a dimension of the real being we call 'man'.

And this historicity does not arise exclusively or primarily on account of the fact that the past advances toward a present, and pushes it on toward the future. This latter is a positive interpretation of history which is completely inadequate. It presupposes, in fact, that the present is just something which passes, and that the passing means what once was no longer is. The truth on the contrary is that an existing reality, and hence one which is present, man, finds himself constituted partially through a possession of himself in such a form that when he turns in upon himself, he discovers himself being what he is because he had a past and is being formed for a future. The "present" is that marvelous unity of these three moments whose successive unfolding constitutes the historical trajectory, the point at which man, a temporal being, paradoxically becomes tangent to eternity. Since Boethius, in fact, the classical definition of eternity has involved not just interminabilis vita, a never-ending life, but tota simul et perfecta possessio. Furthermore, the reality of man present is constituted among other things by that concrete point {110}of tangency whose geometric locus is termed situation. Upon entering into ourselves, we discover that we are in a situation which pertains to us constitutively, and in which our individual destiny is inscribed, a destiny which is elected by us sometimes, imposed on us others. And while the situation does not ineluctably predetermine either the content of our life or that of its problems, it clearly circumscribes the general nature of those problems, and [100] above all limits the possibilities for their solution. Hence, history as a science is much more a science of the present than a science of the past. In respect to philosophy, this is even truer than it could be for any other intellectual occupation, because the character of philosophical knowledge makes of it something constitutively problematic. Zetoumene episteme, the sought after science, Aristotle almost always termed it. Therefore it is pot at all strange that to profane eyes, the problem has an atmosphere of discord.

In the course of history we encounter three distinct conceptions of philosophy, emerging ultimately from three dimensions of man:

1. Philosophy as a knowledge about things

2. Philosophy as a direction for the world and for life.

3. Philosophy as a way of life and therefore as something which happens.

In reality, these three conceptions of philosophy, corresponding to three different conceptions of the intellect, lead to three completely different forms of intellectuality. The world has continued to nourish itself on them, simultaneously and successively, at times even in the person of one thinker. The three converge in a special way in our situation, and once again keenly and urgently pose the problem of philosophy (and of intellect itself). These three dimensions of the intellect have reached us, perhaps somewhat dislocated, through the channels of history; and the intellect has itself begun to pay for its own deformation. In trying to reform itself, it will surely reserve for the future new forms of intellectuality. {111}Like all of the earlier ones, they will be defective, or rather limited; but that does not disqualify them, because man always is what he is thanks to his limitations, which permit him to chose what he can be. And if they perceive their own limitations the intellectuals of that time will return to the source from which they departed, just as we see ourselves referred back to the place from which we departed. And this is history: a situation which implies another previous one, as something real making possible our own situation. Thus, to occupy oneself with history is not a simple matter of curiosity; it is the very movement to which the intellect sees itself subjected when it embarks on the enormous task of setting itself in motion starting from its ultimate source. Therefore the history of philosophy is not extrinsic to philosophy itself, as the history of mechanics could be to mechanics. Philosophy is not its history, but the history of philosophy is philosophy, because the turning in of the intellect [101] upon itself, in the concrete and radical situation in which it finds itself placed, is the origin and take-off point for philosophy. The problem of philosophy is nothing but the problem of the intellect. With this affirmation, which ultimately goes back to old Parmenides, philosophy began to exist on the earth. And Plato used to tell us, moreover, that philosophy is a silent dialogue of the soul with itself concerning all things in being.

Still, the practicing scientist will only with difficulty succeed in freeing himself from the notion that philosophy becomes lost in an abyss of discord, if not throughout its domain, at least insofar as it involves knowledge about things.

It is undeniable that throughout the course of its history, philosophy has understood its own definition as a knowledge about things in quite diverse ways. But the first responsibility of the philosopher must be that of guarding himself against two antagonistic tendencies which spontaneously arise in a beginning spirit: that of losing oneself in skepticism and that of deciding to adhere polemically to one system in preference to another, even if it be one the philosopher himself just formulated. We shall renounce these attitudes. And if we now review the rich collection of definitions, we cannot fail to be overwhelmed by the impression that a very serious matter is {112}at the heart of this diversity. If the conceptions of philosophy as a theoretical form of knowledge are truly so diverse, it is clear that this diversity means that not only the content of its solutions, but the very idea of philosophy continues to be problematic. The diversity of definitions manifest the problem of philosophy itself as a true form of knowledge about things. But to think that the existence of such a problem could disqualify philosophy as theoretical knowledge is to condemn oneself to perpetually remain outside its vestibule. The problems of philosophy are not, at bottom, other than the problem of philosophy.

But perhaps the question will resurface with new urgency when we try to pin down the nature of this theoretical knowledge. Nor is the problem even new. For quite some time, several centuries in fact, this same question has been formulated another way: Does philosophy have scientific character? However, this manner of presenting the problem is not quite the same. According to it, "knowledge about things" acquires its complete and exemplary expression in what is termed "a scientific form of knowledge." And this supposition has been decisive for the course of philosophy [102] in modern times.

In diverse ways, in fact, it has been repeatedly observed that philosophy is quite far from being a science; that in most of its hypotheses it does not go beyond an attempt to be scientific. And this may lead either to skepticism about philosophy, or to maximum optimism about it, as occurred in Hegel when in the opening pages of the Phenomenology of the Spirit he roundly affirms that he proposes to "help to bring philosophy nearer to the form of science.... show that the time process does raise philosophy to the level of scientific system..." And he also affirms that it is necessary for philosophy to abandon, once and for all, its character of love and of wisdom so as to be converted into an active wisdom. (For Hegel, "science" does not mean science in the usual sense.)

With a different objective, but with no less energy, Kant begins the preface to the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason by saying:

Whether the treatment of such knowledge as lies within the province of reason does or does not follow {113}the secure path of a science, is easily to be determined from the outcome. For if after elaborate preparations, frequently renewed, it is brought to a stop immediately it nears its goal; if often it is compelled to retrace its steps and strike into some new line of approach; or again, if the various participants are unable to agree in any common plan of procedure, then we may rest assured that it is very far from having entered upon the secure path of a science, and is indeed a merely random groping.

And in contrast to what occurs in logic, mathematics, physics, etc., with respect to metaphysics we see that

... though it is older than all other sciences, and would survive even if all the rest were swallowed up in the abyss of an all-destroying barbarism, it has not yet had the good fortune to enter upon the secure path of a science.

A quarter of a century ago Husserl published a vibrant study in the periodical Logos, entitled "Philosophy as a Strict and Rigorous Science." In it, after having shown that it would be nonsense, for [103]example, to discuss a problem of physics or mathematics in such a way that the participants injected into the discussion their own points of view, their opinions, preferences, or Weltanschauung, Husserl boldly proposes the necessity of making philosophy likewise into a science of apodeitic and absolute evidence. But in he last analysis, he merely refers to the work of Descartes.

Descartes, very cautiously but at bottom saying the same thing, begins his Principles of Philosophy as follows:

As we were at one time children, and as we formed various judgements regarding the objects presented to us, when as yet we had not the entire use of our reason, numerous prejudices stand in the way of our arriving at the knowledge of truth; and of these it seems impossible for us to rid ourselves, unless we undertake, once in our lifetime, to doubt of all these things in which we may discover even the smallest suspicion of uncertainty.

From this exposition of the question we may draw several important conclusions:

1. Descartes, Kant, and Husserl compare philosophy to the other sciences from the point of view of the type of knowledge {114}which they yield: Does philosophy or does it not possess a type of apodeitic evidence comparable to that of mathematics or theoretical physics?

2. This comparison later reverts to the method which leads to such evidence: Does philosophy or does it not possess a method which leads securely, through internal necessity and not merely by chance, to types of evidence analogous to those obtained by the other sciences?

3. Finally it leads to a criterion: insofar as philosophy does not possess this type of knowledge and this secure method of the other sciences, its defect in that regard becomes an objection to its scientific character.

Now, faced with this statement of the question we must energetically affirm:

1. That the difference which Husserl, Kant and Descartes point out between science and philosophy, though very important, is not in the final analysis sufficiently radical.

2. That the difference between science and philosophy is not an objection to the character of philosophy as a strict form of [104] knowledge about things.

And this is so because, in the last analysis, their objection to philosophy derives from a certain conception of science which, without prior discussion, is assumed applicable to all strict and rigorous knowledge.

I. The radical difference separating philosophy and the sciences does not arise from the scientific or philosophical state of knowledge. It would seem, listening to Kant, that the only thing which matters is that, relative to its object, philosophy (in contrast to science) has not yet managed to give us a single reliable step leading to that state of knowledge. And we affirm that said difference is not sufficiently radical, because frankly it presupposes that the object of philosophy is there, in the world, and that all we need do is find the secure road leading to it.

The situation would be much more serious if what were problematic turned out to be the object of philosophy: Does the object of {115}philosophy exist? This question is what radically separates philosophy from the other sciences. Whereas these latter start from the possession of their object, and then simply study it, philosophy must begin by actively justifying the existence of its object, the possession of which is in fact the end, not the presupposition of its study. And philosophy can only be an on-going concern by constantly recovering the existence of its object. When Aristotle termed it Zetoumene episteme, he understood that what men sought was not only the method, but the very object of philosophy as well.

What does it mean to say that the existence of the object of philosophy is problematic?

If this meant simply that we were ignorant of what that object is, the problem, though serious, would ultimately be quite simple. It would be a question of saying either that humanity has not yet discovered that object, or that it is so complicated that its apprehension is still obscure. To be sure, the former is what happened for many centuries in the case of each of the sciences and therefore their respective object!: were not simultaneously discovered during the course of history; some sciences were born later than others. On the other hand, if it were true that the object of philosophy were excessively complicated, the question would be that of trying to show it only to those minds who had acquired sufficient maturity. This would be analogous to the difficulty encountered by someone who tried to explain the object of [105] differential geometry to a student of mathematics in elementary school. In either of these cases, owing to historical vicissitudes or didactic difficulties, we would be dealing with a deictic problem, with an individual or collective effort to point out (deixis) what that object is which goes about here lost among the other objects of the world.

Everything leads us to suspect that this is not the case.

The problematicism surrounding the object of philosophy stems not only from a de facto failure to come upon it, but moreover from the nature of that object, which, in contrast to all others, is constitutively latent. Here we understand by "object" the real or ideal thing with which science or any other human activity deals. In this case, it is clear that: {116}

1. This latent object is in no way comparable to any other object. Therefore, however much we wish to say about the object of philosophy, we shall be moving on a plane of thought far removed from that of the other sciences. If each science deals with an object, either real, fictitious, or ideal, the object of philosophy is neither real, fictitious, nor ideal; it is something else, so much so, that it is not a thing at all.

2. We thus understand that this peculiar object cannot be found separated from any other object, be it real, fictitious, or ideal; but rather is included in all of them, without being identified with any particular one. This is what we mean when we affirm that it is constitutively latent, latent beneath every object. Since man finds himself constitutively directed toward real, fictitious, or ideal objects, with which he must create his life and elaborate his sciences, it follows that this constitutively latent object is on account of its own nature essentially fleeting.

3. What this object flees from is none other than the simple glance of the mind. In contrast, then, to what Descartes maintained, the object of philosophy can never be formally discovered through a simplex mentis inspectio. Rather, after the objects beneath which it lies have been understood, a new mental act reworking the previous ones is necessary to position the object in a new dimension so as to make this other new dimension not transparent, but visible. The act by which the object of philosophy is made patent is not an apprehension, nor an intuition, but a reflection, a reflection which does not, as such, discover a new object among the others, but a new dimension of each object, whatever it may be. It is not an act which enriches our [106] understanding of what things are. One must not anticipate that philosophy will tell us, for example, anything about physical forces, organisms, or triangles which is inaccessible to mathematics, physics, or biology. It enriches us simply by carrying us to another type of consideration.

To avoid misunderstandings, we should observe that the word 'reflection' is employed here in its most ingenuous and common meaning: an act or series of acts which, in one form or another return to {117}an object of a previous act through this latter act. 'Reflection' here does not mean simply an act of meditation, nor an act of introspection, as when one speaks of reflective consciousness, as opposed to direct consciousness. The reflection here described consists of a series of acts through which the entire world of our life is placed in a new perspective, including the objects therein and all the scientific knowledge we may have acquired about them.

Secondly, note that though reflection and what it discovers to us cannot be reduced to a natural attitude and what it discovers to us, this does not mean that in one fashion or another, in one degree or another, reflection is not just as primitive and inborn as any natural attitude.

II. It follows then that the radical difference between science and philosophy does not fall upon philosophy as an objection. it does not mean that philosophy is not a rigorous form of knowledge, but only that it is a different type of knowledge. Whereas science is a knowledge which studies an object that is there, philosophy, since it deals with an object that on account of its own nature hides, which is evanescent, will accordingly be knowledge which must pursue its object and detain it before human gaze, which must conquer it. Philosophy is nothing but the active constitution of its own object; it is the actual carrying out of this act of reflection. Hegel's fatal error was just the opposite of Kant's. Whereas Kant, in short, divorced philosophy from any object of its own, thus making it refer back to our mode of knowing, Hegel reified the object of philosophy making of it the all out of which every other object emerges dialectically and in which each is sustained, also dialectically.

For the present it is unnecessary to further clarify the nature of the object of philosophy or its formal method. Here the only thing I wish to emphasize is that irrationalism not withstanding, the object of philosophy is strictly an object of knowledge, but this [107] object is radically different from the rest. Whereas any science or any human activity considers things that are and such as they are (hos estin), philosophy considers them inasmuch as they are (hei estin, Metaphysics 1064a3). {118} In other words, the object of philosophy is transcendental, and as such accessible only to a reflection. The "scandal of science" not only isn't an objection to philosophy which must be resolved, but a positive dimension which it is necessary to conserve. Therefore Hegel said that philosophy is the world in reverse. The explanation of this scandal is the problem, content, and destiny of philosophy. Hence (although not quite what Kant said) "one does not learn philosophy, one learns to philosophize." And it is absolute certain that one only learns philosophy by starting out to philosophize.

Barcelona, December 1940.

From the prologue to Historia de la Filosofia, by Julian Marias, Revista de Occidente, Madrid, 1941. [Not included in the English edition published by Dover, 1967-trans.]

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Every science, whether history or physics or theology (and likewise every natural attitude of life) makes reference to a more or less determinate object, with which man has already come into contact. The scientist may, then, direct himself to it, and set himself one or more problems about it the attempted solutions of which constitute the reality of science. If the presumed science does not yet enjoy a clear conception of what it pursues, then it is not yet a science. Any wavering on this point is an unequivocal sign of imperfection. That does not mean the science is immutable, but what changes in it is the concrete content of the solutions given to the one or more problems it has set out to solve. The problem itself, I repeat, remains unaltered. The physical view of the universe has profoundly changed from Galileo to Einstein and quantum mechanics; but all these changes occurred within the scope of a general endeavor known and defined all along, viz, measurement of the universe. Sometimes perhaps the very formulation of the problem may change. But this occurs extremely rarely and across long spans of time; and when it does happen it is owing to a new formulation of the problem which is equally as clear and determinate as the previous one, so that one may ask, indeed, whether ultimately the science has not ceased to be what it used to be, and become something else, a different science. Thus in the Middle Ages physics studied the principles of the ens mobile; after Galileo it was measurement of the material universe. In both cases physics was {120}a science when it had begun to tell itself what it sought to do.

Very different is the course of philosophy. In fact, philosophy begins by not knowing whether it has a proper object; at least, it does not start formally from the possession of an object. Philosophy presents itself, above all, as an effort, as a "pretension". And this, not on account of any simple ignorance de [109] facto or a simple lack of knowledge, but on account of the constitutively latent nature of that object. hence it follows that the strict separation between a problem clearly formulated beforehand and its later solution, which is basic to all science and to all natural attitudes of life, loses its primary meaning in connection with philosophy. Hence philosophy must be, first and foremost, a perennial revindication of its object (let us call it that), an energetic illumination of it and a constant and constitutive "making room." From Parmenides' entity (on), Plato's Ideas, and Aristotle's analogical being as such, up to Kant's transcendental conditions of experience and the absolute of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, passing through all the theological strata of medieval thought and the first centuries of the modern era, philosophy has been first and foremost a justification of or demonstrative effort for the existence (sit venia verbo) of its object. Whereas science deals with an object which it already clearly possesses, philosophy is the effort directed toward a progressive intellectual constitution of its own object, the violence of yanking it from its constitutive latency and clearly revealing it. Therefore philosophy can only exist revindicating itself, and in one of its formal dimensions consists in an "opening a path." Consequently, philosophy cannot have a greater ascendancy than that fixed by the intellectual narrowness which de facto oppresses the philosopher.

In virtue of this, it is only clear to the philosopher after he finds himself philosophizing what a mighty labor he carried out to reach the point where he could begin to philosophize. And this is true whether one deals with obtaining rigorous evidence or rising to transcendental intuitions. In this labor of opening a path one sketches and outlines the figure of the problem. It is possible for the philosopher to have begun with a certain subjective intellectual purpose. But this does not mean that such a beginning is formally the origin of his philosophy. {121}And if we agree that the nature of the problem is the origin of principles, we must say that, in philosophy, the origin is the end, and moreover in its first original and radical "step" all of philosophy is already there. Throughout this process philosophy properly speaking does not evolve, is not enriched with new characteristics; rather, the characteristics become more explicit, they continually appear as aspects of a self-constitution. Whereas an immature science is imperfect, philosophy is the very process of its own maturity. The rest is dead academic and scholarly philosophy. Hence, in contrast to what [110] happens in science, philosophy must mature in each philosopher. And therefore that which properly constitutes its history is the history of the idea of philosophy. hence the original relationship existing between philosophy and its history must be clarified.

It may occasionally happen that the philosopher begins with an already existing concept of philosophy. But, what meaning or function does such a concept have within philosophy? it is, obviously, a concept which he, the philosopher has created and which therefore is his possession or property. But, once things are underway, because philosophy consists of the "opening a path," it follows that therein the idea of philosophy is constituted. The definition of physics is not the work of physical science, whereas the work of philosophy is the conquest of its idea of itself On this point, that initial movement has no bearing whatsoever; philosophy has achieved its own consistency, and with it an adequate concept, the concept which philosophy has created for itself. Nor is it any longer the philosopher who bears the concept of philosophy, as happened at the beginning; rather, philosophy and its concept are what bear the philosopher. In that apprehension or conception which the concept is, it is no longer the mind which apprehends or conceives philosophy, but rather philosophy which apprehends and conceives the mind. The concept is not the property of the philosopher, but rather the philosopher is the property of the concept, because this latter springs from what philosophy is in itself. Philosophy is not the work of the philosopher; the philosopher is the work of philosophy.

Whence, before and only before a mature philosophy do we see that it is not only possible but necessary {122}to ask how far and in what way does that philosophy answer its own concept. A typical case, to speak only of recent history, is shown to us by German Idealism, from Kant to Hegel. It makes perfect sense to scrutinize this entire current of transcendental idealism, and determine in the case of each philosopher an original philosophy, absolutely compatible with the common root of all of their thought, and even with Kant's singular merit of being the first to discover the root and bear the first fruits.

Cruz y Raya, September 1935