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In this respect Unamuno is indebted to a well-known tradition the tradition of Saint Paul, Saint Augustine, Pascal, and Kierkegaard which he himself has often acknowledged. The kinship exists, not because his philosophy is literally based on the works of these authors, but because it was in them that he discovered—most often, as with Unamuno: For Unamuno it would be incorrect to speak of a man who existed authentically—in flesh and blood—if he did not also exist tragically, and it would be inadequate to say that he lived tragically if his life were not continually torn by the enmity—which acts through the coexistence—of two series of warring provocations: For reason subsists only by virtue of its constant war—and therefore its continual embrace—with hope and faith.

Were this true neither could exist. For Unamuno, to live as a human being and to live tragically were one and the same thing. But Unamuno does not ask anyone to assent to a proposition; he wants everyone to yield to a fact: According to the Russian philosopher, every authentic human being must renounce all ties with the objective world in favor of his own world of dreams.

On the other hand, the human universe that Unamuno describes is one in which the victory of dreams over reason is no less precarious than the victory of reason over dreams. It is a universe that offers no final respite, no quietude, no peace. Even when man is most entirely and happily immersed in the irrationality of his dreams, reason comes forward to trouble his life. And thus man comes to realize that the world of reason—of ideas and abstractions—must be cultivated for the sake of life no less than the world of dreams. The man of flesh and blood is not a person who turns from unreason and the dream world to embrace the implacable yet comforting light of reason, nor the person who escapes the rational universe to hide in the warm, trembling cosmos of faith, but one who vacillates incessantly between one and the other; a person who is, in fact, composed of these two elements.

Instead of being principles from which to deduce and define a concrete existence, these two worlds are perfectly alive, active almost pulsating realities.

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To claim that man must philosophize in order to live is not, therefore, just another formula; it is the faithful description of an experience. Unamuno does not advocate the union—which would entail a reconciliation, and eventually, a truce—of life and reason within the framework of a system where the idea of harmony would forever preclude any discord. There can be no harmony in that war which each human being wages against himself and his antagonists, but only perpetual strife, interminable contradiction, and Unamuno: A Philosophy of Tragedy 39 continual—and fruitful—incivility.

It may be stated as follows: On the one hand, dialectical systems attempt to describe and explain the attributes of the Cosmos as an impersonal being. In such systems, human reality follows the pattern of the cosmic reality. Unamuno refers mainly, if not exclusively, to human existence. And when the ideas of God and world are introduced, they are endowed with human characteristics. On the other hand, all the philosophers who have tried to describe reality as a dialectical process of some sort—Nicholas of Cusa and Giordano Bruno no less than Hegel—have built conceptual systems in which the opposites end in reunification in the bosom of some ultimate and all-embracing principle.

The war between particulars finds peace in the absolute generality of the essential One, so that the principle of identity overcomes, in the end, all contradictions. So, for the authentic man, the correct spiritual disposition is not belief in the impossible simply because it is impossible as some irrationalists would urge , nor yet disbelief because of its impossibility as most rationalists would recommend , but its affirmation without believing it or, as Unamuno said, by creating it.

The embrace is a tragic one, and for Unamuno this means a vital one: Desperation and doubt can never attain a complete victory over hope and belief, but the reverse is also true. The only attainable peace lies in the eye of this powerful hurricane, but the eye subsists only because the hurricane moves on. Thus the man of flesh and blood, who seemed to be so plain, simple, and straightforward, becomes a most complex reality seething with confusion and contradiction.

No sooner had the philosopher asserted the concrete character of this creature than he injects it with what appears to be infinitely removed from any concrete reality: But even though the boundaries of personal unity seem thus to be broken, man never surrenders himself to any absolute being or to any transcendent realm of values. The man of flesh and blood strives to be all in all, while he fights to remain within the limits of his personal unity. At any rate, it would be a mistake to enlist Unamuno in the ranks of classical idealism, as it would be inadequate to consider him a naturalist or a realist.

Realism, naturalism, and Unamuno: A Philosophy of Tragedy 41 materialism define man in terms of what he is, which nearly always means, in terms of what he has been. Idealism, on the other hand, defines man in terms of what he ought to be. They fight against everybody, including their author, in order to be men of flesh and blood, for only in the course of such a struggle can they achieve their greatest reality. But he can menace the author by reminding him that God—a sort of supreme author—may stop dreaming him. As we shall see later on, the so-called fictitious characters in the novels possess a reality of their own.

They too are the products of a dream: When we rebel against the fact that God is constantly dreaming us, we assist God in His everlastingly creative task—dreaming. We are not, however, entirely at the mercy of the Dreamer, for we have the power of changing His dreams. A Philosophy of Tragedy 43 himself is our dream, can we not conclude that dream is the universal stuff of which all things are made? It goes without saying that Unamuno does not answer these questions as a philosopher would. He does not use argument, let alone any sort of rigorous proof. He uses a confusing but stimulating method in which bold assertions are blended with series of interrogations.

As an example of bold assertion, let me quote the following: Unamuno opposes, then, both rationalists who worship the principle of identity and rationalists who rejoice in contradiction, so far as all of them agree that God is the Reality in which all opposition is reconciled and all diversity unified.


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He also opposes those Platonic—and Neoplatonic—philosophies that reduce the sensible world to the status of a copy and reflection of the intelligible world. According to these philosophies, the authentic life consists in a contemplation of the divine world of the Idea. But since such a life would of necessity be a disembodied existence—or, more exactly, would mean living as though one led a disembodied existence—the Platonic emphasis on intelligibility and unity always ends by sacrificing the concrete man who formulated—and longed for—it.

An analogous situation occurs, by the way, in those philosophies that, while apparently hostile to the idea of a static intelligible world, are no less eager to set the torch to the particular and the concrete, even though they concoct theories about a supposedly dynamic unity of opposites. All that is not identity, claimed Giordano Bruno, is vanity, nothingness, illusion, and void. All oppositions, proclaimed Hegel, must be reconciled. The absolute One, the absolute Idea, the pure Identity, thus emerge victorious over all opposition, so much so that in the end all struggles to win an eternal peace are resolved.

Peace is at last attained, but with it, Unamuno agreed, life itself comes to an end. But they exist, as much as anything does, within the framework of an unending battle. They struggle to hold their ground, and they push forward—though unsuccessfully—toward ultimate domination. It would of course be impertinent to ask Unamuno for any rational elucidation of a theme that, more than any other, he has always left adrift in a sea of indefiniteness and paradox. If, on the one hand, Unamuno surmised that this Universal Consciousness is trapped in matter, thus seeming to adhere to a pantheistic and even materialistic monism, on the other hand he declared that God—the eternal and infinite consciousness of the world—is something transcendent.

In either event it can be said that He is in the battle. Could we not even say that He is the battle—or the very symbol of it? At any rate, as soon as we try to divorce Him from any struggle we are in danger of depriving Him of His existence. Then too, this battle presupposes a constant suffering after the manner of Schopenhauer—who probably influenced Unamuno more than the latter would have been willing to admit. We are here confronted with Unamuno: Only if we fail to notice that he at once weakens his definitions and formulae by voicing them in a series of unanswered questions.

The method of interrogation of which I spoke before now gains an upper hand. Might not matter itself, Unamuno asks, be the beginning of the unconscious God? Is not God the end rather than the beginning of the universe? Is there a difference in terms of eternity between beginning and end? Are things ideas of the Master Consciousness? Does God the Eternalizer ever forget what He has once thought? Questions of this kind result from a natural dissatisfaction with any definite solution, and show again how pointless is any attempt to contain Unamuno in a single intellectual pigeonhole.

Monism, pantheism, materialism, spiritualism, and personalism are some of the best-known responses to the above questions. Not one of them is, however, entirely acceptable to Unamuno. He is the reason of the world and its unreason, its consciousness and unconsciousness, its anguish and pleasure, its spirit and matter. Thus the only really apt name for God is what Unamuno was finally to give Him: God, like man, doubts Himself and in the process of doubting creates both Himself and man.

If in the first he says that: God is the unattainable desire we have to be Him; Who knows? Perhaps God Himself is an atheist; in the second the atheist prays to a God in whom he cannot rationally believe, but whose existence he must affirm unless he wishes to deny his own. That is why this strange atheist exclaims: This is the God who denies and affirms Himself, who desires and fears, who pulsates in the heart of mankind and hovers above it. A God who defies rational proof but welcomes those who approach Him armed with the tools of belief and love.

He who dreams the world is in turn its dream; the Eternalizer is Himself eternalized. Without man and the world, God would not exist. Since tragedy stirs in the depths of everything, it is also active in the depths of God, whose life is as full of tension and conflict as the life of man and that of the universe. Its role is such a central one that at times it threatens to obscure all the rest. Although, in phrasing the question, he often used the vocabulary of the Platonic-Christian tradition, his purpose was not the same. Was each man doomed to an eternal death, or could one hope to survive it?

Unamuno could not avoid thinking of death as both inevitable and frightening. His struggle against the fear of death was so impassioned that in dealing with the problem of immortality he seems to have halted the incessant pendulum movement of his thought at one of its extremes. We are tempted to conclude that his desire for immortality blinded him to the misery of death, and that in this instance his heart won its only victory over the mind.

Our desire to be immortal, to survive, is even stronger than our desire that there be a God. The hunger for immortality is an almost physiological impulse. Reason teaches us that immortality is highly problematical, if not absurd. Or, to be more exact, reason teaches us nothing in this connection, and thus leaves us in a state of perplexity. That is more disturbing than the certainty of our death. The premises themselves cannot be proved, either rationally or empirically. It is a very peculiar kind of skepticism, one that acts as a stimulant rather than as a palliative.

The stronger the conviction that immortality cannot be proved, the more deeply belief in immortality penetrates our minds. But the hunger for survival is tied to the anxiety caused by the imaginative anticipation of death as a complete extinction of our being. He struggled against these notions as much as, if not more than, he accepted them.

A Philosophy of Tragedy 49 saecula saeculorum. But although Unamuno was extremely sympathetic to the Spinozian notion of conatus, he disagreed with Spinoza in one important respect. Furthermore, immortality must be understood in its widest connotation and not limited to the desire felt by one human individual to survive. Properly speaking, for Unamuno, to be immortal is to be God.

But if a thing cannot be all things for all time, let it be at least itself most of the time. And if man cannot be God, let him at least share in imagination the eternality and omnipresence of God. The longing for immortality itself oscillates perpetually between a maximum and a minimum. Thus, when no other alternative seems available, Unamuno is willing to accept an idea of immortality which presupposes a sacrifice of individuality and a submersion in a single ubiquitous existence. Faced with a choice between a simple annihilation and absorption by a universal reality God, Nature, Mankind , Unamuno would certainly favor the latter.

We may, for the sake of universal Life, sacrifice our private life; we may, for the sake of the Absolute, abandon the relative. To be sure, Nirvana is a lesser evil with which Unamuno could only begrudgingly content himself. But it would still be something. The doctrines of Buddha, of Schopenhauer, and of Eduard von Hartmann are, in a way, soothing. They are not, however, sufficient, and least of all, convincing. Not all beings are immortal to the same degree. A Philosophy of Tragedy 51 immortality in that their movements approach the perfect circular movement; other beings—some would say only the Prime Mover—are truly immortal, because they are purely actual.

From potentiality to actuality, from temporality to eternity, from imperfection to perfection, there is a hierarchy of being that is also a hierarchy of value. So far as this doctrine promotes the idea of immortality, and is even based upon it, it would be acceptable to Unamuno. But as soon as he had found a modicum of consolation in it, he would rebel against the many limitations it implied. For the immortality hinted at in this seemingly perfect universe lacks anguish, anxiety, and drama.

Furthermore, this immortality is given, not won. If no other immortality were available, Unamuno would say, we may accept this one. But not without protest, for if it sometimes appeals to our minds, it can never seduce our hearts. There is, then, no concept of immortality which completely satisfied Unamuno.

But there is at least one concept of immortality near which he seems to linger: As a matter of fact, he often tackled the problem of immortality and the problem of Christianity simultaneously, as if they were interchangeable. True enough, Christian thinkers—if I may be permitted a few quick passes at such a complex subject—have often treated the question of immortality in a way that elicited particular reservations from Unamuno.

So far as they followed certain intellectual patterns outlined by some Greek philosophers—above all, the Platonists—Christian thinkers have always severely limited the idea of immortality. The philosophers of these schools provided so many arguments for it that many of the conceptual instruments later employed by Christian authors in dealing with immortality were drawn from these late Greek sources. Consequently, one may wonder why Unamuno was more satisfied with the Christian concept of immortality than with the Hellenic one.

The relation between Greek philosophy and Christianity was, Unamuno declared again and again, one of struggle: This soul finds rest only in the world of ideas. But it is not itself an idea, an impassive entity; it moves ceaselessly upward or downward, always anxious to live a God-like life, but never attaining it. Therefore, in this idea of the soul, Unamuno found a mode of being which greatly attracted him: We are immortal not as individuals, but only as participants in the one and only Active Intelligence whose infinite rays of light permeate everything that is rational in this world.

Yet, the concept of a suprapersonal immortality is one of the two extremes toward which Christian thought was forced by the Hellenic intellectual tradition. Unamuno emphasized this point again and again. Since Christian thinkers cannot dispense with reason, they must acknowledge some of the consequences that a rational approach to the problem would produce. One such consequence is that whenever a thing is immortal it must at the same time be universal and rational.

On the other hand, Christian thinkers are committed to the doctrine of personal immortality, whether rational or not. They have to affirm what their reason may deny; they must struggle against reason while they are obliged to embrace it. They cannot use reason to prove immortality, but they can use it to strengthen hope and faith through doubt. The soul they spoke of was not an impassive entity, but just the contrary: These theologians and philosophers believed in something that Greek thinkers would have refused to admit for fear of betraying the rational spirit—namely, the resurrection of the dead, what Saint Paul called divine madness before the curious, but skeptical, Athenians in the Areopage.

These were the things Unamuno delighted in underlining and tossed, like bones of contention, in the teeth of all manner of Pharisees. One of these is quite obvious. Unamuno claimed that conceptualization and reason were necessary if the hunger for immortality was to perpetuate itself. The right type of reason could serve as both curb and goad.

But the immortality that concerned him most was that of the human beings who longed for it. There is in the concept of immortality too a perpetual contradiction. The sense of our own mortality becomes then a common-sense truth. When experience and common sense join forces with reason, the conclusion is inescapable: The denial of immortality, or the impossibility of proving it is, therefore, the virtual equivalent of the affirmation of death. To be sure, we are never completely victorious either. But that is precisely what we want, Unamuno surmises, and what prevents us from dying once and for all.

Even if there actually were a survival after death, it would be a continuation of the struggle against the threat of death. The very idea of survival in Hell is less distressing to Unamuno than the idea of an eternal death disguised as an eternal and soporific bliss: Those who do not die, do not live; those who do not die each instant, who are not resurrected in the same instant, do not live, and those who do not doubt do not live. If such a Kingdom were not always on the verge of being lost it would be a kingdom of the dead and not of the living.

Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to suppose that his longings for immortality are always expressed in this lofty language. Immortality can have many forms, and Unamuno is not willing to sacrifice any of them. He has described two of these forms with particular care: Most doctrines of immortality are geared to the future; they assert that man will go on living for ever, but say little, or nothing, about how man should face his past. The reason for this silence about the past is the supposedly beatific character of human survival; a complete state of bliss seems to entail absolute forgetfulness.

But Unamuno finds such doctrines not to his liking. Since no rational account can be given of this recovery of the past, Unamuno expresses the wish for it mainly in poetic discourse. He wants to relive what he once lived. Toward an eternal yesterday direct my flight But do not let it arrive for, Lord, you have No other heaven that would half so fill me with joy. There may be some inconsistency here, and I will not try to remove it merely to show that Unamuno was more logical than he seemed.

Perhaps he thought there was an authentic and an unauthentic past, and that only the former was worth recovering and worth being relived. If immortality means temporal survival, it must not destroy time, but continually relive and reshape it. As to survival in others, Unamuno claimed that it was the prime motor of production and creation. It is, for instance, the basic drive behind sexual love as Schopenhauer had already pointed out and, to be sure, behind carnal paternity.

Human beings aspire to perpetuate themselves, consciously or not, by begetting children who will carry on into the future some of the characteristics of their progenitors. And since the children of the flesh are, according to Unamuno, the prototype of the children of the spirit, it may be said that artists, heroes, and saints pursue the same end as parents: Survival is also, therefore, survival through descendants, through works, and through memory.

The problem here is to know whether the works of man will last forever. And as these works, and mankind itself, seem doomed to extinction, we must consider this kind of immortality—in the event it deserves the name— a most unsatisfactory one. Of course, Unamuno acknowledged this, but he proclaimed that, satisfactory or not, this kind of survival—or the hope of it—made it possible for men to go on living without completely despairing.

If our lives were confined within too narrow limits, and were not reflected in the mind and in the memory of others, we would probably lose the will to live. Basically, the decisive motives of which Unamuno availed himself for his concepts and his dreams of eternization, were predominantly Christian. At any rate, whenever he wanted to probe deeply into the question of immortality, he also inquired about the question of the nature and meaning of Christianity.

He saw a perpetual contradiction in the heart of Christianity which both tears it apart and revitalizes it. This contradiction reveals itself in a series of conflicts in the course of which the very notion of Christianity perishes only to come alive again with renewed vigor. One of these conflicts emerges as soon as we try to define Christianity. Unamuno proposed a formula that was strangely reminiscent of the definitions outlined by some German neo-Kantian philosophers: But when we place his definition in its context we are again on familiar ground.

The complete definition reads: Perhaps these conflicts might be ironed out by declaring that Christianity as a universal value exists only to the degree that it is rooted in experience. But since Unamuno believed that the reverse was equally true, that the world of experience exists only when encased in objectivity, in values, and in universality, the conflict persists. The personal and the universal components of Christianity coexist in a state of war.

Christianity must be true—and hence be universal—and must be experienced—and hence be personal. Christianity, in short, is a series of dogmas and a series of personal experiences. The paradox is obvious: Perhaps, after all, Christianity has no essence; it simply exists, and, as all existences, wrestles with itself. There are many contradictions and antitheses in Christianity which Unamuno points out.

Three of them deserve special attention: I shall consider for a moment a conflict that was much discussed when Unamuno wrote his book, The Agony of Christianity: Social Christianity is an attempt to cure the ills and evils of society by reforming it according to Christian norms. On the other hand, individual or personal Christianity proposes to solve no other problem than that of the individual consciousness. We are thus confronted with a hopeless situation: Some would say that there is no need to push the conflict to this extreme, and that a more reasonable course would be to reconcile the personal and the social components of Christianity.

But by now it should not be necessary to note that Unamuno would have fiercely denounced this eclecticism as Philistine. Unamuno would agree with those who have viewed history—human history, that is—as meaningless, but he would also agree with those who have considered human history the greatest and the most meaningful of all realities.

His thoughts on history are often vague and at times excessively apocalyptic. All this would seem to indicate that, although human history exists in its own right, it cannot be explained by itself, and needs some reality that transcends it. He also rejected the idea of history as a collection of political, social, economic, cultural facts having no other foundation than themselves—even when arranged in a certain order that provides a satisfactorily causal explanation.

This second assumption is, of course, the more Unamunian of the two and, in a sense, the more original. This is why we have entered them here as a conclusion of our analysis of the problem.

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Just as Unamuno wanted to pause in each moment, not merely to enjoy it, but rather to make it eternal, he also wanted to see in each one of the events of history a possibility or, at least, a glimpse of that eternity he dreamed of for himself. Thus he could say that to live eternally was to live within history—by no means, therefore, outside of it, in the bosom of God, of Nature, or of some Hegelian Universal Spirit.

Yet this eternity is in no way a pure intemporality: The Europeanizers were goaded to action by their acute discomfort at being obliged to compare the political, social, economic, and intellectual conditions of Spain and Europe. They meant to prove to all complacent Spaniards that there was a deplorable material and cultural lag in their country, and to warn their compatriots that this lag had increased with the passing years. Europe, they felt, had been making continual progress—political democracy, economic expansion, and scientific creation—whereas Spain had been, at least since the seventeenth century, or perhaps earlier, in a continual decline.

Nevertheless, these reasons can be reduced to seven basic types: Although it was not always easy to substantiate these reasons state administration, for instance, was far from being badly organized or ineffectual , this overall picture seemed close to the truth. A few even thought that the achievement of this goal would inevitably entail, Unamuno: A Philosophy of Tragedy 65 at least for a transitional period, a certain amount of what the Hispanizers declared to be the greatest of all evils for a country: The tenets of the Hispanizers were at the other extreme.

There were many things, they argued, that were wrong with Spain, but not those with which the Europeanizers concerned themselves. On the contrary, the chief trouble was that Spain had blindly adopted all the modern European vices: Therefore, the solution was a simple one: It was not the differences between Europe and Spain which should give cause for alarm, but their increasing similarities.

Could not much of the cruelty, authoritarianism, and fanaticism thought to be so characteristically Spanish, be found in equal abundance in Europe as well? Hence, one must beware of those who drew an excessively sharp dividing line between Spain and Europe. Juan Valera, on the other hand, felt differently. As the critic Guillermo de Torre has noted, this self-styled skeptic would react vehemently whenever any foreigner arrogantly presumed to judge anything Spanish.

To rant for the sake of ranting was pernicious, intolerable; one must try to understand, smooth over, rectify. In short, all fanaticism, all exaltation and delirium, all extremes—no matter what faction sponsored them—must be discarded. Only in this way would Spain cease to swim against the European current. Firmly convinced that there was much in modern Europe which Spaniards would do well to consider carefully, and seduced by political institutions and social customs best exemplified in the area north of the Pyrenees, and even on the other side of the English Channel, he was at the same time a patient rediscoverer, and a passionate lover of every corner—human and urban—of Spain.

His profound appraisal of the history and life of his country was almost unequaled; few of his contemporaries knew how to extract, as he did, the permanent lessons in the lives and gestures most deeply embedded in the historical tradition of his country. Thus, it is apparent that there was an abundance of intermediate positions of all shades, and that, consequently, the extremes I have mentioned and the conflict referred to between Europeanizers and Hispanizers must be taken cum grano salis. This would seem to suggest the conclusion that certain syncopated rhythms, certain outrageous posturings, certain overly abrupt modes of action, were the exception in Spanish life, owing, quite simply, to external pressures of unfortunate lapses.

Does this mean that he considered it more important to approve one of the extreme attitudes that we began by listing rather than the other? Some have felt this to be true. They notice that he not only spoke out for Europeanization and, more often, for Unamuno: A Philosophy of Tragedy 67 Hispanization, but seemed to jump from one to the other as well.

On superficial evidence, therefore, Unamuno seemed to be not just one Hispanizer among many, but the most outspoken of them all. We must not, however, read Unamuno too literally, nor forget that he sincerely enjoyed reducing doctrines to absurdity by wrapping them in startling paradoxes. Unamuno would find little satisfaction in a conventional traditionalism, which he always judged vain, pompous, and shallow. Having failed so many times—or, rather, having never realized all of her overambitious projects—she would be foolish to try once more for success.

There were, then, two alternatives: The first course of action is the business of statesmen; the second one, the task of poets and thinkers. Unamuno was even more outspoken on this point. After all, solitude had never seemed to him more than a preliminary step in the search for companionship. And if we are unable to love each other, it is only because we are unable to remain alone. Only well water is contained; spring water always overflows.

But moving forward again did not mean reviving past glories or building up political and military power. The defenders of a so-called glorious tradition were, in fact, prisoners of a quite limited tradition, for instead of breathing life into the community they managed to retard, paralyze, swamp, and, finally, ruin it. The traditionalists were haunted by the past and inevitably became reactionaries. Despite their claims to the contrary, both were concerned exclusively with dreams, and not with that real fountain of spiritual power which always can be heard by anyone who is able to decipher its hidden harmonies.

Nor is it the dream of a megalomaniac—a thing of splendor and grandeur which reflects only ridicule on the dreamer. The true life of Spain was to be found in the hearts of the Spaniards themselves if they could only do away with historical tradition and the fallacies of traditionalism and progressivism, and direct their exploration inward to the core of the innermost self and there discover the permanent substructure underlying all historical events.

Needless to say, the innermost self of a human community does not live in quiet and peace; like all else, it thrives on conflict—and conflict with itself. Nor was it a question of dreaming, more or less lazily, of a hypothetical and future magnificence. Unamuno was very clear on this point: They must not live according to tradition, or according to reason, or according to tradition corrected by reason, or even reason seconded by tradition.

Their life must be based on their own powers, on their own possibilities. Once they learned to disregard what others wanted them to be, they must strive to be what they themselves wanted to be. This objection is reasonable. But we must be careful not to miss the important point in this Unamunian intuition: Behind this intuition was the idea that the values, toward the achievement of which human existence is directed, can help us to a better understanding of that human existence than even history itself.

Unlike those who ignored the existence of Spanish and Portuguese America, or those who considered them little more than an intellectual colony, Unamuno took them into his heart, even though at times he lectured them very severely. He believed that Americans of Spanish and Portuguese descent lived exactly as did their European counterparts, even when they fought the latter for political or intellectual independence.

A Philosophy of Tragedy 71 manifestations of the same reality according to Unamuno. Unamuno worshiped Don Quixote, and often took Cervantes to task for failing to understand his own hero. He considered it the natural one for Spaniards and, for that matter, for all human beings who were guided by ideals.

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At the heart of this soul is the longing for that immortality that Unamuno considered the trademark of humanity. The Cervantes scholars wrongly assumed that the significance of Don Quijote was in what the hero said, or in the way in which he said it. Quixotism, on the other hand, is an example of a will directed toward the performance of the good; an example of an impulse destined to make this good available to all human beings. The philosophy of Quixotism has, therefore, little or nothing to do with the philosophies proposed by either traditionalists or progressives.

This is why Don Quixote is an enemy of caution; he puts his whole self into every action. But the action he undertakes has a purpose and, basically, it is suffused with prudence. And he felt them as ideals, for only as ideals could they become the essential ingredients of human life. The Cervantes scholars, Unamuno thought, failed to grasp the meaning of the Quixotic attitude.

They treated him as a character in a novel and not as a man of flesh and blood. As a matter of fact, the deeds had a double purpose, in part ethical: Don Quixote constantly strives to become immortal. The Quixotic defense of ideals is not, therefore, a defense of just any ideals, but only those of goodness and eternity. A Philosophy of Tragedy 73 egotism is only apparent. It is really the expression of a longing not to die.

There is too much talk of madness in his philosophy of Quixotism. But, after all, he belonged as Ortega y Gasset noted to the same literary generation as Bernard Shaw—a generation that made paradox the norm of expression. It is not enough, however, to ransom Don Quixote. In the final analysis it is Don Quixote who has corrupted the purity of his own faith through an excessive pride in his self-confidence, whereas Sancho, so full of common sense and so timid in his courage, never once jeopardizes the true Quixotic faith.

Don Quixote sees giants where there are only windmills; his mettle and his desire for justice are often simply the result of a feverish imagination. Sancho, on the other hand, sees the windmills as windmills, and yet does not falter in his faith. And when at the end of his career, Don Quixote betrays his faith, and decides to renounce adventuring, Sancho implores him to return to the highroads of La Mancha in the pursuit of ideal justice. Unamuno is therefore able to conclude that although Don Quixote may die, Sancho never will. But although Unamuno was not a systematic thinker in the conventional—or rather, academic—sense of the word, he was extremely consistent, and even repetitious in the development of his favorite themes.

For Unamuno, Don Quixote is the symbol of a moral ideal, and although Unamuno would certainly resist any attempt to label him, his ethics would be best described as an existential ethics of value. This ethics if not based upon nature, or upon history, and certainly not on a Platonic realm of eternal ideas. It has its roots in the depths of each human being, and yet transcends personality in the sense that any person who behaved as Unamuno proposed must aim at goals that no mortal could ever reach. Thus, in the ethics, as in everything else, conflict is master.

Nevertheless, they have a common source: If there is any difference between them, it is that whereas for Fichte the only goal of the human consciousness was that of realizing itself, for Unamuno there were two goals—goodness and immortality. And only in the pursuit of these two goals did man have a chance of becoming himself.

Together the two chairs provided Unamuno with what he needed most: Not just a chair at the university, and not simply a speaker's platform or pulpit; but rather, an eminence from which to make his powerful and resounding voice heard, the voice that was never silent because its owner never felt that he had said all he should say. The instrument of this stirring, this awakening and renewal of souls was the word—the spoken and written word. In these words—words of exhortation, of injunction, of indignation—each man could discover what he unknowingly and even intentionally concealed from himself.

Through speeches, monologues, and dialogues Unamuno sought to incite souls and transfigure minds. Unamuno would allow only the latter, and he often surmised that one banded together with others only after a previous exasperation with solitude. In view of this, we are almost led to conclude that, in the fashion of that Supreme One described by mystics and Neoplatonists, the word—or the Word—flows forever and spreads without diminishing.

Words are experienced just as joy and sorrow are experienced; words seduce us, exasperate us, move and paralyze us. Words push against the flesh of our souls; we can destroy or convert, lose or save ourselves with words. A Philosophy of Tragedy 77 relationships; it was to enter into them in order to live—or die—with them. For him, a philosopher was a man capable of raising the myriad possibilities of human speech to their highest power, capable of unearthing and developing the secular metaphors of his own language to the greatest possible extent.

This was what Plato had done: Here it would seem that Unamuno shared the doctrine of many contemporary thinkers, that the central problem of all philosophy is language itself. Unamuno, however, would not give ground: To begin with, they battle with the concepts from which they are inseparable.

Words cannot live without concepts, but concepts kill words. The concept is the death that awaits the word, but the word cannot live without the agony with which the presence of the concept provides it. Thus words constitute the foundation of that truly decisive act: This act has many forms, and literature is but one of them.

For if living words cannot be reduced to concepts, neither can they be compared to signs. Concepts and signs are only manifestations of the voice, that viva voce that makes itself heard primarily in the dialogue. Polemical and not only dialectical, for the dialectic is, formally, a closed and preordained system of concepts, whereas the polemic is an open, unpredictable discourse. Words are alive only when we do not know what direction they are going to take. Living, creative words must express themselves incessantly in dialogue—or rather in autodialogue—since otherwise they would become a dead artifact, comparable to a dogma that admits of no doubt or to a faith that never falters.

All this explains, by the way, why Unamuno fought so strenuously against all forms of scientism. Scientism is, in fact, the dead letter of science just as mere literature is the dead letter of poetry. True, living, creative science has little, if anything, to do with scientism.

Such a science admits of self-doubt and can thereby constantly purge itself of its own poisons. In the same way, true, living, creative literature is never a purely literary affair; it erases its own conventional contours and is thus able to renew itself over and over again. Scientism and mere literature do nothing but catalogue the universe; science and poetry re-present it and, to a great extent, in so doing, create it. Real poetry reveals itself by means of the living word; for this reason, in opposition to the Faustian principle that in the beginning was the Action, Unamuno maintained that in the beginning was the Word.

If facts are creative, it is only because words beget them; that is, give them meaning. The true—verum—is, therefore, not the fact itself—factum—nor even the good—bonum—but the spoken—dictum. We may even assume Unamuno: A Philosophy of Tragedy 79 that Unamuno wrote books and articles in such staggering numbers, only because it was physically impossible to speak in person with each one of his fellow humans. If it had proved feasible to sustain a dialogue, viva voce, with each and all at the same time, perhaps Unamuno, in this respect a faithful image of the homo hispanicus, would not have written a single line.

And what is true of the written word is true of all other forms of communication whose vital source has dried up. The contemporary tendency to reproduce the word by means of the tape recorder would have been a diabolical one to Unamuno, for nothing would have been more distasteful to him than to kill the supreme form of communication: To be sure, true poetry can wear any guise.

Poetry is also, and sometimes superlatively so, novel, essay, legend, and even philosophical treatise.

This soul is unearthed, and also enacted, by the poet; the poet gives things their souls and at the same time shapes his own soul through them. Thus poetry is a kind of fusion of man and things, an objectification of man as well as a subjectification of reality. A Philosophy of Tragedy 81 tures—living creatures—according to the methods of realism. The characters created by the realists are usually clothed manikins who move when their strings are pulled, and who carry within them a phonograph that repeats the phrases their puppeteer has collected in the streets and town squares and has jotted down in his book.

The realistic writer copies—or rather, pretends to copy—reality and, in so doing, falsifies it. As we have seen, anything real is made not only of being, but also of the will to be. I suspect, however, that he was aware of this danger, for he implied that to lack a plan was not necessarily to succumb to whim and caprice. The plan of a literary work can be compared to the plan of a human life. Such a plan is progressively conceived as the work is produced. Many rules and directions are laid down in the course of the creative process.

A plan is not a blueprint, a design, or a scheme; it is at most a project of which we are aware only when it is carried out. If any previously established plan can be detected, in life or in literature, it is only the plan of never reaching an end. He showed a definite dislike for any form of writing in which there were beautifully autonomous units, as if nothing could be added to them or subtracted from them. They are meant to be the sounds of a human voice. Such an impulse is present even when, as in poetic forms fixed by tradition—like the sonnet—all would seem to end with the final verse.

But this rhythm is the rhythm of life. It is not difficult to find hendecasyllables in the Tragic Sense of Life. But they are not intended as poetic ornament; they are meant to be songs. This is, of course, another way of saying: Only in this way can what one is coincide with what one wants to be. We may conclude that only in this way can utopia embrace reality.

It was formulated by him as an answer to the question: After all, the paradox in question is closely related to the Unamunian doctrine of the dream and of the relation between God and creation—or the author and his characters. It was observed chapter two that this relation was similar to the one that existed between the dreamer and the dreamed. Novels are written for various reasons: But why did Unamuno write novels?

The second reason cannot be entirely dismissed, since it is operative in Unamuno— at least in the sense of contributing to the expansion of his personality. The third reason has some importance if we rely on certain declarations of the author himself—for example, those found in some of his letters. But it does not explain why he adopted his rather peculiar novelistic technique. The fifth reason is more basic than it at first appears, because the production of novels would be impossible without some sort of creative drive and the psychological satisfaction that it provides for the novelist.

Are we then to conclude that, at bottom, Unamuno wrote his novels for no reason, or that only a combination of all the aforementioned reasons will adequately answer our question? That would be either too easy or too trivial. This is tantamount to making of the novel a kind of epistemological tool for the understanding of this reality.


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  7. Let us examine them both. It is best described as a kind of novel or perhaps drama. The physical appearance, the dress, the actual gestures, the physical background or even the plot are not the important elements of novels. They ought not to be the important part, Unamuno contended, in any novel worth the name. If we feel, however, that Unamuno's modus explanandi is obscure, or unnecessarily paradoxical, we may turn to his modus operandi. It will make his ideas on the subject, if not acceptable, at least clear.

    Let us consider briefly four of his novels: To a certain extent, yes. In Peace in War, Unamuno had proclaimed that we live—or must live—at peace within war. It would seem that in Saint Emmanuel men are invited to live at war within peace. A most interesting change in thought, or at least in mood. Therefore, if the idea of the tragic sense of life, so characteristic of Unamuno: The contents of this speech resemble, curiously enough, the contents of the short story; they both emphasize peace and restfulness.

    If Unamuno had been able to develop in the direction indicated, it is quite possible that his philosophical thought would have undergone drastic modifications, and that the present book, and not only the present chapter, would have been quite differently written.

    I have, accordingly, excluded them from our previous analysis. It would be unfair, however, to ignore them entirely. After all, the latter novel represents as much a beginning of what might have developed as a culmination of what was actually performed. This last point deserves further elucidation. Two examples will, I hope, suffice. Each character has his own characteristic gesture— puffing, rubbing hands together, cleaning spectacles, taking off his coat. For the landscape is not presented as a thing that surrounds the character, but as something that manifests itself in a rather astonishing manner: Mercy [Misericordia] being a revealing example.

    A substantial element of this tradition is Unamunian avant la lettre. For most Spanish authors the novel is not a mirror carried along a highway, not the reflection of an impressionistic universe, and not even the single recounting of a series of human emotions. For them the novel is rather the description of a universe that is, at bottom, personal in nature. Unamuno continued, then, a certain literary tradition, but did not limit himself to repeating it.

    He gave it new life, and since he was a philosopher as much as, if not more than, a novelist, he managed finally to make it aware of itself. This theme is, as we have pointed out, closely related to the one discussed in an earlier chapter: Unamuno alluded to this feeling—he was obviously quite troubled by it—on several occasions. The dependency between the Dreamer and the dreamed is, basically, an interdependency, for even when the person dreamed finds the dream in which he lives most oppressive, he is still aware that he is capable of influencing the life, and hence the dreams, of his Dreamer—or his Author, for to dream and to create are two sides of the same coin.

    God, and the characters in novels. This conclusion, however, would be a rash generalization. We might then conceive of God as the Supreme Poet or the Supreme Novelist—and that would be neither more nor less reasonable than imagining Him as the Supreme Watchmaker, the Supreme Geometrician, or the Supreme Calculator.

    On the other hand, all these realities are mixed together, and hence resist organization into any hierarchy on account of a presupposition that Unamuno believed to be plain fact: Thus it would be incorrect to distinguish between an author and the characters he creates. In this book we see how the character of a novel lives obsessed by the character in another novel.

    Their deaths should coincide, and for this reason whenever the former reads about what is happening to the latter he lives in a constant state of agony. The lives of the two characters are inextricably intertwined. Should we say that they are both real or that they are both fictitious? Read e-book online Causation and Responsibility: The concept that of causation is key to ascribing ethical and obligation for occasions.

    What accurately is the relationship among the idea that of causation utilized in attributing accountability and the bills of causal family members provided within the philosophy of technology and metaphysics? Download e-book for iPad: Nicholas Rescher — das philosophische System: Das Buch stellt erstmals in deutscher Sprache das umfassende philosophische procedure von Nicholas Rescher dar. Download e-book for kindle: