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“Ortega y Gasset’s Philosophy of Life and His Idea of Europe”

Final Report Summary - OGPLIE (“Ortega y Gasset’s Philosophy of Life and His Idea of Europe”)

Many philosophical and political thinkers claim that at the moment Europe is undergoing a profound spiritual crisis of orientation. Just like many others, the German political scientist Werner Weidenfels sees the origin of the current crisis in the fact that Europe is not capable of; „giving a convincing answer to the question of its own identity and its values". What is thus
required, is - to put it in the words of the Former German State Minster for Culture Julian Nida- Rümelin (2006) - the „reclamation of guiding cultural ideas"; namely of those which are based upon a common European identity. Such a reclamation of guiding cultural ideas is a genuinely philosophical task. An important precursor of studies on European identity and values is the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955), who already raised the question of the cultural identity and the common values of Europe many decades ago putting it in the centre of his philosophy.
Ortega y Gasset is the most significant Spanish thinker of the twentieth century. His work represents a spiritual pluralism beyond idealism, materialism and dogmatism. His extensive body of work, which develops a unique and unmistakeably particular awareness of life and treats of a complex spectrum of topics with stylistic brilliance, has had a wide-reaching impact on European culture. Ortega´s contribution to European integration can be seen not only in his attempt at a synthesis of Mediterranean and northern European (especially German) thought, but also in that during his lifetime he directly addressed the concepts of Europe and European integration, and the questions of a European identity and cultural consciousness, as objects of philosophical study. Ortega was concerned by the disintegrated and fragmented state of Europe after 1918 and the profound mistrust that had grown between its nations. Along with others public intellectuals such as Benedetto Croce, Paul Valery, Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Richard Strauss he championed a creative rehabilitation of the notion of „Europe„ - Europe as a lifeforce that was to have a liberating and conciliatory influence upon notions that had become alienated from one other.
In the project Dr. Rohmer has examinated the work of José Ortega y Gasset in four stages:
1) Ortega´s Philosophy as an Integrative Philosophy of Life
2) Ortega´s Attempt at a Synthesis of Mediterranean and German Thinking Tradition; his Affinities to Husserl, Heidegger, Dilthey and Simmel.
3) Ortega´s Concept of Historical Reason
4) Ortega´s Notion of Europe
As Dr. Rohmer has studied for many years Ortega's life and culture philosophy, he focused his research project on "Ortega´s notion of Europe". According to Ortega, European identity consists of a system of convictions, beliefs and common values, which have originated a system of specific European collective habits , a European public opinion, a European law, and last but not least, a European power (balance of power). According to Ortega, among all these perspectives, the beliefs and the common habits are the most important things. Ortega distinguishes between beliefs and ideas. Wheras we are conscious of our ideas, we live in our beliefs making unconsciously use of them. In this sense, Europa is a belief in which we live, the reality in which we are and project our life. As Dr. Rohmer has pointed out in his project, there are three fundamental beliefs, which are characteristic for the European culture.