Ortega y Gasset, José

Ortega y Gasset, José

Ortega y Gasset, José (hōsāˈ ôrtāˈgä ē gäsĕtˈ), 1883–1955, Spanish essayist and philosopher. He studied in Germany and was influenced by neo-Kantian thought. He called his philosophy the metaphysics of vital reason, and he sought to establish the ultimate reality in which all else was rooted. In 1910 he became a professor of metaphysics at the Univ. of Madrid. In Meditaciones del Quijote (1914) and España invertebrada (1921) he compared Germanic and Mediterranean cultures. The Modern Theme (1923, tr. 1931) is one of his best philosophical books. Many of the essays in El Espectador (8 vol., 1916–34) first appeared in the Revista de Occidente, a review he founded (1923) and directed. But it was with The Revolt of the Masses (1929, tr. 1932) that Ortega gained international fame. He held that unless the masses can be directed by an intellectual minority, chaos will result. Although he supported the republic, he fled at the outbreak (1936) of the civil war, first to France and then to Argentina. After World War II he returned to Madrid, where he founded the Institute of Humanities. His other collections translated into English include Toward a Philosophy of History (1941), The Mission of the University (1944), Concord and Liberty (1946), The Dehumanization of Art (1948), Man and People (1957), and Man and Crisis (1958).


See biographies by H. Raley (1971) and F. Niedermayer (1973).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ortega y Gasset, José


Born Mar. 9, 1883, in Madrid; died there Oct. 18, 1955. Spanish idealist philosopher, essayist, and public figure.

The son of a man of letters, Ortega y Gasset graduated from the University of Madrid in 1904. He continued his studies of philosophy at the universities of Leipzig, Berlin, and Marburg. From 1910 to 1936 he was professor of metaphysics at the University of Madrid. Ortega y Gasset was active as a journalist. He helped found and contributed to the journals España (Spain; 1915–24) and El Sol (The Sun; 1916–37). He was the founder and editor of the sociopolitical monthly Revista de Occidente (Western Review; 1923–36), a journal that gained world renown.

An opponent of the monarchy, Ortega y Gasset served from 1931 to 1933 as a deputy in the first constituent assembly of the second Spanish republic. In 1931 he was one of the founders of the group of intellectuals known as La Agrupación al Servicio de la República (Group in the Service of the Republic). When the civil war broke out in Spain in 1936, Ortega y Gasset emigrated to Latin America. In 1945 he returned to Europe and in 1948 to Spain, where he helped found the Institute of Humanities. To the end of his life, Ortega y Gasset remained an outspoken opponent of the Franco dictatorship.

Ortega y Gasset’s philosophical views were influenced by the Marburg school of neo-Kantianism, whose principal exponent was H. Cohen. Ortega y Gasset endeavored to broaden the neo-Kantian thesis of the self-assertion of the knowing subject in the development of culture to signify the. vital expression of the subject in historical existence. At first he interpreted historical existence in an anthropological sense, along the lines of the “philosophy of life” (especially, the ideas of G. Simmel and M. Scheler). Ortega y Gasset later came under the influence of the German existentialism of M. Heidegger, and he began to view history as an intellectual accumulation of direct experiences—“listening closely to life” with the aid of vital reason. Ortega y Gasset called this synthesis of different philosophical concepts ratio-vitalism.

In his world-renowned sociological work The Revolt of the Masses (1929–30), Ortega y Gasset counterposed the intellectual “elite,” the creators of culture, to the “masses,” who content themselves with unconsciously assimilated standard concepts and notions. He considered the fundamental political phenomenon of the 20th century to be the ideological and cultural estrangement between the elite and the masses and the resulting general social disorientation and the rise of mass society.

In aesthetics, Ortega y Gasset was a theorist of modernism, especially in The Dehumanization of Art (1925).

Ortega y Gasset greatly influenced Spanish philosophical and social thought, especially during the second and third decades of the 20th century, as well as European bourgeois sociology, particularly its approach to the problems of mass society and mass culture.


Obras completas, vols. 1–11. Madrid, 1953–70.
Obras ineditas, vols. 1–7. Madrid, 1957–62.
El espectador, vols. 1–8. Madrid, 1960–63.
In Russian translation:
“Degumanizatsiia iskusstva.” In Sovremennaia kniga po estetike. Moscow, 1957.


Davydov, Iu. N. Iskusstvo i elita. Moscow, 1966.
Bondarenko, N. D. “Nekotorye aspekty problemy cheloveka v filosofii Ortega-i-Gasseta.” In Istoriko-filosofskii sbornik. Moscow, 1968.
Dolgov, K. M. “Filosofiia kul’tury i estetika Khose Ortegi-i-Gasseta.” In O sovremennoi burzhuaznoi estetike, fasc. 3. Moscow, 1972.
Ferrater, Mora J. Ortega y Gasset: An Outline of His Philosphy. London, 1956.
Abellán, J. L. Ortega y Gasset en la filosofĭa española. Madrid [1966].
Morón, A. C. El sistema de Ortega y Gasset. Madrid, 1968.
Aguado, E. Ortega y Gasset. Madrid, 1970.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.