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Jose Ortega y Gasset – For fear of being inept, crude, ridiculous…

January 24, 2015

“[T]he gentleman who professes to be a doctor, or magistrate, or general, or philologist, or bishop – that is, a person who belongs to the directive class of society – if he is ignorant of what the physical cosmos is today for the European man, is a perfect barbarian, however well he may know his laws, or his medicines, or his Holy Fathers. And I should say the same of the person who has not a decently coherent picture of the great movements of history which have brought Humanity to its present parting of ways (for ours is a day of crucial situations). And I should say the same again of the person who has no definite idea of how speculative philosophy conceives today its perpetual essay to formulate a plan of the universe; or how biology endeavors to interpret the fundamental facts of organic life. …

The man who does not possess the concept of physics (not the science of physics proper, but the vital idea of the world which it has created), and the concept afforded by history and by biology, and the scheme of speculative philosophy, is not an educated man. … [I]t is certain that all the other things he does in life, including parts of his profession itself which transcend its proper academic boundaries, will turn out unfortunately. His political ideas and actions will be inept; his affairs of the heart, beginning with the type of woman he will prefer, will be crude and ridiculous; he will bring to his family life an atmosphere of unreality and cramped narrowness, which will warp the upbringing of his children; and outside, with his friends, he will emit thoughts that are monstrosities, and opinions that are a torrent of drivel and bluff.”

(from Mission of the University [1930], translated by Howard Lee Nostrand)

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