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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Laureates  

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Indro Montanelli and Julián Marías Aguilera

Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities 1996

Speech by Mr. Julián Marías.

Your Majesty, Your Highness,

To receive the Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities is an extraordinary honour for me, the true value of which I gratefully acknowledge. Perhaps the only justification for this award is that of having devoted so much of my life –of my already long life– to studying these disciplines. I cannot but recall that, back in 1948, Ortega founded the Institute of Humanities, organized, it was said, by José Ortega y Gasset and Julián Marías, two foolish men who had nothing to lose. Shortly after his death, from 1960 to 1969, I ran a seminar on the Humanities in which my closest collaborators were Enrique Lafuente Ferrari, Pedro Laín Entralgo, Rafael Lapesa, José Luis Aranguren, Melchor Fernández Almagro. The younger collaborators that worked with us included those who are now illustrious; Gonzalo Anes, Helio Carpintero, Miguel Martínez Cuadrado, Eduardo Martínez de Pisón, Carmen Martín Gaite, Francisco Aguilar Piñal and José María López Piñero presently come to mind, as well as a few more who are also worthy of being recalled and who today occupy key positions in intellectual disciplines in Spain.

I believe that the Humanities have been somewhat neglected in our time; there is beginning to be a certain awareness of this fact and it is very grave that this is happening at the present time. Humanities are the sciences of what is human. They are not just the classical languages in which our roots lie. They are Philosophy, History, Literature, the grand interpretation of human reality, the precise organ of its imaginative representation, of the relations between people and most especially of the relation between man and woman. They are precisely these disciplines, which, together with the Natural disciplines, compose what Dilthey called the intellectual globe. They are the other half of the intellectual globe.

For a certain time now, however, despite the fact that the Humanities have been a creative force throughout Europe and most particularly in Spain, a force that may even be called glorious in the 20th century, they have been progressively neglected over the last three or four decades. What has in fact occurred is the continuance of a trend, one initiated back in the 18th century and driven by diverse, alternating teams which has consisted in the reduction of what is human to what is nonhuman. The reduction of man, the reduction of what a person is to an organism, sometimes somewhat inorganic, to a thing. Language, I have stated many times, absolutely distinguishes a person from a thing. We distinguish between “what and who”, between “something and somebody”, between “nothing and nobody”. The Spanish language even has a particular refinement: it constructs the accusative case for a person with the preposition “a”, which is not used for the accusative case for things. We say “he comprado un libro”, “he roto un vaso”, but we say “he visto a Juan”, “amo a Isabel” with the preposition “a”. Language never confuses the two.

However, Science and Philosophy have spent two thousand long years asking what Man is. Wrong question… a question which ensures a false answer. The question should be twofold, two questions which to a certain degree are opposed, conflicting, but which cannot be omitted. Namely “who am I?”, “what will become of me?”. These are the fundamental questions, questions that Philosophy has made accompanied by other fields of the Humanities. I think that, above all, there has been an overwhelming predominance of thinking about things. We think about things, we move comfortably among things. But the person (I have spent most and the best part of my scientific and philosophical research studying what a person is)… the person is a reality unlike any other. The person is totally different from any thing; the person is a projective reality, oriented towards the future, not entirely real, because the reality of the person includes unreality. A person is precisely something past because a person has memory, because he or she is a memory; and future, too, because a person is the anticipation of something which is not even the future yet. Not even the future yet because it is not bound to occur.

I have coined the term “futurizo” [futurish]: oriented towards the future, projected towards the future. That is precisely the human condition. And this cannot truly be understood other than via methods that have been created, that have been organized during the 20th century, in which Spain has played a particularly important role. It has been necessary to start out from the reality of human life. Human life, stated Ortega, is what we do and what happens to us. It is not things, fundamental reality is not things, as philosophical realism thought, nor is it the self, as idealism wanted it to be. What’s more, when I say “the self” and a definite article is place in front of it, what is essential to the self is being ignored. The German idealists, who had so much merit, said “das Ich”. That definite article treats the “I” or self as a thing. It has a pronominal function. It is “I”, “you”. If we say “the self” we place an article before I [i.e. my self] and turn it into a thing. We deprive it of its own specific function, which is precisely the projective function, the unreal function. We have done so since human life began, since the doctrine that has professed a reality in which all others appear as “me with things”, “me and my circumstances”, what Ortega called what is around me. It is from there, from that grammatical, projective standpoint, that we can understand this final, fundamental reality, what the person is, what the who is, what each one of us is.

One must bear in mind that when we speak of a person, of the birth of a person, we think that he or she can be derived; a person derives from nothing. The child who is born derives from his or her father and mother, it derives from his or her ancestors, the elements of the cosmos, oxygen and nitrogen and hydrogen and calcium and carbon and phosphorus. Hence we derive “what” the child is, but not “who” he or she is. That who is a third party, not reducible to his or her father or mother or any thing, not reducible even to God, to whom he or she can say no. The child is a new reality, a fundamental innovation of reality. And that is what we call creation. In fact, whenever we speak of creation, we start out from the Creator. Oh, but we cannot start out from the Creator; He is not there, we do not have Him. However, the fact of the fundamental innovation of reality, that is what we mean by creation. And for that reason a new-born child is called a criatura [a creature] in Spanish; in Portuguese, a “criança”, which is the same. A child is precisely this new –this entirely new– reality which cannot be reduced to anything, this new reality is the person. That is what we are. And we need to understand ourselves precisely in this way, in this fundamentally personal way. Like something new, something that is added to everything there is in reality and which is not only reality; something that has a dimension of unreality, an imaginative, projective dimension, which is precisely the content of what we called the Humanities, the disciplines of what is human. Let us not forget that, in Spain, the key contribution our century has made to culture has in fact been in this field of the Humanities.

I think it is essential for this tradition to be maintained in Spain. Essential that, together with the other half of the intellectual globe (that of Nature and the Sciences), precisely the tradition of the Humanities be conserved. When I was very young, before starting my studies, I felt attracted to the Natural Sciences and started studying Science at university. But at the same time I felt the call of the Humanities. So I began to study at the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the same time and then discovered that my vocation, rather than a hobby, my true, inexorable vocation was the Humanities, specifically their philosophical form, inseparable from History and Literature. And that is what I have devoted my life to, with very modest results, but with absolute and very prolonged dedication now, in circumstances that have almost always been difficult, but which have not served to discourage me.

Thank you very much.

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