Two Critical Spectators: Jose Ortega y Gasset and Raymond Aron
42 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2014
This essay examines the role of “critical spectatorship” in the writings of two distinguished European intellectuals, José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955) and Raymond Aron (1905-1983). For all of their differences, the two thinkers belonged to the same spiritual family, that of European liberalism broadly defined, a common cultural and political universe placing special emphasis upon individual liberty, dignity, and human excellence. We begin the paper by commenting on the struggle between civilization and barbarism, a fundamental topic in Ortega and Aron’s writings. Preserving the values of civilization was one of the main reasons for their involvement in the public life of their countries. Next, we turn to the concept of “critical spectatorship” central to their writings and comment on the similarities and differences between their visions on this issue. We conclude by drawing a few conclusions on the relevance of Ortega and Aron’s types of social and political criticism for us today.
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