Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

José Ortega y Gasset

Spanish Liberal Philosopher and Essayist

"We do not live to think, but, on the contrary, we think in order that we may succeed in surviving."

"The world is the sum-total of our vital possibilities."

"Life is a petty thing unless it is moved by the indomitable urge to extend its boundaries. Only in proportion as we are desirous of living more do we really live."

"He who wishes to teach us a truth should not tell it to us, but simply suggest it with a brief gesture, a gesture which starts an ideal trajectory in the air along which we glide until we find ourselves at the feet of the new truth."

"Life means to have something definite to do - a mission to fulfill - and in the measure in which we avoid setting our life to something, we make it empty. Human life, by its very nature, has to be dedicated to something."

"Life is an operation which is done in a forward direction. One lives toward the future, because to live consists inexorably in doing, in each individual life making itself."

"Nothing so saps the profound resources of a life as finding life too easy."

"Life is our reaction to the basic insecurity which constitutes its substance."

"Our life is at all times and before all else the consciousness of what we can do."

"This unity of dramatic dynamism between two elements, the I and the world - is life."

"Outrage is an outpouring of a feeling of inferiority."

"Your soul is the closest to you, but it is not you yourself."

"By speaking, by thinking, we undertake to clarify things, and that forces us to exacerbate them, dislocate them, schematize them. Every concept is in itself an exaggeration."

"We must get over the error which makes us think that a man’s life takes place inside himself."

"Civilization is nothing else but the attempt to reduce force to being the last resort."

"We must learn to free ourselves from the traditional idea which would have reality always consist in some thing, be it physical or mental."

"In order that a man may stop believing in some things, there must be germinating in him a confused faith in others. It is curious to note that almost always the dimension of life in which the new faith begins to establish itself is art."

"Nine-tenths of that which is attributed to sexuality is the works of our magnificent ability to imagine, which is no longer an instinct, but exactly the opposite: a creation."

"Man adapts himself to everything, to the best and the worst. To one thing only does he not adapt himself: to being not clear in his own mind what he believes about things."

"It is not obligatory for a generation to have great men."

"Since love is the most delicate and total act of the soul, it will reflect the state and nature of the soul. If the individual is not sensitive, how can his love be sentient? If he is not profound, how can his love be deep? As one is, so is his love."

"Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are."

"One age cannot be completely understood if all the others are not understood. The song of history can only be sung as a whole."

"The only thing which is not purely mechanical about falling in love is its beginning. Although all those who fall in love do so in the same way, not all fall in love for the same reason. There is no single quality which is universally loved."

"Thinking is the endeavor to capture reality by means of ideas."

"We have need of history in its entirety, not to fall back into it, but to see if we can escape from it."

"To be surprised, to wonder, is to begin to understand. This is the sport, the luxury, special to the intellectual man... If anyone in a discussion with us is not concerned with adjusting himself to truth, if he has no wish to find the truth, he is intellectually a barbarian. That, in fact, is the position of the mass-man when he speaks, lectures or writes... The man who discovers a new scientific truth has previously had to smash to atoms almost everything he had learnt, and arrives at the new truth with hands bloodstained from the slaughter of a thousand platitudes."

"The body is a thing, the soul is also a thing; man is not a thing, but a drama - his life. Man has to live with the body and soul which have fallen to him by chance. And the first thing he has to do is decide what he is going to do."

"To live is to feel ourselves fatally obliged to exercise our liberty, to decide what we are going to be in this world. Not for a single moment is our activity of decision allowed to rest. Even when in desperation we abandon ourselves to whatever may happen, we have decided not to decide."

"We live at a time when man believes himself fabulously capable of creation, but he does not know what to create. Lord of all things, he is not lord of himself. He feels lost amid his own abundance. With more means at its disposal, more knowledge, more techniques than ever, it turns out that the world today goes the same way as the worst of worlds that have been; it simply drifts."

"When people talk of the “new morality” they are merely committing a new immorality and looking for a way of introducing contraband goods."

"The only true revolt is creation - the revolt against nothingness."

"Were art to redeem man, it could do so only by saving him from the seriousness of life and restoring him to an unexpected boyishness."

"What makes a nation great is not primarily its great men, but the stature of its innumerable mediocre ones."

"Hatred is a feeling which leads to the extinction of values."

"An 'unemployed' existence is a worse negation of life than death itself. "

"Hatred is a feeling which leads to the extinction of values. "

"A revolution only lasts fifteen years, a period which coincides with the effectiveness of a generation. "

"Law is born from despair of human nature. "

"Excellence means when a man or woman asks of himself more than others do. "

"Life is a series of collisions with the future; it is not the sum of what we have been, but what we yearn to be. "

"For the person for whom small things do not exist, the great is not great. "

"Living is a constant process of deciding what we are going to do."

"I am I plus my circumstances. "

"Rancor is an outpouring of a feeling of inferiority. "

"The characteristic of the hour is that the commonplace mind, knowing itself to be commonplace, has the assurance to proclaim the rights of the commonplace and to impose them wherever it will. "

"The difficulties which I meet with in order to realize my existence are precisely what awaken and mobilize my activities, my capacities."

"Youth does not require reasons for living, it only needs pretexts. "

"The essence of man is, discontent, divine discontent; a sort of love without a beloved, the ache we feel in a member we no longer have. "

"To live is to feel oneself lost. "