Subjectivity as the First Solution for "Disorientation" - Ch 2. Some Lesson In Metaphysics by Jose Ortega y Gasset

Some Lessons in Metaphysics Ch. 2 "Metaphysics and basic orientation. Genuine orientation and fictitious orientation. The person himself and the conventional personality. Life is what we do and what happens to us. The attributes of life. Life is evidential. The world is what affects us. Life is always unforeseen. To live is to feel ourselves forced to decide what we are going to be. To live is, above all, to collide with the future."

Our Fundamental Disorientation

We begin our life is an "disoriented state," and metaphysics is an attempt at orientation. Orientation fundamentally having a knowledge of what things are. 1 But knowing what things are can only take us so far as we know things only is partial ways. This partiality is somewhat due to our lack of knowledge of what being is in general, or as a whole. A relatively new question then emerges in regard to metaphysics, "what is being?" 2 Similarly a new question has emerged in the philosophy of knowing, and that is, "What does it mean that there is a knowing agent at all?" As one progresses into these deeper questions, it becomes clear that orientation is deeper than knowing. Knowing is, itself, a form of orientation in the world. 3 This orientation is so deep that it is not as if it is something that is created by man when he is discontent, as if metaphysics was man's own creation. Rather, the disorientation is part of the substance of humanity, it is part of everyone, all the time. This is encountered when one turns inward on themselves to know themselves, but which is counteracted by coming to know one's place as part of a community, nation, people, planet, and religion, all of which orient one in the world. 4 "To feel oneself lost! Did you ever consider what those words mean in themselves? Without going beyond them, to feel oneself lost implies first the sensation of feeling oneself--that is, meeting oneself, finding oneself; but, by the same token, that self which man encounters on feeling himself consists precisely in a pure state of being lost." 5

 Search for Knowledge as Orienting 

 Some of these orienting factors are convictions, they are simply clear to us, such as to walk out through the doorway or that two plus two is four. 6 Yet there are convictions which we belief because we trust in the convictions of others, rather than really knowing for ourselves. It takes us stepping back and asking ourselves the question to truly find the answer and have that conviction for ourself. While it was in the process of being answered, we felt the ignorance and disorientation that Gasset is getting at here. 7

\Yet there is an easier way of doing this which captures many people. Instead of taking on those difficult questions for oneself, one chooses to simply accept the conclusions of others and adopt the answers of others. This may be akin to something like ideological possession, or just following the fads of the day. 8 Regardless, all realities - science, religion, metaphysics - are framed by something more fundamental, in a sense, then themselves, and that is that they are all parts of our lives, our experience of being. 9 Life is what is most fundamental, but how do we define it? Our days are filled up with a variety of occupations, from small to large. "The result, then, is that in this inquiry into life's pure essence, the first view we get of it appears to us as the sum of what we do, the sum of our activities which, so to speak, furnish it. Life is what we do and what happens to us." 10

Knowledge of Oneself as a Living Existential Person as Fundamentally Orienting 

Life, as well, is only lived in the actuality of the present moment. Life is not ever lived in the past or future, for those two realities only exist in the present as memory or anticipation. 11 Human life at its core is the experience of oneself, a type of continual discover of the world, but most essentially of oneself as a conscious and moral agent, in control of their life in the world. 12 This is the most fundamental and thus orienting knowledge one can have, to know thyself. 13 Inextricably connected to this experience of living, our subjectivity, is the fact of the world imposing itself on us. These are not separable realities, but constitute one unified reality. A reality that we do not choose, but we live in according to our particular circumstances. 14 Rather, we are cast into life without our choosing. What we can choose is the constant battle to solve the situations of each moment that we participate in. 15 It is a battle that is never finished, one constantly that we are ongoing. But at the same time, life is never predetermined, we have a say in these choices and situations. 16 For better or worse, we choose the burden we carry or the load we release from our shoulders. We decide who we will become through out actions. 17 It is the moment by moment decisions that makes up our live as we proceed towards some goal in the future. 18 The future, our goal, is that which directs and orders the live and choices that we make and live. 19


In Chapter two Gasset tries to take this discussion about metaphysics down to its most basic and fundamental level. Now, from his perspective, being influenced by Existentialism and Phenomenology, he relates this towards the experience of life. Our subjectivity is the most basic reality there is, more fundamental than metaphysics, religion, or science. It is out of our life that those others are generated. Why would we generate those disciplines, well that is because fundamentally our lives begin and continue is "disorientation." We do not know where we have come from, why we are here, or where we should go, and if we can go there. The fundamental aspect of living is to engage with our subjectivity and try to answer these questions moment by moment through our conscious decisions. Only in doing this do we become oriented and begin to understand our future and purpose. This is not something that science really deals with because it's not just a body moving in the world, but a conscious subject. This need for orientation is the beginning of metaphysics. 


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