The Dual Nature of Reality - Ch. 6 of "The Origin of Philosophy" by Jose Ortega y Gasset

Philosophy Embarks on the Discovery of Another World

In this chapter, Gasset introduces the theme of the next several chapters of the book. He says that he is going to explore the origins of philosophy as the origin of the dual view of the world. This phrase is referring to the birth of philosophy with the Ancient Greek PreSocratics who uncovered and wrestled with the question of how things can both change and yet retain their identity at the same time. All philosophies ultimately have to deal with this duality in that they must explain the relation between the immediate world of the senses with the unchanging reality that must lie beyond or beneath the senses. 


Gasset begins chapter six by pointing out that the history of philosophy is often misunderstood to be a confusing mess of different ideas, and to a certain extent he admits that the terminology of philosophy often can give this impression. But, he says, every truth is ultimately important in the quest for a fuller understanding of reality, regardless of which philosophical perspective it comes from. 1 Indeed one can choose to look at philosophy as having two aspects. There is the view from outside a thing, from a distant perspective as looking at an object. Then there is the view from within the thing, both the interiority of the philosophical task and the object of philosophy, the uncovering of the "supra-world," that which at the core of things, deeper than their appearance. 2 

"...behind the strange divergent landscapes and fauna just presented by the mass of philosophies, we are now able to discern the persistent existence of two worlds, the manifest world and the latent or supra-world. The latent world pulsates beneath the manifest world and its revelation constitutes the supreme philosophical task."Thus philosophy cannot help by illuminate to man two realities to his reality, two fundamental aspects of the world, the world that is immediate and that which lies beneath or beyond. However they interact, we are naturally intrigued to understand and find out more. 4 "...philosophy is not content with one world, the habitual one, but divides or superimpregnates it, compels us to shuttle across the dividing line which, like a frontier, separates philosophy's 'outside' from its 'inside,' its outer image from its innermost essential condition, its interiority." 5

Gasset then lays out the goal for the rest of the book, to lay out the beginnings of philosophy and the manifestation of the dual world which philosophy seeks to understand. 6 Having understood its origins in the past we will then understand where we need to proceed into the future with philosophy. Part of this is to allow the possibility of chance as a force in the actions of man and history, instead of a view of the world from a the Rationalist forces of solely pure reason. 7 Gasset talks about how philosophy in the Pre-Socratic world seems to embody this idea of coincidence as two contemporaries take the most polar opposite positions from one another, illustrating this constant duality that man experiences. Gasset is talking about Parmenides and Heraclitus. 8 He, for a moment, questions if this dual natured view of the world preexisted the beginnings of philosophy, but says that such a question would exceed the bounds of this book and so he will simply stick to the history of philosophy in search for answers to this question regarding the simultaneous unity and duality of truth and reality. 9 As far as philosophy before Parmenides, Gasset has an interesting take. He says that, of course, there are truths which are implicit and left unstated in Parmenides philosophy, and that he draws on ideas from others in Ancient Greece, but that the ideas of Ancient Greece are all contemporary with each other in that they constitute a united strand of philosophy. 10

"... a thinker's idea always possess a subsoil, a soil, and an adversary. None of these three entities is, literally, what is expressed in a thinker's work. They remain peripheral, and the thinker barely alludes to them. But in order to understand him, they must be filled in. Every text fragment of an unexpressed context." 11 The subsoil is the collective thought in which a given thinker operates and begins their work. The soil is the new ideas discovered from which his novel thinking proceeds. 12 The adversary is the contemporary erroneous ideas which spark one's philosophy as a correction or response. Gasset concludes this chapter by saying that he will next pursue the soil and adversary of Parmenides. 13


1 -  Ortega y Gasset, Jose. The Origin of Philosophy. New York: W.W. Norton Company, 1967. pg 66

2 - 67

3 - 67

4 - 67

5 - 68

6 - 68

7 - 69

8 - 70

9 - 71

10 - 73

11 - 73

12 - 73

13 - 74