We will no longer encounter the unique writings of Andrés Ortiz-Osés on the pages of The Philosophical Salon. It’s a pity. A merciless illness marred the last years of his life, but it did not extinguish his passion for writing. Aphorisms, poems, and small articles have been flying off his fingertips despite chemotherapy, which, though it seared his entrails, did not interfere with the sharpness of his linguistic and philosophical ingenuity. Andrés never tired of exploring and articulating the vicissitudes of sense (sentido) that traverse the labyrinths of existence’s non-sense (sinsentido).
Writing allowed Andrés to quell, for the time being, his necessity to interpret the sense of existence, a sense that is always on the verge of hiding in non-sense. His texts were attempts to interpret this sense, while critically assuming, without negating, the non-sense it is embedded in. He did so with sharpness and a touch of humor, which always flourished in his acts of symbolization, of putting in words, concepts, or images what is happening to us, what has been allotted to us as our present.
Sense has been a recurring theme throughout the extensive oeuvre of Ortiz-Osés. One could say that it has been the red thread of his philosophy, which also had aphoristic and poetic aspects. In this, his symbolic hermeneutics coincides with what paleoanthropology discovers in its excavations in order to recover the vestiges left behind by hominids more than a million years ago, for instance in Atapuerca, Spain. In fact, according to Juan Luis Arsuaga, director of the Museum of Human Evolution in Burgos, the search for meaning was what constituted us as humans.
With the red thread of sense, then, Andrés endeavors to suture the tear between opposites, which has characterized our Western culture. It is a tear that separates the luminous sky of immutable ideas from the obscure earth (where existence takes place in its vegetal proliferation, next to the abysm of the absurd and of non-sense), spirit from the body, form from matter, the one from the many, reason from emotion, and life from death. Our culture has classically aligned itself with the purest, most formal and abstract reason, which, incapable due to its rigor of thinking systematically through the disorder of life itself and of contingent and unpredictable becoming, pretends that life and becoming do not exist or that it can impose itself in order to control and dominate them. Sense needs the soil of existence, of life, in order to keep articulating it in a game of interpretation that, as an event, does not exclude non-sense but, rather, assumes and re-cognizes it. And so, as Andrés reminds us, “the insane who recognizes his insanity is sane,” while the sane who does not recognize it would be insane.
In effect, the philosophy of Ortiz-Osés is a philosophy of sense and non-sense of the human being in the world, the opposites reunited through an implicative dialectic or, according to the word he coins, a “dualectic.” Such a philosophy studies existential sense with the help of a symbolic hermeneutics, which brings into dialogue pre-Indo-European matriarchal-naturalist, Indo-European and Semitic patriarchal-rationalist, and fratriarchal-personalist cosmologies, the latter of which is palpable in the Hellenic Hermes, as well as in Christianity and in democratic politics. The distinction between the three strands fosters the questioning of and relativizes the patriarchal worldview, which has been triumphant in Western culture, by comparing it with the values accentuated in matriarchal worldviews that lie more or less concealed behind the triumphant construction of reality.
A reference to matriarchalism is not, therefore, part of a proposal to return to an idyllic past, but a critical device for disassembling the presupposed truisms of our patriarchal culture. This reference locates beneath these truisms other sources of sense in order to try and include them in the official discourse, from which they are excluded. It has nothing to do with a flight from patriarchal consciousness that, in its great rush, only falls back, as Freud would say, into a fixation on the mother or the unconscious. Rather, the sense procured in matriarchalism opens up and enlarges consciousness, liberating it from its stereotypic notions, or politically correct fads and fashions, so that it would fratriarchally assume its creativity and develop a horizontal, democratic sense. “This would be,” in the words of Ortiz-Osés, “a narcissism amplified to the entire world, an affiliation based not on the patriarchal filiation of the son (filius), but on philia, or friendship, a fratriarchal encounter open to the common good.”[i]
There is in his reference a bet, which is nothing heroic, on a re-mediation or a conversation between opposites that aspires to articulate them in a philo-sophical brotherhood (fratria). Andrés envisions a brotherhood of a consented sense (sentido consentido), which does not seek, as Jung pointed out with regard to the process of individuation, a perfection (Vollkommenheit) but wholeness (Vollständigkeit). It is this gesture that allows non-sense to acquire plural, diverse, and contingent configurations, albeit configurations compatible with the radical human necessity to recognize and to be recognized as such, to respect and to be respected, to understand oneself in order to be able to understand at all, to come to be humanly oneself turning this “one” into the other.
In this way, Ortiz-Osés proposes a hermeneutics of our culture, a valuation of our form of life. A radical understanding of this culture requires extracting something that does not really appear on the conceptual stage. That is why the emphasis is placed on reconstructing the primal psycho-social scene, from which the rest of philosophical scenography will stem. And the task at hand is discovering the connection between abstract-conceptual thought and what our author terms “an underlying anthropological experience.”
According to such an interpretation, the concept (for example, the most universal one—Being—which is presumably “pure,” immutable, unitary, self-identical and spherical, as Parmenides already argued) shows its “impure” rooting in the symbolic level, from which it draws its force and sense. The classical concept of Being would, therefore, have a mythical background. In particular, it pertained to the Olympian Indo-European mythology, marked by its patriarchalism, a mythology that celebrated the victory of Zeus-Dyaus, the god of luminous sky, over the obscure, chthonic and matriarchal potencies, which survived, as Nietzsche discovered following the indications of Bachofen, in the figure of Dionysus.
In all its liveliness, the theme of the relation between myth and philosophy thus appears here once again. It is a problem that seems to have been rapidly resolved by the Western intellectualist tradition, using the metaphor of a path from myth to reason, as if, having commenced in this way, philosophical activity could have definitively abandoned the “infantilism” characteristic of a mythical mindset (allied to the oral tradition) and acceded, through writing, to the kingdom of reason and of science, proper to the “adult human.” Lingering with this problem, the philosophical reflections of Ortiz-Osés roam the territory “forgotten” or “repressed” by our official tradition. His endeavor comes on the heels of thinkers from the dawn of modernity, Renaissance humanists, with their interest in philology, which was more philosophical than the philosophy and the philology subsequently consolidated in our academies. And it continued in Vico, with his New Science, which was followed by the works of Rousseau, Herder, Schiller, Hölderlin, Humboldt, Schelling or Schleiermacher and relaunched by Bachofen, Nietzsche, Cassirer, Heidegger, and Jung, who played a key role as the promoter of the Eranos Circle.
Ortiz-Osés’s incursion into this territory results in a conception of sense as incarnated truth, as a “symbolic suture of a real fissure,” and as a “critical articulation of evident non-sense.” As a result, the author eschews both the absolutism of reason or truth and the typically postmodern relativism, which views sense through the lens of “relationalism” (relaciocinio). While classical truth insists on the adequation between reason and the real or between the real and reason, sense conveys, in Ortiz-Osés, the in-adequation between the two. This in-adequation, also expressed in a contradiction, can only be saved hermeneutically, by forging ties between reason and the real, the mind and matter, spirit and the body in the symbolic medium of the “soul” yielding affective reason, a symbolic heart. It has to do with a symbolic heart (corazón) that behaves as “co-reason” (co-razón), a mythopoietic organ that affiliates itself with reason, becomes reason’s friend, lending it an axiological charge, humanizing it, and putting it in touch with the earth.
Faced with formal truth—a truth that is abstracted or extracted by patriarchal reason from desiccated reality—sense appears here as the wisdom (sophia) of the soul, insofar as the latter is a combination of anima and animus. That is why, while truth corresponds to a thingified reality, sense attends to, responds, and takes care of a human, humanized, incarnated, existential reality, preserving the gravity of backgrounded non-sense, which needs to be taken into account, critically embraced, and elaborated. This other, incarnated truth would connote a philosophy that is anthropological, but not anthropocentric, based on a humanism we may call post-humanist, anarcho-humanist, or even personal-cosmist, but not inhumanist. For, though it does not allot to the human a central or a final place, it recognizes the role of the human as that of a mediator, in whom the transition to an open evolution is realized. It is one thing to reject anthropocentrism and another thing altogether to wish to eliminate or to surpass the human, the subject, the soul, the person, its contingency and freedom. Here, I cannot help but recall the proposal of John Keats, when he viewed the world not as a vale of tears but “the vale of soulmaking”: “There may be intelligences or sparks of the divinity in millions, but they are not Souls till they acquire identities, till each one is personally itself.”[ii]
By way of conclusion, let me say that in the philosophy of Andrés, the symbol of sense is the heart, which, in its turn, is the symbol of the soul, of a strange heart that is beating between oppositions—what is above (reason and spirit: the head) and what is below (the rest of the body: the entrails). That is why, his hermeneutics is philosophy with a soul, which, interlacing the opposites, opens literal, historical, physical reality to a symbolic horizon. It is possible to say, with the help of the poet García Lorca, that it is a philosophy that has an elf (duende), seeing that it is poetically inspired in the proximity of love and death: “the elf does not arrive if he doesn’t see the possibility of death”; “the elf tastes the edges of the well in a direct struggle with the creator”; “the elf injures, and, in the curing of this wound, which never closes, is what is previously unseen, what is invented by the work of man”; “the elf loves the edge, the wound, and he gets close to the places where forms fuse in a desire higher than its visible expressions.”[iii]
If love is radical openness to alterity, death is the openness to radical alterity, that is to say, transcendence. Love and death make, in the philosophy of Andrés, a symbolic pact of co-implication or affiliation of opposites. Hence, our author ends up defining the sense of life as amors, a word that unites love and death (amor y muerte-mors). In this word, we find the co-implication of opposites, which is a key to the latent sense of the universe, as much as its patent non-sense.
Translated by: Michael Marder
[i] A. Ortiz-Osés “A favor de la fratria” in A. Ortiz-Osés y L. Garagalza (eds.), Lo demónico. El duende y el daimon (Barcelona: Anthropos, 2019), 37.
[ii] John Keats, Selected Letters of John Keats, ed. Grant F. Scott, rev. ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), 290.
[iii] F. García Lorca, Obras completas (Ebooklasicos 2021), 1359.