[CENTER]Philosophy as The Science of Love, as Comprehension, and as Salvation[/CENTER]
Even though etymologically the word "philosophy" is derived from the Greek words "philo" (love") and "sophia" ("knowledge"), thus rendering its meaning as "love of knowledge," over the centuries various definitions have been given by philosophers to characterize their activity.
The Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset notes in various works that the original name and its literal meaning are "unexpressive", "ridiculous", "tawdry", "vague", and "insufficient, archaic, dangerous"; and once, in jest, he referred to it as "lover of Sophie."
In contrast, in his first book, Meditations on Quixote
(1914), Ortega defines "philosophy" as "the science of love", as "comprehension" and as "salvation". Let us listen to these passages from the beginning of this work:
"We are looking [in these "Meditations"] for the following: given a fact -a man, a book, a painting, a landscape, an error, a pain- to carry it by the shortest path to the plenitude of its meaning. To place all in order matters which life, in its perennial undertow, hurls at our feet like useless remains of a shipwreck, in such a posture that the sun gives them innumerable reverberations. There is within every thing the indication of a possible plenitude. An open and noble heart will feel the ambition of perfecting it, of helping it, so that it reaches that plenitude. This is love -the love of the perfection of the loved one."
"[L]ove links us to things, even when it is in passing. Let the reader ask himself, what new character comes to a thing when one gives it the quality of belovedness? What is it that we feel when we love a woman, when we love science, when we love our country? And before any other notice we find this one: That which we say we love presents itself as indispensable. Indispensable! That is to say, that we cannot live without it, that we cannot admit a life where we would exist and not the loved one. As a consequence, there is in love an amplification of individuality that absorbs other things within it, that binds them to us. Such linkage and co-penetration makes us profoundly internalize ourselves in the properties of the loved one. We see it whole, it reveals itself in all its value. Therefore we notice that the loved one is, in turn, part of another thing, that it needs it, that it is linked to it. Indispensable for the loved one, it becomes also indispensable for us. In this way love links one thing to another and everything to us, in a firm essential structure. Love is the divine architect who came to earth -according to Plato- ὥστε τὸ πᾶν αὐτὸ αύτῷ ξυνδεδέσθαι
, 202, e], 'such that everything in the universe lives in connection'."
And now, about philosophy:
"In this sense I consider that philosophy is the general science of love; within the intellectual sphere it represents the major impetus towards an omnimodal connection. Such that a shade of difference is made patent in it between comprehending and mere knowing. We know so many things that we do not comprehend! All the knowledge of facts is, rigorously, uncomprehending, and can only justify itself by entering in the service of a theory."
Thus a student, and even a professional, like the professors of philosophy, can "know" Ortega's famous formula (which also first appears in this work): "I am I and my circumstance, and if I do not save it, I do not save myself." But it is another thing to comprehend it in all its ramifications!
Much has been said in criticism of philosophy because of its focus on ideas about reality instead of how it actually appears. "We must save the appearances!" But let us read these other lines by Ortega from the same work about what he means by "save" and philosophy as "salvation":
"It is frequent in the paintings of Rembrandt that a humble white or grey canvas, a hand utensil, finds itself enveloped in a luminous and irradiant atmosphere, which other painters render only around the heads of the saints. And it is as if it is said to us in delicate admonition: Blessed be things! Love them, love them! Each thing is a sprite that reclothes in misery and vulgarity its interior treasures, and it is a virgin that has to be loved in order to become fecund. The "salvation" is not equivalent to the laudation or the dithyramb; there can be in it strong censures. The important thing is that the topic is placed in immediate relation to the elemental currents of the spirit, with the classical motives of human preoccupation. Once it is woven together with them it remains transfigured, transubstantiated, saved."
In summary, according to Ortega philosophy can be defined as "the science of love," in the sense that it discovers the connections between the realities that appear in our circumstance; as "comprehension," in the sense that it provides more understanding about those realities; and as "salvation," in the sense that it enables us to "save" them, and us as well, by placing them "in immediate relation to the elemental currents of the spirit, with the classical motives of human preoccupation."
[Note: All passages from the Meditations on Quixote
were translated from the Spanish by longknowldge.]