Ortega y Gasset on "Definition"

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Reply Tue 29 Dec, 2009 11:23 pm
[CENTER]Ortega y Gasset on "Definition"[/CENTER]


". . . a definition is always a pedantry."


"Defining is excluding and negating. The more reality that what we define possesses, the more exclusions and negations we have to execute. Because of that, the most profound definition of God, supreme reality, is the one given by the Hindu Yajnavalkya: 'Na iti, na iti.' 'Not that, not that.'"


". . . the notion or definition is nothing other than a series of concepts, and the concept, in turn, is nothing other than a mental allusion to the object, . . . a sign or indication that we make in its direction."


"The definition is the idea that is clear, strict, without contradictions."


". . . a definition, if it is truthful, is ironic; it implies tacit reservations and when it is not interpreted thusly, produces disastrous results."


". . . the definition is the caress of the philosopher! . . ."
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 30 Dec, 2009 04:41 am
@longknowledge,
The more specific a word is, the easier it is to define.

It is easy to define a tool or implement or a specific noun.

But many of the terms in philosophy cannot be defined and perhaps the aim of philosophy is to consider the meanings they have in various contexts.

Bertrand Russell once said something like it is hard to realise how vague many terms are, until you start trying to define them.

Particularly in relation to the big questions of philosophy, the demand to 'define your terms' practically guarantees termination of the dialog.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 30 Dec, 2009 07:12 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;115513 wrote:
The more specific a word is, the easier it is to define.

It is easy to define a tool or implement or a specific noun.

But many of the terms in philosophy cannot be defined and perhaps the aim of philosophy is to consider the meanings they have in various contexts.

Bertrand Russell once said something like it is hard to realise how vague many terms are, until you start trying to define them.

Particularly in relation to the big questions of philosophy, the demand to 'define your terms' practically guarantees termination of the dialog.


(edit.+.........................
 
Jay phil
 
Reply Wed 30 Dec, 2009 08:15 am
@longknowledge,
longknowledge;115467 wrote:

"Defining is excluding and negating. The more reality that what we define possesses, the more exclusions and negations we have to execute. Because of that, the most profound definition of God, supreme reality, is the one given by the Hindu Yajnavalkya: 'Na iti, na iti.' 'Not that, not that.'"
"


For those of us that are sitting quietly in the back row and following you very closely could you please include the book you are quoting from?

What book of Ortega's does this quote come from, thanks?
 
longknowledge
 
Reply Wed 30 Dec, 2009 07:27 pm
@Jay phil,
Jay;115546 wrote:
For those of us that are sitting quietly in the back row and following you very closely could you please include the book you are quoting from?


Thank you, Jay, for your 'back row" interest!

That quote comes from an Appendix to a book Ortega published in 1923 entitled El tema de nuestro tiempo ("The Theme of Our Time"). Unfortunately, the title was translated into English as "The Modern Theme." This is the most egregious of many mistakes that have been made in translating Ortega's works: first, because of the direct literal translation that I have given above, and second, because what Ortega menat by "the theme of our time" was the ovecoming of the Idealism of so-called "Modern Philosophy" that began with Descartes in the sixteenth century and came into question at the end of the 19th century. In 1916, Ortega had written an essay entitled Nada moderno, pero muy siglo veinte ("Nothing Modern, but Very Twentieth Century"), where we can see the beginnings of this rejection. Today we might call him "Post-Modern," if that designation did not imply agreement with many other philosophers who have been labeled as such.

The Modern ThemeObras Completas ("Colected Works").

All the quotes are my own translations from the original Spanish, and I've tried to stay as close to the original meaning as possible, even though it leads to some awkwardness at times. So you will find that the wording that I have provided differs somewhat from that appearing in the published translation.

In the case of Ortega's translation of the famous quote from the Hindu, I consulted several online sources, including a Hindu encyclopedia, and the wording I chose was the closest I could come to both the original words in Spanish by Ortega and the intended meaning of the phrase from other sources. The Spanish is "Nada de eso, nada de eso," which literally would be "Nothing of that, nothing of that." The published translation gives: "Nothing of that kind, nothing of that kind," which does not appear in any of the sources I consulted.

Also, I retained Ortega's spelling of the Hindu name, even when I learned that the current spelling in English is "Yajnavalkya." [The accents on the Hindu letters do not reproduce on these postings.]

If you're interested in the sources for any of the other quotes, I'd be glad to provide them. I hope to include more lengthy passages of Ortega's thoughts on "definition" as posts to this thread in the near future, and I'll include citations to the same passages in other English translations, if they are available.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 30 Dec, 2009 08:21 pm
@longknowledge,
Yajnavalkya is the author of the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad. This saying 'na iti', or 'not that' is similar, or might be another version of, the saying 'neti, neti' (not this, not that).

The gist is that 'the supreme' is not anything you can name, say, or indicate. Whatever you think it is, it is not that. It can only be apprehended through the self-transcedence (or samadhi) and spiritual discipline (sadhana). When the sage has completely gone beyond discursive thought, this is called 'nirvikalpa samadhi' (loosely translated as contentless consciousness). This is how it is understood in the Hindu context, anyway.

(I know this because subsequent to Ortega's main writings, the West discovered the great Hindu sage, Ramana Maharishi, whom many influential people visited. He was, for example, one of the main inspirations for W Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge and his ideas became well-known in the west through the writings of Paul Brunton and others.)
 
pagan
 
Reply Thu 21 Jan, 2010 07:21 am
@jeeprs,
am i correct in assuming that ortega defines definition in this way because it is a form of attention within an abstract perspective. ie no perspective is complete because it is only a part of the multi perspectives simultaneously occuring in our 'my life' ? Thus 'not this not that' for an all encompassing god means 'not just this not just that'.

In what sense does 'not this not that' as applied to god differ to 'not this not that' applied to 'my life' ?
 
 

 
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