José Ortega y Gasset

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The Spanish essayist and philosopher, Josй Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955), was born in Madrid of a patrician family. He was educated at a Jesuit college and the University of Madrid, where he received his doctorate in philosophy in 1904. Ortega spent the next five years at German universities in Berlin and Leipzig and at the University of Marburg. Appointed professor of metaphysics at the University of Madrid in 1910, he taught there until the outbreak of the Spanish Civil war in 1936. He was also active as a journalist and as a politician. In 1923 he founded the Revista de occidente, a review of books that was instrumental in bringing Spain in touch with Western, and specifically German thought. Ortega's work as editor and publisher helped end Spain's isolation from contemporary western culture.

Ortega led the republican intellectual opposition under the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (1923-1936), and he played a role in the overthrow of King Alfonso XIII in 1931. Elected deputy for the province of Leуn in the constituent assembly of the second Spanish republic, he was the leader of a parliamentary group of intellectuals know as La Agrupaciуn al servicio de la repъblica ("In the service of the republic") and was named civil governor of Madrid. Such a commitment obliged him to leave Spain at the outbreak of the Civil War, and he spent years of exile in Argentina and Europe. He settled in Portugal in 1945 and began to make visits to Spain. In 1948 he returned to Madrid and founded the Institute of Humanities, at which he lectured.

A prolific writer, Ortega was the head of the most productive school of thinkers Spain had known for more than three centuries and helped place philosophy beyond the reach of a centuries-old reproach that it was somehow un-Spanish, and therefore dangerous.

What follows are excerpts from his influential work on social theory, The Revolt of the Masses, first published in 1930.

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