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Without A Shudder Of Horror
The Revolt of the Masses by Jose Ortega y Gasset
© 2013 James LaFond
1930 [Spanish], 1932 [English], Norton, NY, 190 pages
I was horrified two years ago when a philosophy teacher accused me of being a philosopher. I had always seen myself as the type that would nail those big-brained social engineers up by their thumbs. Now I find myself reading philosophy, and liking some of it. If I start to agree with too much of it I think I’ll take a swan dive out the front window onto the unforgiving and un-opinionated pavement.
As post-apocalyptic Americans what do we care what some rich elite from the suicidal continent our ancestors escaped from thought about everyday people?
If you are a habitual reader you might just discover that he agreed beforehand about your opinion of the average person. For instance, on page 12 he established the universal truth that football fans are idiots, which is the foundation—in my mind—of any clear measure of the world.
Writing between the ‘War to End All Wars’ and the one that would dwarf it, and reflecting on the significance of rising communism and fascism, Ortega sat in a state of contemplative horror thinking that all of those stupid football fans were going to be running the world. As it turns out it was far worse, and his specific contention—that the masses would rule—was way off. His hereditary aristocracy was simply going to be replaced by the new breed of rulers with the machinating gift to bend all of those dim wits to their evil designs.
Setting aside his class prejudice [he doesn’t, so we must], Ortega makes very clear and concise arguments for the importance of employing metaphor in logical constructs. He does a fine job of establishing the difference between ‘the masses’ and the ‘minority’, a definition that contradicts his own class prejudices. In many ways his questions are more important than his conclusions, and his observations more so. Below are my favorite quotes:
‘the bird with ever-dazzled eyes’
‘the mass has a deadly hatred of all that is not itself’
‘The health of democracies, of whatever type and range, depends on a wretched technical detail—electoral procedure.’
‘The number of people whose minds are equal to these problems becomes increasingly smaller.’
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