The Spoiled Child

This is one of Ortega y Gasset’s most famous similes, and you are struck by it the first time you hear it. This is like his depiction of mass-man – immediately you know what he is talking about – something you already knew about, but had no words for.

I am still reading Human Existence as Radical Reality, which is about Ortega’s philosophy. Pedro Blas Gonzalez, the author, tries to make Ortega too much of a philosopher, in my opinion, when I would prefer him to be an acute, intuitive observer of the post-modern scene – more of a psychologist or sociologist. What follows begins on page 122. He starts with technology, which is indeed part of this complex.

The practical applications of the technology have immense dangers for the mass-man because these advances in science are not understood or appreciated by the masses. This only brings about what he calls the “psychology of the spoilt child”.

This spoiled child as such has no self-imposed limits to his caprice and desires. These desires are perpetuated by even more demands without consideration to any sense of obligation on his part…The spoiled child naturally assumes that everything is always ready-made, and therefore always available on demand…They are only concerned with their own well-being, and at the same time remain alien to the cause of that well-being.

They do not see behind the benefits of civilization, marvels of inventions and construction, which can only be maintained by great effort and foresight, the imagine that their role is limited to demanding these rights peremptorily, as if  they were natural rights.

On the other hand:

Man must confront his own life reflectively prior to affecting any meaningful and dutiful engagement with society at large…Life is always presented to us first and foremost as a differentiated self. The discovery of this self allows for an existential understanding of “myself” as being something that is not merely biological.

On page 125:

Ideology for Ortega represents the best example of the vulgarity of mass society…the ideals of ideologues are bent on the destruction of institutions, and not with instituting internal reform.

But, as we begin the twenty-first century, sensitive minds in both philosophy and science are beginning to wonder if in fact man is not truly a teleological “infinite synthesis,” as Immanuel Kant so beautifully expressed it…all forms of “revolt” that are not anchored in a reflective self end up by simply promoting cultural decay and moral nihilism.

A reflective self – how rare that is!


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