Eugenio d’Ors, Catalan philosopher and essayist, was to a lesser extent a novelist and playwright. There are two distinct periods of his work, the first written in Catalan and identified with his native region of Catalonia, the second turned toward Castile and written in Spanish after his alienation from the Catalans.
The Catalan period of his life and work was of primary importance to the Catalan Renaixença (Renaissance), a time of great political and literary splendor in Catalonia. D’Ors’ cultural and political activism began in 1898, when he first used the pen name Xenius, and ended in 1920, when he broke with Puig i Cadafalch, then President of the Mancomunitat of Catalonia, where d’Ors had served as Secretary of Education.
Through the prestigious newspaper La Veu de Catalunya (The Voice of Catalonia) he began publishing his “glosses,” brief essays in which d’Ors gave his readers a probing and incisive series of “quotidian blows in favor of culture,” as José Ortega y Gasset would say. He reported on current news in the world of culture (philosophy, art, literature, politics) while also striving to extract the essential and profound within the framework of time as a lasting and flexible concept.
It is hard to classify the glosses strictly as essays, given their concise form prescribed by a daily press publication. They are a hybrid form between learned articles and general information, combining observation and invention, being more subjective than objective, more arbitrary than impartial, more literary than scholarly. They are expository rather than argumentative, with a felicitous intuition verging on the poetic.
The glosari were seminal in the development of d’Ors’ ideology into a coherent system. For instance, d’Ors formed the notion of catalanidad (what it is to be Catalan) in a selection of glosses, which became the novel La ben plantada (1911; The woman of fine physique). In it the heroine Theresa personifies harmony, culture, tradition, and classicism—all virtues exalted by the cultural and political Catalonia of the early 1900s.
Thus Theresa became a symbol of all that was considered the essence of being Catalan. D’Ors proposed that man is an interplay of work and play based on two principles: that philosophy is not pure contemplation but inscribed in action, and that, in turn, contemplation is conceived as open to action and must embrace a dualistic conception of values that compares and contrasts power with resistance, spirit with matter, will with reality. Reason must draw from both nature and history to become a genuine power that can perceive the individual and concrete as well as the general and abstract. The synthesis of the former and the latter is embodied in the Catalan concept of seny (common sense or measure).
D’Ors formulated a philosophical interpretation of history, proposing a new view of the traditional philosophy of history. His aim was to explain, organize, and systematize history according to certain unchanging values of culture manifested over the course of time. La ciencia de la cultura (1964; Science of culture) charts d’Ors’ creation of a philosophy of history and a theory of historiography. He acknowledges that his conception of history as both flowing and cyclical has antecedents in the philosophy of Plato, Giambattista Vico, Nietzsche, and Spengler. He makes a distinction between civilization and culture, with a theoretical approach that is philosophical as well as sociological, and gives as antecedents the work of sociologist Benjamin Kidd, who applies biological discoveries to sociology, Houston S.Chamberlain as a pioneer in systematizing the concept of culture, Leon Frobenius and his formulation of the “spirit of each culture,” and the relativism of Oswald Spengler.
D’Ors formulated the problem of culture in its theoretical aspect within his
“systematics of culture,” and in its formal character as “morphology of culture”; he applied his newly conceived system to a series of “epiphanies” or successive manifestations along the history of culture. Thus he conceived of culture as a systematic entity where history is examined not descriptively but in a vital and constitutive form. He introduced the term “eon” or “historic constant,” a living and archetypal category inserted in the fabric of history, in the contingent flow of events. Among the “pure eons” are language, virility and femininity, classicism and baroque, Rome and Babel. This conceptualization reflects the vision of reality within a dual system in which the universe is framed in a gigantic synoptic scheme.
Morphology of culture is defined as the close relation between spiritual content (idea) and formal manifestation (form). One of d’Ors’ most felicitous examples is the pair of values Cupola-Monarchy, elicited by the visual image of St. Peter’s cupola in Rome and the corresponding concept of the monarchic institution of the papacy. Within this morphological formulation, dual corresponding schemes can be found in nature and art, nature and human customs, and botany and architecture, among many other examples.
D’Ors claimed that his morphology of culture establishes theoretical and general principles that are simultaneous and symmetrically valid in areas of knowledge that were never before related.
D’Ors’ aesthetic criticism is rooted in his system of the science of culture and is structured within a scheme of figurative thought. He wrote several essays and innumerable glosses on painters, whether Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, or his contemporary Catalans. However, of all his essays dealing with aesthetics the best known is Tres horas en el Museo del Prado (1923; Three Hours in the Prado Museum).
Ostensibly he aimed to provide the visitor with an itinerary giving information and a clear and rational classification, but in reality the book is an illustrated expository of d’Ors’ aesthetic ideas. He selects subjectively but preserves some constant guiding norms by using the principles of the morphology of culture and tectonics, which he advocated in all his art criticism.
Eugenio d’Ors Rovira. Used the pseudonym Xenius. Born 28 September 1881 in Barcelona. Studied at the University of Barcelona, law degree, 1905; the Sorbonne, Paris; University of Madrid, Ph.D. in philosophy, 1913. Lived in Catalonia and wrote in Catalan for the first half of his life, then broke with the Catalan government, 1920, moved to Madrid, and wrote mainly in Castilian. Contributor to various journals and newspapers, from 1899; correspondent in Paris for La Veu de Catalunya, from 1906, where he began
publishing glossaris (glosses); also published glosario in ABC, 1923–31, El Debate, 1932–34, and Arriba España (Above Spain), 1937–39. Elected Secretary of Education in the Union of Catalonia, 1917–20 (dismissed). Lived on and off in Paris, 1927–37; Spanish representative to the Institute of Intellectual Cooperation, League of Nations, 1927. Elected to the Royal Spanish Academy, 1928. Elected general director of fine arts and perpetual secretary, Institute of Spain. Lectured in Europe and South America.
Awards: honorary degree from Coimbra University. Died in Villanova i Geltrù, Barcelona, 1954.
Essays and Related Prose
Glosari, 5 vols., 1907–16
El Valle de Josafat, 1921
El nuevo glosario, 7 vols., 1921–23
Tres horas en el Museo del Prado, 1923; as Three Hours in the Prado Museum, translated by John Forrester, 1954
Cinco minutos de silencio, 1925
Las ideas y las formas, 1928
Cuando ya esté tranquilo, 1930
La tradición, 1939
Jardín botánico, 1940
Teoría de los estilos, y Espejo de la arquitectura, 1944
Del barroco, 1945
Arte de entreguerras, 1946
Nuevo glosario (Glosario completo, 1920–43), 3 vols., 1947–49
La palabra en la onda: Glosas para la radio, 1950
Glosari (1906–1910) (most complete collection of glosari in Catalan), 1950
Other writings: the novel La ben plantada (1911), other fiction, plays, philosophical works, and art criticism.
Amorós, Andrés, Eugenio d’Ors, crítico literario, Madrid: Prensa Española, 1971:241– 48
Aguilera Cerni, Vicente, Ortega y d’Ors en la cultura artística española, Madrid: Ciencia Nueva, 1966
Amorós, Andrés, Eugenio d’Ors, critico literario, Madrid: Prensa Española, 1971
Aranguren, José Luís, La filosofía de Eugenio d’Ors, Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1981 (original edition, 1945)
Benítez Claros, Rafael, “Eugenio d’Ors y la ciencia de la cultura,” Cuadernos del Idioma 1 (1965):129–38
Díaz Plaja, Guillermo, Lo social en Eugenio d’Ors y otros estudios, Barcelona: Cotal, 1982
FerrZn, Jaime, “El dialogo con Europa de Miguel de Unamuno y Eugenio d’Ors,” in Spanish Thought and Letters in the Twentieth Century, edited by German Bleiberg and E.Inman Fox, Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1966:193–99
Ferrater Mora, José, “D’Ors: Sentido de una filosofía,” in his Obras selectas, vol. 1, Madrid: Revista de Occidente, 1969: 189–97
Guy, Alain, Les Philosophes espagnols d’hier et d’aujourd’hui, Toulouse: Privat, 1956:167–72
Guy, Reine, “Cultura y unidad según Eugenio d’Ors,” Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos
Hina, Horst, “Eugenio d’Ors, precursor del estructuralismo,” Cuadernos del Sur 11 (1972):194–209
Jardí Casany, Enric, Tres diguem-ne desarrelats: Pijoan, Ors, Gaziel, Barcelona: Selecta, 1966
Jardí Casany, Enric, Eugenio d’Ors, Barcelona: Ayma, 1967
Jiménez Moreno, Luís, Práctica del saber en filósofos españoles: Gracián, Unamuno, Ortega y Gasset, Eugenio d’Ors, Tierno Galván, Barcelona: Anthropos, 1991
López Quintas, Alfonso, El pensamiento filosófico de Ortega y d’Ors, una clave de interpretacion, Madrid: Guadarrama, 1972
Muro Romero, Pedro, “La teoría de la forma de Eugenio d’Ors,” Archivo Hispalense 55 (1972):63–77
Ortega y Gasset, José, “Sobre la fenomenología de Eugenio d’Ors,” Revista de Occidente 108 (1990):13–28
Resina, Joan Ramón, “Eugenio d’Ors y la obra continua,” Annali Instituto Universitario Orientale 28 (1986):321–36
Resina, Joan Ramón, “Barcelona ciutat en la estética de Eugenio d’Ors,” Revista Hispánica Moderna 43 (1990):167–78
Saenz, Pilar G.Suelto de, Eugenio d’Ors: Su mundo de valores estettcos, Madrid: Plenitud, 1969
Saenz, Pilar, The Life and Works of Eugenio d’Ors, Troy, Michigan: International Book Publishers, 1983
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