Ortega’s Pragmatist Perspectivism: On the Problem of Relativism

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History
Marnie Binder California State University Sacramento

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Spanish Philosopher José Ortega y Gasset advanced a number of strong criticisms of American pragmatism, yet some pragmatist notions can also be detected in his own philosophy. Within Ortega’s pragmatist perspectivism one can locate the possibility of overcoming one of the principal perceived problems of pragmatism: namely, its tendency toward relativism. This paper focuses on the ways in which Ortega’s discussion of pragmatism pertains to history and historiography. Ortega’s position that history is written from a select number of perspectives is congenial to pragmatist pluralism. What is recorded and continues to thrive in the annals of history is, within a pragmatist framework, whatever continues to be interesting, relevant, useful, and meaningful because it makes a difference – from and for these perspectives. The more of these perspectives we study, the closer we approach what, on Ortega’s view, constitutes the “eternal truth which every period has lived,” because materials initially gathered and framed for pragmatic reasons can later on provide important opportunities for the reflexive analysis of historical knowledge.

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