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  • Date: 6/03/2007
  • Presenter:
    • Javier Gomá Lanzón

According to the Diccionario de la Lengua Española, "eminent" means "high, elevated, it stands out from the crowd"; "it excels and has advantage in merit, price, extension or another quality". Thus, the "eminent" Spaniards are those who stand out -or stood out, as it is our case- from the rest. There are many of these, and Vives, Saavedra Fajardo, Feijóo, Jovellanos, Emilia Pardo Bazán, Ramón y Cajal and Ortega y Gasset, are among them without doubt. They indeed stood out -in different fields: essay, critic, literature, science, philosophy- due to their quality and importance, but also due to the projection that their personalities, ideas, texts, and researches had.

Their biographies are thus of great interest. I would say that for four reasons: 1) because their biography expose, in words of Dilthey, "the fundamental historical happening in its pure and complete reality", from the moment that the biography is an essential expression of the radical reality that is life (Dilthey, Ortega); 2) because Vives, Saavedra Fajardo, Feijóo, Jovellanos, Emilia Pardo Bazán and Ortega were famous episodes of the Spanish life, and the knowledge on these episodes allow us to see history itself from surely partial, but also privileged, perspectives; 3) because the topic of eminence is strongly related to other topics like merit, prestige, moral authority, and exemplarity, a social event of first magnitude as what we could call "archetypes of eminence (or excellence)" -the saint, the knight, the courtier, the hero, the gentleman- clearly expose the virtues that in each period are in effect in society; 4) because in the case of Vives, Saavedra Fajardo, Feijóo, Jovellanos, Emilia Pardo Bazán an Ortega, six men and a woman of ideas, the topic that unites their biographies is also the topic of the power of ideas in history, a topic that raised great interest in for example -and in order to cite an authority- Isaiah Berlin, the Oxford historian.

Individual life and the power of ideas as the keys of history: Vives, Saavedra Fajardo, Feijóo, Jovellanos, Pardo Bazán, Ramón y Cajal and Ortega, as a sequence -or possible sequence- of Spain’s own history.

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