---------------- ON MAN by XAVIER ZUBIRI ------------------------------------ Chapter 11. Conclusion (673-676) ----------------

(Excerpt from Sobre el hombre (On Man), Xavier Zubiri, Madrid, 1986. Chapter 11, Conclusion, pp. 673-676)

Chapter 11



The purpose of this work has not been to schematically review a series of disciplines that deal with man: psychology, sociology, morality, etc., but to present a unitary idea of what man is. This entails two dimensions apparently dissimilar: on the one hand, to render precise the radical structures that constitute man; and on the other, to investigate what man has of problematic reality. Problematic reality not only because our knowledge about that may be a problem, but rather, because man insofar as reality, is something problematic. Consequently, in the search for this unitary idea of man we have to consider the structural unity of man in order to see how the different aspects, which have been usually considered as relatively independent among themselves, inexorably emerge from it.

In this way I have attempted to provide a unitary idea of man, the idea of man as animal of realities. To give a unitary idea of man does not consist in handling in a synoptic manner the diverse aspects of man considered to be objective and real. It is a different endeavor; it consists in finding a vision of the reality of man through its internal unfolding. To find it through that which constitutes {674} whatever there is in that vision of man that may force him to be all those things that when externally considered would only constitute a synoptic picture. This is the problem of the reality that man himself poses. Hence, it is not the case of reviewing the concrete aspects that man has, but to make us see positively how all of them inexorably emerge, out of that which has been considered as the primary and radical structure of man. And this radical structure is such that makes of man an animal of realities.

Throughout the history of philosophy there has been a tendency to manifest different considerations about man. One, for example, ranging from Plato to our own day, makes of man a stratified reality: on the one hand, an organism; on the other, a psychism with its vegetative stratum, its sensitive stratum and its intellective stratum. But man is not a stratified reality, but a substantivity that operates as one thing only: a vital act in which he possesses himself in the form of an automorphism and in the form of an autodefinition.

Aristotle also tried to reach a unitary conception of man. Man as a unity was the formal definition of Aristotle, but a unity that throughout the whole of Medieval philosophy and also the Modern, has acquired the characteristic of what could be called a unity with branches, in other words, something like a tree. That would be a substance from which some branches emerge where each is a potency. Nevertheless, the unity of man is not the unity of a substance that supports some potencies. The unity of man is actually the unity of a substantivity that cannot perform any other activity except the one that is strictly unitary. It may be polarized more in one sense rather than another, but it cannot be interpreted as being a congeries of potencies linked among themselves by a structure of addition or by a structure of subordination, {675} imperative and despotic. Man is not a substantiality, but a substantivity and what constitutes his substantivity is not being rational, but being a sentient intelligence.

Neither the two-part distinction into the categories of zo and bios can account for what man is in reality. Not even the interpretation of bios from the perspective of the comprehension of being resolves this problem. Being, actually, is constitutively posterior to reality. What is, rides constitutively on what is there, and what is there does not come to man through any comprehension of being; it comes from the psychophysical structure of his substantivity, whose ultimate and radical possibility is a sentient intelligence. Man is neither a being in which existence precedes essence; he is something completely different. Man is an open essence, open to the sphere of perfectivity, but not to the sphere of substantivity.

Finally, what decides the reality of man is not a form of reason, because even what decides any form of reason is intelligence. Any form of reason depends on man having intelligence. To say that man apprehends reality with reason is true. But he apprehends it not because it is reason, but because reason is a form of intelligence. Man, I repeat, is constitutively a sentient intelligence and in his very substantivity man is an animal of reality, defined unitarily in the form of corporeity. As such he has to autopossess himself, in the ongoing flow of occurrences, from things, from himself and from all others in order to his own appropriating and appropriated happiness, facing which all other possibilities are always problematic. The act of his appropriation is precisely his sanctioning.

All this conception of man is the result of initiating the stepping march concerning the problem of man, which I exposed some time ago as a problem of first Philosophy. {676} First Philosophy is not a theory about being, as Aristotle proposed; it is not a theory of truth, as has been proposed since Descartes; nor a theory of consciousness as Kant and the whole XIXth. century pretended; nor is it a theory of being as Heidegger has pretended. Being, truth and consciousness depend constitutively on being and being depends constitutively on reality. What is there, is anterior kata physin, by its nature, to what is. First Philosophy is, therefore, a theory of reality. Whenever the philosophy of Heidegger has been concerned with the concepts of being and entity it has failed, because there are three termini: being, entity and reality. With that approach he has put aside the radical problem of what reality is. First Philosophy is a theory of reality, which will always demand to revert to the form of naked intelligence; that is to say, to that being in reality which is not action, but actuality, in which reality is actualized insofar as reality.

Needless to say, regardless how much one tries to tighten this perspective about reality, reality will always appear as furtive and fugitive. We shall have to say with Plato: I fell faint scrutinizing reality.[1] Or better with St. Augustine: Let us search like those who have not yet found search, and let us find like those who still have to search find, because it is written that the man that has reached his terminus has done nothing but begin.[2]

[1] Plato, Phaedo (99 d).
[2] St. Augustine, De Trinitate IX, c. 1.