---------------- ON MAN by Xavier Zubiri ---------------------------------------------- Excerpt relating to the irreal (643-657) ----------------

[Excerpt from Sobre el hombre (On Man), Xavier Zubiri, Madrid, 1986, The irreal, pp. 643-657]

Chapter 10
The Vital Course of Life


The predicament in which things place me opens a duality between the idea of what I was and the idea of what I must be. The idea of myself, which is a physical part of my own reality, remains in suspense; it places my own reality in a state of litigation with itself. In turn this litigation and scission is that which formally constitutes a situation [1]. Each idea and each value as such stem from what I must be, from my agathón; because of this the situation is the tensive unity between what I must be and what I am. The ongoing structure unfolds time and in that open time the situation is inscribed, which is always “this situation”. Man in situation, the man who is exposed, is a problem, a problem to himself. The old Augustinian saying quaestio mihi factus sum, is precisely the {644} formal definition of situation: “what is going to become of me”.

How man resolves that situation is the problem I am now going to consider.

2.3.2. What man in situation projects to do.

The realization of life shows us to what degree we are placed in situation. How does man realize himself when thus situated? At this point the project starts. A term that is perilous because it is not quite true that all man does in a situation is to outline a project. In the “now” of a situation other things are inscribed in addition to the project that man outlines, namely, all the reality entailed in those outlined projects. Taken in this wide sense let us see in what to articulate a project consists.

The essential problem is not “what” man plans to do, which depends on the circumstances and structures of life, but rather “how” he plans. When approaching the problem of how man articulates projects we must keep in mind that in its ongoing occurrence every situation is unsustained and is also unsustainable due to its own structure. Satisfied or not in any situation, the new things do take us out of the place we were. However, what is the situational ambit where they have put us in? It is not the case, I repeat, of making a genetic description, but a structural analysis. This forces us to consider, assuming the commotion and primary attainment by man to the reality that has been accomplished, where new things place us after taking us away from the previous situation. Only afterwards we shall be able to ask ourselves how to proceed in that new ambit where things place us. And we will then see how we may project in it what to do in the new situation. Therefore, we face three fundamental issues. What is formally the new ambit that opens before us? How to move in that ambit? How to project another state from the ambit we are in?

aa) The new ambit of the irreal. Man finds himself in one state of things and in that state in a particular situation. {645} By virtue of the commotion of the new situation, where has a concrete man with all his individual psychophysical concretion been placed? One way to reply to this question is to see what remains of the previous situation, since no two situations can be repeated having the same identity. But also there are no two completely different situations because they would still be conditioned by the continuity of the duration. Furthermore, in that continuity it is not even normal that what remains are still the things of the previous situation. However, the things that have disappeared leave me with something of themselves in the new situation, not their reality, but indeed their idea [2]. Each thing has a form or configuration, reflected in the idea and that is what remains when the thing disappears.

This idea is not simply the Aristotelian form since eidos appears as “form” in Greek thought prior to the Aristotelian hylemorphic interpretation. In our context idea refers equally to the most abstract and scientific idea and to what we call “image”; the only difference is that images, when they are more precise, provide us with a better concrete eidos, individual, of the reality present before our eyes.

Therefore, I take idea in all its amplitude and in that amplitude I say that things leave us their idea. That is what we mean when we say that something has left no trace, and therefore, that we have no idea about it, which seems to be the least we can have about something. Not only leave us with the idea of what it was, but also of its value. The thing disappeared and what remains anchored in its eidos is how much the thing is worth. Together with that, what remains is the {646} eidos of what I was doing and how I felt, i.e., how I was. If in what follows I am going to refer to the idea of what things are, it should also be understood that I include at the same time the dimension of being, the dimension of value, and the dimension of myself.

But the idea is not what things first give to us. Regardless of how much we may describe what the idea is, that does not give us the radical phenomenon of “what” that new ambit is, the ambit that things leave for us when they take us out of the previous state. Because things in the new ambit only tell us what there is in the new ambit. Furthermore, that description does not tell us what is essential in the commotion of the previous situation.

The commotion leaves one startled, but in the new situation it is I who find myself there as a reality, the same reality found in the previous situation. Here the primary moment of time begins to function as an “always the same” that shows to me my reality in question, but as my own reality. In addition, the new things are also real; in their own reality they are the ones that take me out of my place, out of the real state in which I previously was. Finally, it is these real things with which I really find myself now that really hurl me outside of the things in which I was. It is reality, nevertheless, by reason of myself, by reason of the things and by reason of the commotion with which things hurl me out of where I was towards another situation. It is in this triple reality, in the change of situation, where we find the remains of that residue of the real things, which the idea is.

When things hurl us out of a first state they festoon with a “no” my attainment of reality. This “no” affects the physical reality of the previous reality. Therefore, we find ourselves in a “no” of reality, that is to say, in the irreal [3].

{647} If man were nothing but pure intelligence he would never cease attaining to reality. But man is sentient intelligence and because of that the sentient occurrence of things hurls him from attaining reality towards something that is not physical reality. He is attained to reality, but has to move also in the ambit of the irreal. The non-human animal does not move among realities, but also not among irrealities; it moves among un-real (Sp.
a-reales) stimuli. Man is the animal that not only can, but inexorably has to move in the ambit of the irreal. The irreality is necessary for man to be able to live in reality.

But, in what does this irreality consist? The irreal cannot be qualified as that which is not because being and reality are not the same (not accepting this difference is what constitutes the paradox of the Parmenides of Plato, namely, that there is something that is not). And also because of the fact that when I am concerned with the irreal I am dealing with something that is not yet there, but is really placed in front of me, facing me. That is what the term ob-jectum means. To be objectual reality is that in which the positive being of the idea formally consists. Objectual reality is reality as object.

Precisely inasmuch as the idea implies that constitutive turning towards a type of reality, the idea and its reference to the object have a characteristic of representative intentionality, because with the intention I refer —the reality to which I refer is no longer present— to something. Consequently, in this case the reality in reference deserves to be called intentional. That intentionality may be taken as something primary, but that is not the case, the intentionality of an idea is always a reference to reality by virtue of the physical reality that is in front of me. Objectual reality as objectual reality {648} is the remnant or terminus of a reduction of physical reality. The intentionality of an idea is like the prolongation of the primary attainment to physical reality, which remains in suspense, but does not fall into a vacuum. The intentional characteristic of the object does not mean that it may occur as terminus of the activation of an idea, but from the fact that prior to being intentional it is objectual reality. And because it is objectually before me, my idea is an objective intention of it [4].

At the hands of phenomenology intentionality acquired a different characteristic.
Husserl appropriately thought that intentionality is an irreducible act; it consists in animating with objective intention what would only be but a content of hyletic materials of my own psychophysical conscience. But it is structurally incorrect that intention is primarily animation of hyletic materials. Intention is a reduction. It is not fortuitous that in order to obtain a description of pure intentionality Husserl had to begin by “reducing”; it is not a question of method, it is a question of structure. Intentionality incorporates a turning towards reality; it is a way of handling reality. Hence, whatever it has of reference to objectual reality does not come to intentionality from itself, but has its origin in the physical reality from which it emerged. Intentionality has two dimensions: an intentional reference and an attainment to reality, through which it “intends” to retain reality. The intention as act is based on intent as physical structure; intentionality is grounded on retention and not the other way around. And the proof is that even when one may not be facing the reality itself, one is not merely facing the concepts with which the object has been defined or facing the image that reproduces {649} the situation. The idea, no matter how greatly irreal it may be, needs to realize the defined properties in an objectual manner. One might think that since in this objectual reality there are going to be no other properties than those defined with my concepts, to investigate the structure of those objects is only going to be a matter of discursive logic. But mathematics demonstrates that this is not true. Regardless of the number of properties —if the number is infinite there is no question— through which by a particular system a mathematical being is conceived, that system of properties will pose problems to me. Problems that cannot be resolved with the system through which I have defined them, that is the Gödel theorem. The fact is that one has realized the intention of an object and that intention provides a consistency of objectual reality, which transcends the ambit with which I represent it [5].

The same happens with the imagination. Neither ideas are the things that man thinks about, nor images are the images that man is imagining. The idea and the image are something that stands behind me, something not seen by me, something with which I see in an intentional way the objectual reality that in them is presented to me. Ideas are defined; images are described. But there is something more profound underneath, they are realized objectualy.

Since Descartes, philosophy has been sliding on the slope of objectualism. Physical realities would be a special type of objects; those objects that besides being objects also have physical reality, as if primary objects were those that are only intentional and the others were “additionally” real. That assumes the primary division is the one between real objects and irreal objects. If it is also claimed that those irreal objects are nothing but objects {650} defined by the intelligence, then the entire scheme of reality acquires a characteristic of idealist objectualism. This constitutes the quintessence of Cartesianism and the bankruptcy, in this point, of the modern philosophy derived from him.

The truth, however, is not that the primary may be objects that are divided into real and merely intentional, but quite the contrary, that the primary is reality and then it is divided into physical and reduced. Without this characteristic of reality there would be no ideas because ideas would then be ideas about nothing. Ideas not only involve an intentional reference, but also an intention of objectual realization of the properties. And this applies equally to the order of concept and to the order of imagination.

Hence, forced by reality, we find ourselves really suspended on the irreal, which positively is the objectual. We are really encountering the irreal in which the objects consist. I have, actually, a real and effective experience of the irreal. And this experience is decisive in the life of man. Because I am real, my being in reality is real. The irreal is the ambit of the objectual. Without my reality there would be no objects, but without physical reality they would not be objects [6].

In the end, when the new situation commoves the previous one I find myself hurled from physical reality to make use of ideas that offer to me the previous reality, not physically, but objectually.

bb) Man in the ambit of the irreal. Man, if we take the structural idea —I do not refer to the genetic description— while he was concerned with reality was able to move in the ambit of the real and what it {651} has of respectivity. If I consider all these things insofar as real and their respectivity insofar as formal characteristic of their reality, these things constitute what I have called world. World is not the collection of real things, not even their order, its taxis. World is the totality of the real by reason of its respectivity. Therefore, objects are “non-worldly” (Sp. a-mundanos) [7]; there can be a system of objects, but only physical reality constitutes a world [8].

The worldliness of the objects allow the specific operations with which the images and concepts are usually described, namely, the dislocation of the connected elements in reality and the abstraction. The objective concepts are not primarily born from an abstraction, but from their non-worldliness. Because they are non-worldly they are termini of a possible abstraction. What is positive in abstraction is the reduction —elevating and impoverishing at the same time— of physical reality until converting it into objectual reality. Because by its own condition the objectual is non-worldly, it is susceptible of the double operation of abstracting and dislocating. To abstract, to despoil —aphaíresis— is not primarily to despoil an object of some notes; there is a deeper abstraction, which consists in despoiling reality of its physical characteristic in order to reduce it to pure object, and therefore, to be conditioned for non-worldly application.

The non-worldliness is not something that only tolerates that negative operation of abstracting or extracting, but is the positive ambit in which man can freely organize the characteristic of its objects, a characteristic the world does not have. The sphere of objects is susceptible of a free construction. The non-worldliness, which on the one hand makes abstraction possible, {652} on the other, makes construction inexorably necessary.

The issue has been misinterpreted when stratifying what human reality is unitarily.
They start with the set of perceptions and say that the work of psychologists is to find out how one constructs one’s own sensorial, perceptive and motor field. Then, a second stratum is proposed, the one belonging to images, which not only represent the residues of the previous physical realities, but also bring about the creative imagination. Afterwards would come the stratum of ideas that are usually called concepts. Finally we would have the ideals, what man wants to do or be.

However, in all these strata something common is given. Images are an intermediate term between perceptions and concepts, between a concept, which is said has to be primarily ideal —let us put aside the value of that affirmation— and a perception that is concrete. The Greek had already said —Plato was the first— that the world of images was metaxú, intermediary; intermediary because the image can be one, but not like the concept “one” that is strictly applied to many because it is objectual. In the Middle Ages this conception of the image as metaxú acquired a phantasmagoric characteristic —no wonder there is talk about images. Knowledge is an attribute of spirit, which has as a function to spiritualize material images in such fashion that the first stage of spiritualization would consist in giving spectral existence to the images. In Descartes the idea of the imaginary metaxú reappeared: mathematics is something intermediary between the idea that man conceives and physical reality, hence, metaxú would allow the connection between mechanics and pure logic. This idea will resurface with Leibniz and was later thematically canonized in Kant. For Kant the image allows conceptual syntheses to be globalized in one reality by virtue of a scheme {653} that is not abstract, but rather schematic where the scheme would properly belong to the imagination.

The imagination, therefore, appears with the characteristic of a metaxú, an intermediary. The whole sphere of concepts would also appear as an intermediary between ideals and reality; concepts would appear as a force with which man preserves his ideals to mold his life with them.

But all of this is secondary. The fundamental issue is that man has a sentient intelligence and a tendent will. With the intelligence we attain reality intellectually and with the will fruitionally (Sp. fruentemente, Zubiri neologism from fruición, fruition). They are two dimensions of human activity by virtue of which man, by the mere fact of being in reality, is projecting himself in every instant as reality in reality. They are two entwined dimensions because a fruition of reality is impossible without being intellectively present in reality. It is also impossible to have an intelligence mounted on itself because even in the most detached of intelligences there is an agathón, a profound interest to possess things as they are.

Therefore, the whole ambit of irreality is grounded on the real world because it emerges inexorably from the structure of a sentient intelligence. I mentioned above that tension and tendencies surfaced when man has to take command of the situation in the form of pre-tension. In this actual context these pretensions are presumptions, they form the order of the presumable. The fantasy moves among presumptions, in the presumable as such. The ambit of the irreal in which each one of us moves is not a vacuum; it is not pure emptiness. That ambit of irreality denounces the primary pretensions and presumptions, the profound tendencies, because the catalog and type of images with which man moves in the irreal is not totally arbitrary. {654}

These tendencies not only denounce, but also positively outline the very ambit of the irreal. Proof of this is the not totally arbitrary characteristic manifested by the most fantastic and unpremeditated movements made by man in the irreal world. The psychopathologists know this well: the flight of images is not arbitrary when diagnosing the mental state. The Rorschach tests are based precisely on the type of images that a drawing would suggest to someone looking at it. In addition there are habits produced by the constant handling of ideal objects that are quite different from the ones produced by contact with individual images.

Finally, tendencies delimit with all their complexity the amplitude of the sphere of the irreal.

All of this constitutes an authentic experience of the irreal, an experience that emerges out of profound tendencies, which are in turn modulated. The interplay of images in man may be arbitrary, but what is not arbitrary is that these imaginings conform to certain tendencies. This is true of images and concepts. There are images and concepts that emerge out of good humor or bad humor, but in turn consolidate it. In the end, things take us out of the previous state and throw us into this concrete irreality physically; in other words, they place us in the situation of making a real experience out of the irreality.

cc) The project is the ambit of irreality. If man has found himself being thrown into the sphere of the irreal to make his constructions in it, he could propose to remain in it. But he cannot accomplish this completely; he has to revert from that order of objects to the world of physical reality and this reversion is not arbitrary. The same things that urged us to leave our first situation and hurled us into the objectual world continue to urge us to turn our eyes towards reality. This {655} articulation should be called “pressure” [9]. From the irreal we see the physical reality; that is the way man learns to perceive and to move among things. The pressure with which man has to turn his eyes from the irreal to the world of reality can be variable. It requires as an indispensable condition what the Greek called hesuchía, tranquility. Among lesser or greater vicissitudes man needs a minimum of tranquility to be able to fantasize and return from the fantasies to reality. A tranquility that may have all kind of dimensions from the most physiological to the most mystical.

This tranquility with which man fantasizes and turns his eyes to reality is not a simple change of direction. The new way of looking carries with it a subtle dimension. The fact is that reality itself tolerates the look that aims at it and gravitates on it. That tolerance does not depend now on my fantasy, it depends on things. This is valid both for concepts and images. What man has forged with his fantasy, not simply schematic, but also creative can be tolerated or not by reality. In whatever measures it tolerates it or not, that activity of the fantasy, as far as the intelligence is concerned, leads to a result: that man may believe he has understood reality [10].

There is something like a process in these ways of thinking. There is the fantasy thinking that predominates in primitive man and constitutes the base for mythology. Logic is not absent from it, the fact is that it is a special type of thinking consisting in a pure combination {656} of concepts. As more reality is encountered different ways of understanding things appear and it is then that man attempts to represent things with greater or lesser adequacy, or proceeds to address them with greater or lesser aim. To the extent man believes he is capturing reality with his mode of understanding, the intelligence acquires the character of reason. Since evidence, certainty and firmness are never completely coincident in the direct apprehension of reality man has to operate with that form of intelligence that reason is. It will not be possible always to find that which is evident, certain and unmovable. And then he will ambulate in the field of the reasonable with a sense of reality. Returning from the sphere of the irreal to the world of the real, man continues to acquire the sense of reality in which reason consists. But the encounter with reality does not depend on reason, it depends primarily on intelligence. Man with his visual experience will be able to have marvelous perspectives and become a great painter, but not everything depends on the retina.

Man also thinks about “what he is going to do”. To the dimension of thinking he adds fantasy, the dimension of creation. Adds creation at different levels that range from a concrete situation up to a portion of life or to the whole panorama of his life. In that sense life is creation and not simply the passive resolution of a situation. Inasmuch as creations can be more or less reasonable, more or less inserted on the sense of reality, reason is provision or providence. It is prudence.

Throughout his life man is always organizing the system of his projects. The child makes almost none; practically lives from moment to moment. The young man has his whole life in front of him, but little experience. The mature man finds the world narrowing before him by reason of his possible moves and objects, and because of time. Not only on account of {657} the time he has left, but also on account of the time at his disposal in each moment. While the young man seems to have plenty of time and a lot to do as life progresses, the mature man, although dedicating himself to fewer things, does not have more time. In senility, the experience given to each is at its maximum, but with such a retraction of his world that it is barely useable.

Man turns creatively, reasonably and prudently towards reality not only to satisfy necessities, but also to create the forms of the unnecessary.

With all of this, man becomes aware he is progressively embarked. He is creating a system of concerns that may even reach to a maximum interest in someone who in the depth of his life has desired only one thing. That something, which his vocation is. It is doubtful that everyone may have a vocation. In order to have a vocation aptitudes are needed, but no one knows if one has had a vocation except when life is going to terminate. The majority of men only live a portion of their lives, they think about future things, but not on the future. Only in that articulation between thinking about future things and thinking about the future is when an outline is being sketched under the light of what is hastily called reality. Under that lighthouse of reality, an outline is being sketched of the distinction between what is urgent to be done and that which is important, i.e., between urgency and importance.

With all these elements man resolves. And that resolution is to renounce. He has to renounce in order to live and has to surrender to what he has accepted. The articulation between renunciation and surrender is what gives to the realization of human life the characteristic of risk. That is how one’s own figure is established, by molding the reality one has projected to be. Molding it with an important portion provided by irreality.

[1] Xavier Zubiri note: Cf. “El hombre, realidad personal” (Man, personal reality), Revista de Occidente, Second Era, No. 1, 1963, pp. 5-29.
[2] Xavier Zubiri note: “Place in a note what is written between parenthesis”. The editors place that text here in this note: I take idea in its etymological sense of eidos with its root eid-, in Latin vid., vision; not what I produce in my mind, but the set of features the thing has that allows it to be differentiated from other things.
[3] Editors’ note: This problem is dealt with in greater amplitude and rigor as “distancing” and “distanced intellection” in Intelligence and Logos, 1982, pp. 81-107 and ff. We do have an apprehension of reality in irreality.
[4] Editors’ note: Objectivity and intentionality are analyzed more precisely in Intelligence and Reason and Intelligence and Logos.
[5] Editors’ note: About the Gödel theorem and its philosophical repercussions, cf. Intelligence and Logos, pp. 133-146.
[6] Editors’ note: In his trilogy on intelligence Zubiri presents irreality rather as “what it would be” and “what it could be”, as fictitious, percepts, concepts and possibilities.
[7] Translator note: Zubiri writes a-mundano, a neologism meaning “not-worldly”.
[8] Xavier Zubiri note: Cf. On Essence, the concepts of world and reality.
[9] Editors’ note: This problem is dealt with as “impellence” and intentum in Intelligence and Logos, 1982, pp. 62-73.
[10] Editors’ note: We must keep in mind not only the fictitious, but also the percepts and concepts. Cf. Intelligence and Logos, 1982, pp. 96-107.