Dana Greene

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Bowen, Ralph Henry, 1919-||Keen, Benjamin, 1913-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of History


Unamuno; Miguel de; 1864-1936; Spain--History--20th century


The spirit of an age is often expressed most lucidly and profoundly in its literature. A particular case in point is the period between 1896 and 1956 in Spain. This was a period of national self-analysis spurred on by Spain's defeat in the Spanish-American war. A whole new generation of literati, the so called generation of '98, were preoccupied with the place of Spain in the modem world. The outstanding initiator of this movement of national self-analysis was the poet, novelist and essayist, Miguel de Unamuno. Although Unamuno's career was intimately tied to the generation of '98, the progression of his thought led him ultimately to a position which was incompatible with the major figures of that generation. An obvious progression in hit thought takes place between the publication of En Torno al Casticismo in 1895 and the appearance of his Tragic Sense of Life in 1913. The former was his analysis of the place of Spain in the modem world, the latter an exposition of his general philosophies! position. This progression can be sewn as a turn from positivist to metaphysical preoccupations. The final stage of Unamuno's thought was theological; it was presented in his Agony of Christianity published in 1925. The basis of Unamuno's philosophy is the human desire for individuality and the perpetuation of that individuality in immortality. Unamuno's philosophy of the tragic sense of life merely explains the procedure man follows in order to fulfill this desire. The methodology of his philosophy as well as the mode of man's life is one of conflict. Only through the dialectical conflict of opposites is his philosophy realized; only through this same conflict does man's life move closer to its final goal of immortality. Implied in Unamuno's philosophy of the tragic sense of life is the criterion of individuality which he would apply in all his political activity. Any political party or system which did not support his ideal of individuality was rejected. During his active political life, Unamuno rejected the authoritarian monarchy of Alfonso XIII, the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera and the liberal-socialist Republic of 1931. The question of his relationship with the Fascist forces presents a more touchy problem. In retrospect, his hesitancy in condemning Franco seems inexcusable, given his prior commitment to liberty. However, Unamuno did reject Fascism before his death. Although Unamuno did not positively support any existing government, his political activity was in continual support of the principle of individual liberty. Unamuno's influence in Spanish intellectual history is important. He was the major stimulus for a whole new generation of thinkers in Spain, he proposed a penetrating and needed analysis of Spain's relationship with the other European nations, and he consistently upheld the liberty of the individual in a time of continual political turmoil. Unamuno's relationship with the European current of thought in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century is also important. In many ways his contribution is similar to that of both Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. Although he was not acquainted with the writings of the former, he enthusiastically read Kierkegaard. Unamuno's work has in fact been classified with that of Kierkegaard as one of the early precursors of existential philosophy. Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Unamuno responded to their age. All three rejected the unoreative Christianity of their time and all were concerned with the perfection of man. Perhaps the most similar aspect of their work is their preoccupation with the individuality of man In society. All three of these thinkers were dissillusioned with the "religion of progress" of the nineteenth century and all saw the need for the man of the twentieth century to analyze this problem and develop a new philosophy. Like Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, Unamuno, in response to his time, created, through the national perspective of Spain, a new universal philosophy for modem man.


Includes bibliographical references.


iii, 61 pages




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