Millán-Puelles, A. (2018). Artículos y otros escritos breves. Obras Completas, Tomo XII [Articles and other short pieces. Complete Works, Vol. XII]. (Zaida Espinosa Zárate)
Millán-Puelles, A. (2018).
Artículos y otros escritos breves. Obras Completas, Tomo XII [Articles and other short pieces. Complete Works, Vol. XII].
Madrid: Asociación de Filosofía y Ciencia Contemporánea-Ediciones Rialp. 958 pp.
The love of truth is not quiet; a longing for the truth must include a desire to tell the truth. The over 6,000 pages Antonio Millán-Puelles left us, and the tireless lifelong search for knowledge witnessed by the friends, colleagues, and followers of the philosopher from Cádiz, are proof of this.
The selection of articles and short writings compiled in the twelfth volume of his Obras completas and published by the Asociación de Filosofía y Ciencia Contemporánea (Association of Contemporary Science and Philosophy) in conjunction with Editorial Rialp, reflect especially clearly his broad and flexible intellectual horizon, nimbly moving from one topic to another without any break in continuity, and eschewing from any type of short-sighted specialism. His analytic thinking and the finesse of his observations —probably inherited from the scholastic school he knew so well— reveal the solidity of a body of knowledge in which all disciplines connect, albeit not ystematically in this book, which brings together numerous short writings, but they do connect naturally into a coherent whole that helps with thinking from the common
denominator of an in-depth and transcendent consideration of human identity.
The author’s spirit of communication and dialogue is clear and is the antithesis of an isolated creative solitude (cf. p. 233) as Millán-Puelles speaks to everyone
and about everything that affects humankind. Firstly, because he considers matters with humankind as their central figures and from which he believes one must
think, its reasoning, and its freedom, open to the infinite: the university, liberal knowledge, human education, the political and social phenomena of the period
in which he lived, such as the university protest movement, liberal socialism, historicism, existentialism, the ideas of scholars and colleagues who inspired him
and accompanied him on his intellectual journey… Secondly, because he has the aim of «complementing the perspectives and interchanging and correcting appearances
» (p. 234). The result is a skilful and truly original synthesising way of seeing things.
The texts included here include writings prepared throughout his academic life, from short, two-page pieces to longer articles, presentations, and speeches given at academic events, and prologues for books. What may stand out as their main virtue is that their approaches are not limited to the generalisations and static forms of logical abstractions, but that the author’s anthropological, educational, gnoseological, social, and economic concerns extend into analysis of more everyday phenomena and of the concrete dilemmas of practice, thus demonstrating their relevance.
For Millán-Puelles, this is the contribution the intellectual must make to practical life: the leadership role he himself embodies in his work as a scholar does not entail actively directing the life of society —as Plato attempted when identifying the philosopher with the politician— but is aimed «at showing, or in his case showing and defending with arguments, the target at which all of civil life should aim» (p. 158). The constant teleological —and theological— dimension of his ideas in this book bear witness to this.
The essentially communicative —and so rhetorical— work of someone who is dedicated to the theoretical life makes it possible for «good not just to be limited to shining in the timeless sky of theory», but rather for «its rays to light and direct the dynamism of practical life» (p. 156). The love and care for others that prioritises the common good ahead of individual good as the essence of educational work is apparent in the invitation to be part of this shared thought. This is where the dignity and value of a life in education lies, in contrast with a life that keeps what has been contemplated to itself. In these pages, the author does not stop reflecting on the nature of teaching —the «‘mixed’ activity» (p. 158) he practised throughout his life— and he also reflects on other subjects. From the many lessons in this area extracted from this volume, we linger on two that apply especially well to the current state of the discipline of pedagogy and cast a negative light on it: the need for caution faced with activism and presentism
as typical malaises of our era.
For its part, activism (cf. p. 485) is the symptom of a purely existent being, one that is fully or substantially outward looking and lives life interested in action «as excess concern with the future and a lack of the leisure that expresses an inner substance» (p. 74). This action, as pure affirmation of the self, which does not derive from the operation of the willing intelligence, becomes «mere mechanical or animal repetition of what humankind has already been doing» (p. 485). In other words, it comes from a mere technical instruction, «on behalf of productive interests » (p. 486), interests, however, that appear bearing the seal of efficiency.
Faced with this activist inertia, the teacher shows the end value of the quietude of leisure as a contemplative attitude sufficient to itself, in which the attentive ear can open to permanent truths. This move from work towards a full leisure enables «humankind not to drop beneath its human status» (p. 160); in other words, it signifies a certain type of «superhumanism », which does not here allude to any overcoming of man in the Nietzschean or transhumanist mode —this continues to be just a person— but iming «only… to develop the higher possibilities our spirit permits us» (p. 161). This is the teleological dimension for which Millán-Puelles calls for greater care and ttention in educational activity in the face of the growth of media and technology (cf. p. 642) given that it is important to take into account that «the order of urgency is not that of importance» (p. 161).
Millán-Puelles’s pedagogical sensibility allows him to take note of the need for true participation by everyone in the values of the theoretical life, for which an educational justice is necessary that avoids the cynicism of accusing «people dispossessed of even the lowest possessions not only of not having the higher ones, but of not even aspiring to them», when this lack of ideals «derives, in truth, from the lack of material goods» (p. 162). This universal participation in knowledge is required by the objective demands of the human inclination towards knowledge, to the extent that this is the only thing which, precisely because it is not a thing , grows when it is shared.
Furthermore, and even though it is closely related to this activism, the lessons drawn from this compilation of texts underline the need to overcome the temptations of excess presentism, as this is a «conceited arrogance of time… servile allegiance to an ephemeral time, however much it is ours» (p. 69). This is a form of historicism, of being fascinated by the novelty the present imposes, that gives rise to the deviant form of love for the true that is curiosity as a desire for new experiences. The fashionable confused adherence to the present means we see the trees and are dazzled by their conspicuous presence (cf. p. 481), but we cannot see the woods, and so it is hard for us to know where we are heading. Bering up to date, yes, but this is not the same as presentism: the latter forgets the essence of human nature, «the common denominator
of all that is human» (p. 358), in other words, that humankind has «something divine, intelligence» (p. 69) and it also forgets the primary aim of the pedagogical task: to teach to consider specifically this «eternal truth of things… a truth that does not die» (p. 69) that shows that truth cannot be equated with error, that not everything is the same nor is it made of the same ontological fabric.
In the articles collected in this volume, Millán-Puelles helps recall that the educational task must repeatedly ask itself who it addresses. It is necessary to know the human soul very well to be a good teacher, because what we must do as educators depends precisely on the fact that «beneath what it is right to change, there are other things where one’s duty is to remain firm and not make concessions» (p. 359).
Zaida Espinosa Zárate ■