Human Life is Radical Reality: An Idea Developed from the Conceptions of Dilthey, Heidegger, and Ortega y Gasset (review) [Book Review]

Journal of the History of Philosophy 44 (1):128-129 (2006)
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In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:Reviewed by:Human Life is Radical Reality: An Idea Developed from the Conceptions of Dilthey, Heidegger, and Ortega y GassetBob SandmeyerHoward N. Tuttle. Human Life is Radical Reality: An Idea Developed from the Conceptions of Dilthey, Heidegger, and Ortega y Gasset. New York: Peter Lang, 2005. Pp. x + 200. Cloth, $59.95.This is a book which seeks to sketch out a coherent philosophy of life. By arguing that "human life is radical reality," Professor Tuttle places the ontological priority of "my life" over and against that of every reality encountered in that life. Yet the life at issue in this book is no solus ipse, and the things or pragmata of this life do not therefore depend on the I for their being. As Ortega y Gasset asserts, I am myself and my circumstances. Neither subject nor substance exists independently of the other. As such, each bears the mark of this bi-polarity (40, 45). Hence human life, "my life," is not conceived here as a subjective immanence but rather as a carnate life that projects itself, i.e., its possibilities, into the concrete situation of its worldly circumstances. Indeed, the narrative structure of this projection expresses a central categorical feature of human life, its historicity. "Human life becomes here conceived as the historical stream of the inner and outer, the 'I' and its world" (155). Every reality takes its meaning from—in truth, has its status as a transcendent reality from—the manner and the guise in which it appears within the narrative of this self-construction of my life (5, 26, 40, 45, 88, 156, 171). This is a thesis, Tuttle argues, that has its roots in the writings of three figures: Wilhelm Dilthey, to whom the author refers as the "founder of the philosophy of human life," Martin Heidegger, the famous German philosopher whose explication of the structure of Dasein is central to the situated intersubjectivity of "my life" articulated in this book, and José Ortega y Gasset, the Spanish philosopher whose writings arguably play the most central role in the work (6, 26, 142, 155, 166).Professor Tuttle ought to be commended for the breadth of his undertaking and the economy of his presentation. Given its ambition, this is a short work of no more than 179 pages excluding notes and bibliography. This pithiness and a general lack of technical jargon speak well of the work, especially as it seems likely to find its way into the hands of young scholars interested in existential phenomenology, Lebensphilosophie, and continental philosophy generally. Indeed, within this broad field there are too few efforts like this one which seek to examine the interconnection of these three philosophers. Yet the very attributes that make this book a favorable addition to any collection also contribute to a serious defect in the work. Where its brevity demands precise articulation, the book often falls into repetition. The discussion of the distinction between clock time and lived time, for instance, comes across as especially belabored. Throughout the work, there are passages which appear virtually identical in different sections. And where its accessible presentation offers an easy introduction to some very difficult material, its lack of focus leaves one to wonder about the efficacy of its message. As Professor Tuttle remarks in the last lines of the work, "this essay is at very best only a collection of abstract and skeletal thought forms that have been generated within my life in its relation to its circumstances" (178).Reading the work, then, one wonders if it is best suited for the young scholar, the accomplished academic, or both. A lack of sufficient background footnoting restricts the acceptability of this work as a tool for serious research. For instance, given the aims of the book one would expect that Heidegger's lectures on "Wilhelm Dilthey's Research and the Struggle for a Historical Worldview" would have a prominent role in the essay, yet it is not even cited. The essay thus seems best directed towards more novice scholars. Yet the skeletal feel of the work and the unfocused integration of many of the themes from the different writings of Dilthey, Heidegger, and Ortega y Gasset...

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Bob Sandmeyer
University of Kentucky

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