Julián Marías: Colleague of Ortega y Gasset and author of the Spanish-speaking world's best-known history of philosophy (Obituary)

Historians in the News

JULIÁN MARÍAS, who died yesterday aged 91, was an historian of philosophy, a prolific writer and critic, and the foremost disciple of the Spanish literary theorist José Ortega y Gasset.

Marías was a familiar figure in America, holding a large number of professorships there until the 1970s, but was best-known in Spanish-speaking countries for his monumental History of Philosophy, published in 1941. It subsequently went through dozens of editions and was regarded by some as the best introduction to Western philosophy written in the 20th century (no small claim, given that the competitors included Bertrand Russell).

Julián Marías Aguilera was born at the Castilian town of Valladolid on June 17 1914; when he was five years old, the family moved to Madrid, where he was educated at the Instituto Cardenal Cisneros, before proceeding to the University, from which he graduated in Philosophy in 1936, the year that civil war broke out.

As an undergraduate, Marías had come under the influence not only of Ortega y Gasset, who wrote The Revolt of the Masses and introduced the work of Joyce and Proust to Spain, but also of figures such as Zubiri, Gaos and Morente.

On the outbreak of hostilities, Marías joined the Republicans, though most of his activities were confined to broadcasting, with his friend, the Socialist Julián Besteiro. Through the 1940s, he taught at the Aula Nueva in Madrid, before founding, with Ortega y Gasset, the Instituto de Humanidades. Soon afterwards, he was invited to America to lecture at Wellesley.

It was the beginning of an enthusiasm for the USA (a marked change from his previous Leftist prejudices), and led to Los Estados Unidos en escorzo (1956), and a series of appointments at leading American colleges, including stints at Harvard, Yale, UCLA, Indiana and Oklahoma.

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