Against Instrumental Reason: Spirituality, Neo-Marxism, and Heideggerian Thought in J.L. Aranguren, M. Zambrano, and J. Aguirre
The central argument of this thesis is that, contrary to what is generally believed, Critical Theory (CT) – as understood by the Frankfurt School (FS) – did exist and was developed in Spain influenced by and parallel to the FS’s own research during the second half of the twentieth century. Thus, the aim of this research is to provide evidence of and explore the CT developed by three leading Spanish thinkers: José Luis López Aranguren, Jesús Aguirre, and María Zambrano. This will be done from the perspective of two pivotal currents of thought emerging from Germany: neo-Marxism and Heideggerian thought. To this end, I will carry out an interdisciplinary comparative study analysing what aspects of the thought of these Spanish thinkers converge with the thought of the FS, and which differ from them. Attention will also be paid to the socio-political atmosphere they were immersed in, so as to find out how it may have contributed to shape their thought. This research is firmly rooted in the context and methodology of the history of ideas. Consequently, biography and intentionality play key role in the reconstruction and analysis of these three authors’s thought. As a result of this methodological choice, the thesis has been divided into two parts which are quite distinct in focus and style. The first part, more theoretical and historical in nature, comprises two chapters. Chapter One provides a brief introduction to the main argument of the thesis as well as to the authors that it focuses on. It also introduces the reader to what CT is and in the context of the FS. In addition, this chapter provides some background into the history of ideas and discusses in depth the methodology adopted throughout the thesis as well as the theory which supports it. Chapter Two constitutes a short introduction to twentieth-century Spain. It provides some initial background on Aranguren, Zambrano, and Aguirre and their political positions. It also provides a contextualization of the socio-historical period that they lived in. The second part of the thesis comprises a total of four chapters: a chapter for each individual author and the conclusion. This second part is more critical and focuses more closely on each one of the three authors which are the object of this thesis, so that their work and development can be studied acknowledging the singularity of their approach. It is for this reason that, the conclusion will underline the cohesiveness of their work and their achievements in relation to each other, as well as highlighting the key concepts explored throughout the thesis. Chapter Three explores Aranguren’s relationship to neo-Marxism and, more specifically, to Marcuse. Moreover, the fact that Aranguren explicitly takes up and develops some of the key topics first identified by the FS, which are central to the critique of instrumental reason, is brought to light, specifically, Aranguren’s criticism of consumerism and his denunciation of the manipulation citizens are subjected to from the mass media and the State. The implications of this critique and Aranguren’s defence of the role of faith and of democratic values are discussed at length. Chapter Four discusses the political nature of Zambrano’s thought. Because of the idiosyncrasies of her expression, the highly symbolic nature of her language, as well as its abstraction and dispersion, the analysis of her work requires a process of reconstruction. This is carried out in the light of Heideggerian thought, which proves to be an influential factor in her development. Finally, the value of poetic reason as a practical alternative to instrumental reason is considered, so that the significance and implications of poetic reason and of her political project can be re-evaluated. Chapter Five focuses on Aguirre, who, despite being a very well-known public figure, has not been the object of any previous scholarly work. This chapter evaluates the role and influence of the different positions that this charismatic intellectual held throughout his life, paying particular attention to his role as the introducer of the FS in Spain. Even more importantly, this chapter specifically aims to clarify his controversial relationship to CT. The sixth and final chapter focuses on pivotal aspects of CT, as argued throughout the these two volumes (the role of biography, fragmentation, exile, art, the subject, psychoanalysis, and spirituality) and it argues that all these elements are present in some form in the work of these three authors. Thus, it examines, by way of conclusion, the aspects of the approaches adopted by Aranguren, Zambrano, and Aguirre which account for their work to be considered CT. Furthermore, I argue that by introducing the elements of spirituality, faith, and the role of choice, transcendentality becomes a key aspect of their alternative to instrumental reason. As a result, not only do they establish the singularity of their approach, but they also by-pass the limitations associated with the FS.