Some philosophers claim that a person's "complete biography" should include not only real facts, but also unrealized possibilities. What might have happened to the person, they argue, is as enlightening as what actually happened.
I find such a claim interesting, but somewhat preposterous. There is more than enough to know about a person's real life without being encumbered by his/her possible, or alternative, lives.
I was born in Barcelona in 1912. Some sixteen years later I began to project myself into the future as a philosopher and as a writer. Many things have happened to me in the course of the years. While culturally rooted in Spain, I have lived in a number of countries in Europe and America, and I have eagerly watched, and often absorbed, their cultural traditions. I taught philosophy for more than forty years—thirty of these years in the United States of America, a fact that might explain why some of my works have originally been written in English, as the case is with these very pages. I have visited many countries and have been acquainted with many people. I have been, and still am, curious about many things: human beings and machines, science and technology, politics and the arts. It would seem, however, that a substantial portion of my existence has pivoted around writing and publishing: articles, essays, books. My early projection as an author has been fulfilled.
Since 1935, when my first book, Cóctel de verdad appeared in Madrid, and above all since 1939, when I became a voluntary exile after the Spanish civil war, practically no year in my life has elapsed without writing and publishing a book, and practically no month has elapsed without writing and publishing some article or some essay
My professional interest is philosophy, so it is no wonder that many of my books deal with philosophical subjects. I am afraid I am best known as the author of an enormously successful Dictionary of Philosophy, now in four large volumes, but in point of fact, this work is only the much too visible tip of an iceberg. Less visible, but no less important to me is a mass of articles, essays, and books. I will not bother the reader with any detailed account of my writings. It might be of some interest, however, to focus on some of them briefly, and even to express candidly my preferences.
In a very recent work on my philosophical thought, Carlos Nieto Blanco classified my literary output according to three main areas of interest: writings on Catalan and Spanish history and culture, as well as on "contemporary issues," both political and cultural; philosophical works; narration and literary criticism. These areas correspond roughly to three stages of my production. I emphasize "roughly," because I am still writing on a great variety of subjects. By no means have I given up writing on philosophical problems. When all is said, however, writings on Catalan and Spanish culture, as well as on social and human issues, seem to be more abundant at the start of my literary career; philosophical works are prominent between, say, 1950 and 1979; and narration and literary criticism have come to the fore in the last six or seven years.
Are there any of my books which I prefer to others? It is hard to tell, because sometimes I may evince some weakness for a few pages of a book which otherwise I would have no qualms in committing to oblivion. However, from my relatively abundant bibliography I would like to single out a few titles.
From the philosophical point of view, I consider that the following works express and summarize as well as I can the essentials of my thought: El ser y la muerte (Being and Death), El ser y el sentido (Being and Meaning), now thoroughly revised and published as Fundamentos de filosofía and De la materia a la razón (From Matter to Reason). To be sure, not all my thoughts are present in these volumes. Indagaciones sobre el lenguaje (Investigations on Language), Cambio de marcha en filosofía (Shifting Gears in Philosophy) and Las crisis humanas (Human Crises) are still, I believe, fundamental for the understanding of my philosophical tenets. Etica aplicada, which I wrote in cooperation with my wife, Priscilla Cohn, shows an aspect of my thought—the ethical side—in which I have been increasingly interested. Philosophically speaking, I seem to have gone from a detailed treatment of ontological and epistemological issues to the discussion of ethical (as well as social and political) problems. It is highly probable that in the foreseeable future I will develop an interest in aesthetics. I have already published a book-intext on literary criticism, El mundo del escritor (The World of the Writer) and among my projects is a book-intext dealing with aesthetic questions. I even have the title: Fisiología del arte (Physiology of Art). Titles are not hard to come by and may be good places to start.
In a Preface to a two-volume edition of Obras selectas I surmised that narration (short stories, novels) would remain forever out of my reach as an author; being a reader sufficed. My surmise was the opposite of a self-fulfilling prophecy, for it failed to materialize. A very definite interest in the intricacies of script writing, prompted by my keen interest in non professional movie making, led me to try my hand at the writing of short stories. In 1979 I published a volume of stories under the title Siete relatos capitales (Seven Deadly Sins) and in the course of the present year (1985) more stories have appeared in my book Voltaire en Nueva York. In 1979, if not earlier, I began to write a novel, which was published in 1981, and is now being reissued, under the title Claudia, mi Claudia (Claudia, my Claudia, the last three words in the novel). It is a full-fledged novel and not a philosophical tract, so the reader does not have to worry about whether he or she will understand it; the novel contains as much, or as little, philosophy as any novel by a writer who takes this genre seriously. I am now writing another novel: Made in Corona. Not that I have given up philosophy or writing on "contemporary issues." But philosophy can wait a little—something that she (for philosophy is, fortunately, feminine, understanding and not aggressive) has been doing for centuries, probably because her practitioners abide by one of the few quotable sentences on her nature: "The philosopher watches stars that move slowly." The sentence is from George Santayana, who wrote a novel, The Last Puritan, that not everyone reads, but that many people should read.