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MEDITATIONS ON HUNTING
Jos� Ortega Y Gasset
September 25, 1972
Thirty years ago Spain's eminent philosopher set down some thoughts about man's enduring pursuit of game. Now, for the first time, his essay has been translated into English
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September 25, 1972

Meditations On Hunting

Thirty years ago Spain's eminent philosopher set down some thoughts about man's enduring pursuit of game. Now, for the first time, his essay has been translated into English

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This is the reason men hunt. When one is fed up with the troublesome present, with being very 20th century, one takes his gun, whistles for his dog, goes out to the mountain and, without further ado, gives himself the pleasure during a few hours or a few days of being Paleolithic. And men of all eras have been able to do the same without any difference except in the weapon employed. It has always been at man's disposal to escape from the present to that pristine form of being a man which, because it is the first form, has no historical suppositions. History begins with that form.

By hunting, man succeeds, in effect, in annihilating all historical evolution, in separating himself from the present and in renewing the primitive situation. An artificial preparation is necessary, certainly, for hunting to be possible. It is even necessary for the state to intervene, protecting the preserves or imposing the closed seasons without which there would be no game. But what is artificial in hunting remains prior to, and outside of, hunting itself. When modern man sets out to hunt, what he does is essentially the same thing Paleolithic man did. The only difference is that for the latter hunting was the center of gravity for his whole life, while for the sportsman it is only a transitory suspension, almost parenthetical, of his authentic life. The hunter is, at one and the same time, a man of today and of 10,000 years ago. In hunting, the long process of universal history coils up and bites its own tail.

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