According to Ortega, Cervantes’ Don Quixote can be interpreted as a critique of pure effort. This thesis is easily understandable if we consider in what way the German philosopher Hermann Cohen influenced Ortega’s view. The paper shows that Cohen’s distinction between action and deed is fundamental in explaining the critique of pure effort. In Cohen, action is the main issue of ethics, a moral person’s life is distinguished by action whereas a deed does not imply morality. The origin of action lies in the kind of willing which is thinking and therefore moral intention on the one hand and ‘affect’ on the other. The “Cervantine way of looking at things”, pointed out in Ortega’s interpretation of Don Quixote, corresponds to Cohen’s irony regarding the “hero cult”, an irony which is a fundamental part of Cohen’s ethics of self-consciousness. The author explains that Ortega’s method of thinking in Meditations on Quixote is similar to the Kantian way of thinking since both methods are based on the distinction between knowing and thinking and the distinction between truth and meaning. Just like Kant and Cohen, Ortega criticizes both naïve realism and subjective idealism and seems to go in the direction of a realism of the idea. In comparison to action, which is always a movement with an end, pure effort is the expression of a culture which identifies will with a deed, with a great feat. Kant’s critique of reason and Cohen’s ethics of pure will go together with Cervantes’ critique of pure effort and Ortega’s vital reason.
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