What is life? By Eugenio Trías

This post is also available in: Spanish

In your last book, at the end, you raise a series of questions about what life and the meaning of life are.

Yes, at the end. It was almost a leap, because, from the world of music and sound and its formal elaboration, I soon saw the possibility of tackling, from that angle, an old goal I have sometimes pursued (for example in my Ética y condición humana) of a philosophical anthropology. An anthropology, I call it that old name, but I mean an understanding of our human condition. Through the musical fact, I could find an important luminous angle: music is common to every human culture, there’s always the elaboration of sound into a musical shape, in the shape of dance, with the use of percussion, wind, string instruments. Starting with the voice itself and following with the instruments. It’s something which is certainly noteworthy, since it’s as common to humanity as language. However, we don’t find it in the higher apes. It links our life to that of the singing birds, as if there was some kind of evolutionary line from the perspective of sound which went from the nightingale to man. But the range of codified sounds in a baby is already far superior to that of any other animal.

What about life?

I speak about human life, life elevated to the status of a horizon of meaning. Intelligence, in a way, is just that. Intelligence is related to life, sustained by life. It has this capacity we perceive in children from very early, with their linguistic aptitude of interrogation, of asking questions. Asking sometimes about unimportant things or about the world. And they mix in a very creative way -I’m talking about childhood- with the world of fantasy, of dreams and the incipient perception of reality. And that leads to asking questions. I think that’s where the base and foundations of knowledge lie. I’d say, answering the question, the pinnacle of the vital process. Life would be combined into this kind of living being which is able to live and be intelligent. And thus it’s not content with accepting what it is, but it also sees the possibility to transform its own reality.

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