José Ferrater Mora

José María Ferrater Mora (Catalan: Josep Ferrater i Mora; 30 October 1912 – 30 January 1991) was a Spanish philosopher, essayist and writer. He is considered the most prominent Catalan philosopher of the 20th-century[1] and was the author of over 35 books, including a four-volume Diccionario de filosofía (Dictionary of Philosophy, 1941) and Being and Death: An Outline of Integrationist Philosophy (1962).[2] Subjects he worked on include ontology, history of philosophy, metaphysics, anthropology, the philosophy of history and culture, epistemology, logic, philosophy of science, and ethics. He also directed several films.[3]

José Ferrater Mora
Josep Ferrater i Mora
Born(1912-10-30)30 October 1912
Barcelona, Spain
Died30 January 1991(1991-01-30) (aged 78)
EducationUniversity of Barcelona (BA, 1932; BPhil, 1936)
(m. 1980)
AwardsGrand Cross of the Civil Order of Alfonso X, the Wise (1984)
Creu de Sant Jordi (1984)
Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities (1985)
Era20th-century philosophy
InstitutionsBryn Mawr College
Doctoral studentsPriscilla Cohn
Other notable studentsJavier Muguerza, Shaun Gallagher
LanguageSpanish, Catalan, English
Main interests
Applied ethics, animal ethics, metaphysics
Notable ideas
Integrationism, monism sui generis

Ferrater Mora was known for his inclusion of humans and non-human animals within the same moral sphere, or continuum, arguing that the difference was one of degree, not kind; the Ferrater Mora Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics is named in his honour.[2]


Ferrater Mora was born in 1912, in Barcelona, Spain. He studied at Santa Maria del Collell, then at the University of Barcelona, where he earned a BA, in 1932, and his BPhil, in 1936.[1]

During the Spanish Civil War, he enlisted in the Republican Army, serving as an intelligence clerk, before escaping the country in 1939. In exile, he spent three months in Paris, before moving to and lecturing in Havana, Cuba and Santiago, Chile.[1]

After receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship, he moved to the United States, first residing in New York City.[4] In 1949, Ferrater Mora was hired by Bryn Mawr College to teach philosophy and Spanish literature, where he worked till his retirement, in 1981.[1] He married Priscilla Cohn (his former doctoral student) in 1980.[5]

Ferrater Mora died from a heart attack, on 30 January 1991, while visiting Barcelona.[6]


Ferrater Mora is the creator of a philosophical method he called integrationism, with which he sought to integrate opposite systems of thought. He argued that irreducible concepts, which are the source of many disputes and divisions in philosophy, do not denote existing realities in themselves but are "limit concepts"; that is to say, these "opposite poles" do not exist absolutely. They exist only as trends or directions of reality and therefore are complementary and are useful to talk about it.[7]

His philosophical work also focused on questions of an ontological nature. He called his ontological position "monism sui generis", since it unites monism and pluralism; it is an emergentism in which the elements assemble themselves by virtue of their properties or functions, or properties-functions. Each structure, although it depends to exist on the elements that compose it, is not reducible to them because it acquires new properties-functions that cannot be explained based on those of the element. The structure also becomes an element for a new structure. Self-assembly begins from the physical level to the point where structures acquire more complex properties-functions and of a different order to give rise to a new biological level, and thus the continuum progresses until reaching the social and then the cultural level. It is a continuum that does not break and that goes from matter to reason.[8]

He was one of the first philosophers to introduce applied ethics to the Spanish-speaking world and was a staunch supporter of animal rights.[9]

His works combine a wide variety of influences, including the Spanish philosophers Miguel de Unamuno, Eugeni d'Ors and José Ortega y Gasset and numerous other representatives of both continental and analytic philosophy.


In January 1991, Ferrater Mora made public the decision to donate his personal library to the University of Girona. The collection consists of 7,255 books, 156 journal titles and correspondence, with 6,748 letters.[10] The correspondence includes letters between Ferrater Mora and his friends, politicians and intellectuals of the time. This collection also includes letters from his departure into exile in the 1940s (Cuba, Chile and the United States), until his death in 1991. Other documents of interest include related writings, with politics and culture sent by personalities of the time: Xavier Benguerel, Enrique Tierno Galván, Néstor Almendros and Josep Trueta, among many others.[11]

Founded in 1989, the Ferrater Mora Chair in Contemporary Thought, regularly organizes seminars and lessons on contemporary philosophy.[10]

Selected works

The following works are in Spanish, unless otherwise noted:

  • Dictionary of Philosophy (Mexico: Atlante, 1941)
  • Spain and Europe (Santiago de Chile: Cruz del Sur, 1942)
  • The Forms of Catalan Life (Santiago de Chile: Agrupació Patriòtica Catalana, 1944), in Catalan and Spanish
  • Unamuno: Outline of a Philosophy (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1944)
  • Four Visions of Universal History (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1945)
  • Spanish Issues (Mexico: Colegio de México, 1945)
  • Variations on the Spirit (Buenos Aires: South American, 1945)
  • The Irony, the Death and the Admiration (Santiago de Chile: Cruz del Sur, 1946)
  • The Meaning of Death (Buenos Aires: South American, 1947)
  • The Book of Meaning (Santiago de Chile: Pi de les Tres Branques, 1948), in Catalan
  • Hellenism and Christianity (Santiago de Chile: University of Chile, 1949)
  • The Man at the Crossroads (Buenos Aires: South American, 1952)
  • Disputed Questions: Essays on Philosophy (Madrid: Revista de Occidente, 1955)
  • Mathematical Logic (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1955), co-authored with Hugues Leblanc
  • Ortega y Gasset: An Outline of His Philosophy (London: Bowes and New Haven: Yale University, 1957), in English
  • What Is Logic (Buenos Aires: Columba, 1957)
  • Philosophy in Today's World (Madrid: Revista de Occidente, 1959)
  • Being and Death: Outline of Integrationist Philosophy (Madrid: Aguilar, 1962)
  • Three Worlds: Catalonia, Spain, Europe (Barcelona and Buenos Aires: EDHASA, 1963)
  • Being and Meaning (Madrid: Revista de Occidente, 1967)
  • Inquiries About Language (Madrid: Alianza, 1970)
  • Words and Men (Barcelona: 62, 1970), in Catalan
  • Man and His Environment and Other Essays (Madrid: Siglo Veintiuno, 1971)
  • Shift in Philosophy (Madrid: Alianza, 1974)
  • Cinema Without Philosophies (Madrid: Esti-Arte, 1974)
  • From Matter to Reason (Madrid: Alianza, 1979)
  • Seven Capital Stories (Barcelona: Planeta, 1979)
  • Applied Ethics: From Abortion to Violence (Madrid: Alianza, 1981), co-authored with Priscilla Cohn
  • Claudia, My Claudia (Madrid: Alianza, 1982)
  • The World of the Writer (Barcelona: Crítica, 1983)
  • Ways of Doing Philosophy (Barcelona: Crítica, 1985)
  • Voltaire in New York (Madrid: Alianza, 1985)
  • Foundations of Philosophy (Madrid: Alianza, 1985)
  • Made in Corona (Madrid: Alianza, 1986)
  • Window to the World (Barcelona: Crítica, 1986)
  • Dictionary of Great Philosophers 2 (Madrid: Alianza, 1986)
  • The Truth Game (Barcelona: Ediciones Destino, 1988)
  • Return from Hell (Barcelona: Anthropos, 1989)
  • Miss Goldie (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1991)
  • Women on the Verge of Legend (Barcelona: Círculo de readers, 1991)
  • Butterflies and Superstrings: Dictionary for Our Time (Barcelona: Peninsula, 1994)


See also


  1. Shook, John R., ed. (2005). "Ferrater Mora, José María". Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers. London: A & C Black. pp. 766–768. ISBN 978-1-84371-037-0.
  2. "José Ferrater Mora". Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  3. "The Movie Maker: A Brief History and Analysis of Ferrater Mora's Films". Ferrater Mora. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  4. Mora, Jose Ferrater (2003). Terricabras, J. M. (ed.). Three Spanish Philosophers: Unamuno, Ortega, Ferrater Mora. Albany, New York: SUNY Press. pp. 257–258. ISBN 978-0-7914-5714-6.
  5. Cook, Bonnie L. (2 July 2019). "Priscilla T. Neuman Cohn Ferrater Mora, 85, heiress who became philosophy professor, animal-rights activist". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  6. "Jose F. Mora, 78, Dies; Professor of Philosophy". The New York Times. 2 February 1991. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  7. Needleman, Jacob (1967). "Being and Death: An Outline of Integrationist Philosophy (review)" (PDF). Journal of the History of Philosophy. 5 (3): 309–311. doi:10.1353/hph.2008.1359. ISSN 1538-4586. S2CID 143916072.
  8. Maestre, Begoña Román (2014). "Oscar Horta, La filosofia moral de Josep Ferrater Mora Documenta Universitària, Girona, 2008". Journal of catalan intellectual history: Revista d'història de la filosofia catalana (7–8): 163–166. ISSN 2014-1564.
  9. Horta, Óscar (2008). La filosofía moral de J. Ferrater Mora. Girona: Documenta Universitaria.
  10. "Josep Ferrater Mora". Universitat of Girona (in Catalan). Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  11. "Epistolari del Llegat Ferrater Mora". University of Girona. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  12. "Awards, Honors, Distinctions and Decorations". Ferrater Mora. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  13. "José Ferrater Mora". Real Academia de la Historia (in Spanish). Retrieved 24 June 2020.

Further reading

  • Horta, Óscar. La filosofía moral de J. Ferrater Mora. Documenta Universitaria, Girona, 2008.
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