Enrique Tierno Galván was born 8 February 1918 in Madrid. Fought with the Republican forces, and cofounder of the Socialist Party of the Interior (later the Popular Socialist Party), during the Spanish Civil War, he studied for law degree, 1942, and doctorate in law, 1945. Professor of political science at the Universities of Murcia, 1948–53, and Salamanca, 1953–65, Galván was dismissed: reinstated after Franco’s death, 1976. Visiting professor at various universities in the United States, he acquitted on charges of trying to overthrow Franco, 1961. He was also a defense lawyer for political defendents, late 1960s–early 1970s. Was elected president of the Social Democratic Party of Spain, 1978, elected mayor of Madrid, 1979–86.He died in Madrid, 20 January 1986.
In the preface to Sobre la novela picaresca y otros escritos (1974; On the picaresque novel and other writings) Tierno Galván lists three major obstacles to his intellectual development during the early years of the Franco regime: scholasticism, existentialism, and the influence of the Generation of 98. Against such formidable heritage, Tierno’s essays form a stark contrast to the principal intellectual currents of post-Civil War Spain and constitute a rejection of the Spanish and European humanistic traditions. The author repeatedly impugns the hallowed categories of personalism, subjectivism, and mental or inner life (intimismo), in the name of a thorough and absolute secularization of society, based on the principles of utility and efficiency.
Indeed, while his distinguished contemporaries Xavier Zubiri, Pedro Laín Entralgo and Julián Marías were involved in such issues as transcendence, the essence of Spain, or the philosophy of José Ortega y Gasset, Tierno was reading the works of Spinoza and Wittgenstein, whose Tractatus logico-philosophicus he translated into Spanish. An early interest in neopositivism soon led Tierno to embrace a marxist view of society, which during the 1960s he cloaked in the presumably neutral language of neopositivist sociology.
With the publication of Razón mecánica y razón dialéctica (1969; Mechanical reason and dialectical reason), an openly Marxist agenda informs his essays and political activities, first as opposition figure representing the Social Democratic Party of Spain, and also as mayor of Madrid. The author often stated that his intellectual mission was to educate the Spanish people’s social intelligence.
Tierno’s aphoristic style stands out against the often prolix, digressive, and anecdotal essays of his contemporaries. Essentially, the aphorism is for Tierno an epistemological tool of maximum intellectual rigor, economy, and precision. Thinking through aphorisms involves a series of independent, spaced enunciations that convey truth in a compact, atomized form. Distrustful of systematic demonstrations on a grand scale, the author finds the aphorism especially suitable to the fragmentary view of knowledge and the simultaneity of experience that characterize modernity.
To accomplish his political and ethical aims Tierno favors the rhetorical strategy of dissociation which consists of a series of shocking antitheses, often oxymoronic, designed to disrupt the associations inherited from humanist and personalist modes of thought. One finds expressions such as “the trivial is destiny” (Desde el espectáculo a la trivialización [1961; From spectacle to trivia]); “philosophy should be a vulgar discipline” (Acotaciones a la historia de la cultura occidental en la edad moderna [1964; Marginal notes on the history of modern Western culture]); “the scientific control of human relations will lead to happiness”.