Latin American Philosophy



Future courses in Latin American Philosophy:

The course was originally developed by Prof. Rasmus Winther at UCSC, who taught it in 2008, 2013, and will do so in the future. Please check his website or email him if you are interested in more information or if you are thinking about attending it in the future.


Porter Academy 144 (click for map). Here a description and photo of the room.

Meeting Time:

MoWeFr 8–9:10am.

January 5, 2011 to March 14, 2011.


Mo 11–12.10am in Crown Clrm 208.

We 12:30–1.40pm in Crown Clrm 208.

Instructor: Christoph Durt

M.A. at the University of Munich in Philosophy, Psychology, and Intercultural Communication. ABD at UCSC in Philosophy.


Office hours: Fridays 9:30–10:30 in A101 (philosophy faculty annex building, Cowell College), or by appointment.

Teaching Assistant (TA): Lourdes Ortiz Bautista

B.A. in philosophy in 2005 at the Universidad National Autónoma de México (UNAM), Associate Student at the Institute of Philosophical Research at UNAM until 2007.


Office hours: W 9:40–10:40 at Stevenson’s Coffee Shop

Short Description

What is “Latin American philosophy”? In this course, this question is not answered with some reification of an alleged Latin American identity under the assumption that it determines the course of philosophical thinking. We do not attempt to fit “Latin American philosophy” into an alleged identity of “Western philosophy”, nor do we wonder if “their rationality” can still be called philosophy. Instead of speculating over and above Latin American philosophers, we try to understand Latin American thinking with and through their authors in fields they have especially contributed to. We explore texts on pre-Columbian thought and colonialism, on liberation theory, positivism, postcolonial globalism, historicity, the human being, the self, values, culture, and on Latin American philosophy itself.

In spite of this large variety of topics, there nevertheless is a concern common to most of the texts, a concern underexposed or even explicitly excluded in the works of most US-American philosophers. The role of culture and history for philosophy is one of the most prominent questions treated by Latin American philosophers, either explicitly, or in an underlying account of history. For us, it is the recurring thread that runs through the wide variety of topics treated in this course.


  • Three response papers of 400–500 words (30% of final grade), one final paper of 1500–2000 words (20%).
  • Ten philosophical quizzes to be taken during class (40%). They are unannounced, multiple-choice, and take about 10 minutes each. They usually will be held right at the beginning of the class at 8am, but may happen at the end, or at any other time during class. They are presented electronically, and cannot be taken at any later point of time. Most of the questions are easy to answer if you read the texts for that day, but some require that you have thought about what you have read. So make sure that you not only read, but also engage with the texts: ask how the author thinks her or his claims make sense, take notes, look up concepts, write down questions you may ask at our next meeting, and formulate objections and counterarguments.
  • Attendance in class will not be taken. There is no reason to excuse yourself for any absence, for whatever reason. If you miss any of the quizzes, however, you receive an F in it. To make sure it is not a problem if you are sick for a few times, there will be a total of 13 philosophical exercises. Out of these, the TA will automatically choose the best ten, and disregard the three worst. So missing up to three philosophical exercises does not negatively affect your grade. Frequent attendance is rewarded, however, for any quiz beyond the required ten will be used to make up for any less perfectly answered quiz.
  • Attend section at least four times. You are free to go to section more often—as often as you like. The sections are a good opportunity to improve your participation grade, especially if you don’t feel comfortable speaking up in class. Also, you get first-hand recommendations from the person who grades your papers. If you fail to attend section at least four times, you receive an F in participation. If you fulfill the four times minimum, your participation grade with be determined according to the amount and quality of your participation in class and section.
  • Participation in the discussions in class and section (10%).
  • Plagiarism in any paper will result in a citation, and an F for the whole course, besides other possible disciplinary measurements by the provost or dean. Please know and follow the campus guidelines for academic integrity and the UCSC academic integrity guidlines.

Required books

Gracia, Jorge J. E. & Millan-Zaibert, Elizabeth (eds) 2004 Latin American Philosophy for the 21st Century: The Human Condition, Values, and the Search for Identity. Available on Amazon new for around $20, used for around $10, at the Bay Tree Bookstore, and on reserve at the McHenry library. Below abbreviated “LAP”.

Salles & Millán-Zaibert 2005 The Role of History in Latin American Philosophy: Contemporary Perspectives. It costs nearly $30 on Amazon, but it is also available on google ebooks for $16.45, at the Bay Tree Bookstore, and on reserve at the McHenry library. Below abbreviated “ROH”.

All other texts are either online on eReserve (login for course participants), or on the internet. The links are on the Time Schedule:


Latin American Philosophy Today

1-4 Introduction: Philosophy, Historicity, Culture and “Latin American Philosophy”.

1-7 Hurtado, Guillermo 2006 Two Models of Latin American Philosophy (pdf).
Supplementary reading: A review of the book that formed the basis of the article (in Spanish).

1-10 Pereda, Carlos 2006 Latin American Philosophy: Some Vices (pdf).
Here is the original article ¿Qué puede enseñarle el ensayo a nuestra filosofía?

1-12 Zea, Leopoldo 1942 The Actual Function of Philosophy in Latin America (pdf). In LAP 357–368.
Supplementary reading: More texts by Zea and others (in Spanish).

The Role of History for Philosophy

1-14 Gracia, Jorge 2005 The History of Philosophy and Latin American Philosophy – first part. ROH 21–41.

(1-17 Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday)

1-19 Gracia, Jorge 2005 The History of Philosophy and Latin American Philosophy – second part.
Rabossi, Eduardo 2005 History and Philosophy in the Latin American Setting: Some Disturbing Comments. ROH 57–73.

(1-21 First response paper due! Here the topics.)

1-21 Cerutti-Gulberg, Horacio 2005 How and Why to Foster the History of Philosophy in Postcolonial Contexts. ROH 197–214.
Optional reading: “¿Para qué enseñar filosofia?

1-24 Beuchot, Mauricio 2005 The Study of Philosophy’s History in Mexico as a Foundation for Doing Mexican Philosophy. ROH 109–130.

1-26 Second part of Beuchot, Mauricio 2005 The Study of Philosophy’s History in Mexico as a Foundation for Doing Mexican Philosophy. ROH 109–130.

Identification and demarcation: Pre-Columbian thought and Colonialism

1-26 Extra: Movie night Breaking the Maya Code (not: Cracking the Maya Code!). Time: 6.30-8:30 pm. Location: Kresge 327.

1-28  The Mayas and the role of spoken language and writing for philosophy

1-31 León-Portilla, M. (1963) Aztec Thought and Culture: A Study of the Ancient Nahuatl Mind. Oklahoma City, OK: Oklahoma University Press, pp. 3-24.

2-2 “El Coloquio de los Doce” (”The Formal Conversation of the Twelve”)
De Las Casas, Fray Bartolomé In Defense of the Indians. LAP 33-50.

2-4 Octavio Paz [1979] Mexico and the United States (pdf).

(2-7 Second response paper due! Here the topics.)

The End of History? Liberation, Positivism, Marxism, and postcolonial Globality

2-7 Galeano, Eduardo 1997 Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent (pdf). Please read the excerpts carefully until p. 61, and 205-end.

2-9 Herrera Lima, María 2003 On the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: The Case of Chiapas (pdf). Please also scan through these readings by Subcomandante Marcos: “Chiapas: The Southeast in Two Winds, a Storm and a Prophecy” and “First Declaration from the Lacondon Jungle”.

2-11 The development of European positivism, and why positivism was so appealing to Latin American modernizers and dictators.

2-14 Ardao, Arthuro [1962] Assimilation and Transformation of Positivism in Latin America (pdf).

2-16 Freire, Paulo [1970] Pedagogy of the Opressed, chapter 1 (pdf). Hegel’s idealistic conception of Herr and Knecht, Marx’ interpretation of it, and Freire’s concept of the relation between oppressor and oppressed.

2-18 Freire, Paulo [1970] Pedagogy of the Opressed, chapter 2 (pdf).

(2-21 President’s Day Holiday)

(2-23 Third response paper due! Here the topics.)

2-23 Dussel, Enrique 2008 A New Age in the History of Philosophy: The World Dialogue between Philosophical Traditions.
Optional reading: Dussel’s “Philosophy of Liberation” in LAP 417-428.

2-25 Roig, Arturo Andrés [1976] The Actual Function of Philosophy in Latin America (A Philosophy of Liberation). LAP 401-413.

Examplary topics: The Conditio Humana and the Self

2-28 Comblín, José 1990 “Science and Technology” (pdf). In: Retrieving the Human: A Christian Anthropology.

3-2 Romero, Francisco Theory of Man. LAP 91-110.

3-4 Quesada, Francisco Miró [1959] Man without Theory. LAP 147-168.

3-7 Astrada, Carlos [1963] Existentialism and the Crisis of Philosophy. LAP 129-144.

3-9 Frondizi, Risieri [1971] The Nature of the Self. LAP 113-126.
Supplementary reading: “Risieri Frondizi Ante la Condición Humana

3-11 Reale, Miguel [1965] Philosophy of Law. LAP 207-218.
The complete book (in Portuguese) can be downloaded here.

3-14 Final paper due! Here the prompt for the final paper.

3-14 Latin American Philosophy Interview with Manuel Vargas, Philosophy, University of San Francisco


Below you find the topics discussed in the course, plus what was written on the blackboard. Many points are tentative, others present controversial claims of the authors. Use them as an additional help, not as a replacement for the texts read, or for what was said in the course.

Is there a Latin American Philosophy? What is it?

  • no answer presupposed, but here some preliminary suggestions for questions:
  1. Philosophizing about Latin America?
  2. Comparing “their rationality” to “our rationality”; “their philosophy” to “our philosophy”?
  3. All philosophy pursued by Latin American philosophers?
  4. All philosophy that has some common characteristic x?
  5. Would that be a characteristic that only Latin American philosophy exhibits?
  6. Philosophizing (by any philosopher) about topics specific to Latin America?

Before coming to any somewhat founded answer, we will investigate these topics connected to Latin America, or especially treated by philosophers there

  • pre-Columbian thought and colonialism
  • liberation theory
  • positivism
  • postcolonial globalism
  • historicity
  • the human being, the self, values, culture
  • Latin American philosophy itself
  • historicity, history, and the respective concepts of history

The Topics of Today, 1/7/2011

  1. Guillermo Hurtado’s two models of Latin American Philosophy:
    1. Modernization Model
    2. Authenticity Model
  2. Hurtado’s idea of how to go beyond these models
  3. Critical discussion of Hurtado’s categorizations and suggestions

El Búho y la Serpiente: Ensayos sobre la filosofía en México en el siglo XX. (2007)

  • The owl: Reflecting from the altitude of all times (cp. Minerva’s owl)
  • The Snake: Reflecting from the “earthly” reality of the concrete

The Modernization Model

Starting in the 18th century, 4 major movements:

  1. Positivism
  2. Neo-Kantianism, Historicism, Axiology, Phenomenology, Existentialism
  3. Marxism
  4. Analytic Philosophy

Wide differences, but also commonalities:

  • opening towards modern science and modern philosophy
  • imported and contrasted with established philosophies
  • mostly receptive, little dialogue
  • revolutionary spirit
  • unsuccessful in founding new movements

The Authenticity Model

  • reaffirming what is Latin American
  • philosophy as liberating

Three exemplary stages of formation:

  • Mexican
    José Gaos: awareness for the history of ideas
    Leopoldo Zea: engage with problems distinctive of Latin American circumstances
  • Peruvian
    Augusto Salazar’s 1968 ¿Existe una filosofía de nuestra América?
    Answer: No, due to a lack of authenticity, due to subjugated condition of their countries. – Call for awareness of those conditions to overcome them.
  • Argentinean
    “Philosophy of Liberation”

Possible Deficiencies of Authenticity model

  • equivocation of peculiarities of Latin American philosophy with authenticity
  • backsliding into Modernizing Model
  • repetitiveness, philosophical impoverishment, lack of rigor and clarity
  • sectarianism
  • assumption that political and economical liberation leads to good philosophy

Beyond Modernization and Authenticity

The central problem of lack of philosophical communities and traditions requires practical solutions:

  • foster dialogue
  • study of history of Latin American philosophy not only to better understand the present, but also to understand new ideas
  • more critical and less prejudiced attitude
  • reaching out to other streams, such as Scholasticism, literature
  • recovering rigorousness and professionalism from the modernizers
  • bringing together pragmatism and José Ortega y Gasset’s perspectivism and ratiovitalism
  • considering the changing and challenging reality of the border of Mexico and the US

Questions concerning Hurtado’s ideas (which he may have answers to)

  • How could pragmatism be reconciled with Ortega y Gasset’s critique on pragmatism?
  • How is going back to past not unoriginal, how would it contribute to authentic philosophical thinking?
  • Does the lumping together of very different traditions under headers like “Modernization” and “Authenticity” not wipe out important differences for the understanding of the tradition, and is thus in the way of going beyond them?
  • What could the consideration of the reality at the border contribute to philosophy?
  • Are not the same problems found within Analytic philosophy, or at least between Analytic and Continental philosophy? Would we thus have to look somewhere else for the reasons of a lack of dialogue than in the specific Latin American conditions?
  • Can the inherent contradictions of different philosophical directions be overcome by a improving external conditions of dialogue?
  • Do not the differences in the contents stand in the way of a dialogue? Can the problem of a lack of dialogue thus be solved merely pragmatically? What other alternatives does Hurtado offer?

The Topics of Today, 1/10/2011

  1. Pereda’s article:
  2. Behind the invisibility of Latin American philosophy: Three Vices
  3. How the Latin American form of the philosophical essay may help overcome them

Carlos Pereda 2000 ¿Qué puede enseñarle el ensayo a nuestra filosofía?

 Latin American Philosophy: Some Vices (2006)

The Invisibility of Latin American Philosophers:

  1. Rarely cite each other
  2. Even when they do, then not in a critical fashion
  3. Rarely cited by others
  4. When considered, then often as “philosophy with a local flavor”

Example: The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1998)

2,054 articles, including:

  1. ”Philosophy in Latin America”
  2. ”Analytic Philosophy in Latin America”
  3. ”Anti-positivist thought in Latin America”
  4. ”Existential thought in Latin America”
  5. ”Feminist thought in Latin America”
  6. ”Colonial thought in Latin America”
  7. ”pre-Columbian and indigenous thought in Latin America”
  8. ”Marxist thought in Latin America”
  9. ”Phenomenology in Latin America”
  • → Latin American Philosophy may seem to receiv attention

BUT (so Pereda):

  1. no articles on the most important Latin American philosophers, e.g. Antonio Caso, José Vasconcelos, Leopoldo Zea, Luis Villoro
  2. articles on Latin America favor ideologization, leaving the “serious” topics to others
  3. many factual mistaces, and the selection of names appears capricious

The root of Invisibility: Three Vices

  1. ”Subaltern Fervor” (”fervor sucursalero”)
    merely working within a branch, mere reception of thoughts developed elsewhere
  2. ”craving for novelty” (”afán de novedades”)
    aimless strive for being up to date instead for knowledge
  3. ”national philosophies” (”filosofías nacionales”)
    arrogant dismissal of classical thinkers in favor of sentimentally loaden texts

Pereda’s idea of the philosophical essay

  • not: reducing philosophy to the superficie
  • yet: connecting to a great tradition of writing in other disciplines
  • four conditions:
  1. ”freshness condition”
    against blind faith and dogmatism
    argumentative and “to the problems, to the problems themselves” (cp. Kant, Husserl)
  2. ”particularity condition”
    abstract, but precise and informed; “to the problems themselves”
  3. ”publicity condition”
    against esoteric writing, specialized language, for an engaging style; “to the problems themselves”
  4. ”interpellation condition”
    conscious of normative motivations, intention to convince (cp. Louis Althusser (1918–1990))
    and “to the problems themselves”

(Your) questions regarding Pereda’s ideas (to which he might have answers)

  1. Isn’t the essay style just about writing good philosophy? What differentiates it from, e.g., essays in Analytic philosophy?
  2. Is the essay style not also apt to foster the vices Pereda tries to avoid, especially if it becomes established? For instance: How to avoid the craving for novelty?

The Topics of Today, 1/10/2011

  1. Zea on Latin American culture
  2. Zea on the role of culture for philosophy

Leopoldo Zea (1912-2004)

 Ensayos sobre filosofía en la historia (1942)

Zea’s thesis that culture impregnates philosophy:

  1. Ramos, Samuel 1934 El perfil del hombre y la cultura en México
    Applied philosophy to concrete entities (instead of ideal entities).
  2. Zea: Already thinking about the “Latin American question” and its role for philosophy are philosophy, irrespectively of the answer (it may be affirmative or negative).
  3. Zea: “Latin American philosophy can exist if there is a Latin American culture from which this philosophy may take its issues. The existence of Latin American philosophy depends on whether there is Latin American culture.”
  4. → Latin American philosophy will fall into place when philosophy is practiced by people immersed into Latin American culture.
  5. no need for philosophy to treat cultural topics to be culturally impregnated
    → Latin American philosophy should be concerned with universal topics.

Zea on Latin American culture

  1. Older history is cut of: The high cultures of the Aztecs, Mayas, Incas are as alien and meaningless to Latin Americans as temples from any other ancient culture.
  2. The roots of Latin American culture lie in Europe.
  3. Latin America is born out of one of Europe’s major crises.
  4. Europe’s crisis of the first half of the 20th century is experienced as LA’s own crisis.
  5. In spite of descent in European culture: Feeling of being imitators.
  6. North American: doing the same as Europeans, but on a bigger scale. Only technical, not cultural.
  7. Latin American: feels inferior in technical and cultural respect.
  8. Attempt to adjust Latin American circumstances to European conception of the world instead of adjusting the latter.
  9. Feeling unable to live up to that culture.
  10. Inability to be European is also chance to go beyond imitation. “Cultural mission” (363).

(Your) questions regarding Zea’s ideas (to which he might have answers)

  1. Why does the strive of a universal philosophy not mean that culture is not of crucial importance for philosophy?
  2. What is the cultural characteristic of “a Greek philosophy, a Christian philosophy, a French philosophy, a British philosophy, and a German philosophy” (364)? What does it matter?
  3. Does Zea pursue the “Authenticity Model” (Hurtado), or even a “nationalist philosophy” (Pereda)?
  4. Do the Aztec, Mayan, and Inca ruins really have no more meaning to Latin Americans than Hindu temples? What about indigenous languages and ongoing ways of thinking in the rural population?

The Topics of Today, 1/10/2011

  1. Your first response paper
      Gracia on:
  2. The perception of Latin American philosophy as unphilosophical
  3. The treatment of the history of philosophy by Latin American philosophers as the reason for the negative perception
  4. Approaches to the History of Philosophy that Lack Philosophical Aim
  5. The Framework Approach

Possible questions for your first response paper

  1. Contrast the authenticity model and the modernizing model described by Hurtado, and present an argument in defense of one of them.
  2. Discuss one or two of the vices identified by Pereda and present a response—either positive or negative—on it.
  3. Zea presents a metaphor on the relationship between LA and European philosophy in which he considers LA a “child” of Europe. Briefly describe this metaphor and interpret the position that Zea defends on what LA philosophy is.

Jorge Gracia

The History of Philosophy and Latin American Philosophy(2005)

The mayority of accounts of Latin American philosophy either…

  1. consider it as marginal and to be interesting only for few specialists, or
  2. consider it as idiosyncratic, and even exotic (Zea, Bondy), or
  3. allege a servile attitude and lament a marginal intellectual role (Dussel), or
  4. try to adapt European views to the respective conditions in Latin American countries (Mariátegui), or even
  5. claim that there are no philosophers in Latin America.
  • Mayor reason for these reductions of Latin American philosophy: Latin American philosophers themselves pursue the history of philosophy in a nonphilosophical way.

According to Gracia, philosophy…

  1. is more general than other forms of knowledge that involve specific methodologies and particular objects or kinds of objects.
  2. has unique areas of investigation such as ethics, logic, and metaphysics.
  3. concerns the solution of philosophical problems.
  4. involves normative interpretation and evaluation.

Solution: Just doing philosophy, and do away with the study of history of philosophy in Latin America? No, because:

  1. Philosophers always respond to others before them, so always must engage in at least the recent history of thought.
  2. The teaching of philosophy relies heavily on historical texts.
  3. Historical identification is rising, in particular with regards to Latin American identity.
  4. The history of philosophy has a large amount of views that are helpful for contemporary topics.
  • The point is not whether, but how to do history of philosophy

Approaches to the History of Philosophy that Lack Philosophical Aim

  1. The Culturalist Approach
    • looks at philosophy not as contribution to solve problems but as expression of a culture
    • cultural particularism examines the factual reasons for philosophical views, but does not evaluate the philosophical reasons
    • very popular, yet it stands in the way of real philosophy
  2. The Ideological Approach
    • uses philosophy to promote ideology
    • maybe beneficial, but not beneficial for understanding philosophical past
    • stands in the way of objectivity and true dialogue

Approaches to the History of Philosophy that Lack Philosophical Aim (continued)

  1. The Doxographical Approach
    • uncritical
    • mechanical and chronological arrangement of facts, disregarding interrelations
    • probably most common approach
  2. Other Methodologies
    • scholarly approach: objective facts independent from interpretation and evaluation
    • sociopolitical (Zea), eschatological (Vasconcelos), liberationalist and postmodernist (Cerutti-Guldberg)

The “Framework Approach” to the History of Philosophy

  1. purpose: clear and perspicuous determination of the differences and similarities of ideas and figures in the history of philosophy
  2. conceptual map of
    • main concepts
    • precise definition of issues at stake and their relations
    • possible solutions
    • basic arguments for or against each possible solution
    • articulation of the criteria used
  3. concentrates on few problems, not comprehensive
  4. is aware of its own historical biases, but aims for generality and neutrality
  5. is flexible and open to alteration

Eduardo Rabossi (1930–2005)

Rabossi, Eduardo History and Philosophy in the Latin American Setting: Some Disturbing Comments.

Rabossi thinks that his paper

  1. Shows that “a convincing argument in favor of the philosophical relevance of the history of philosophy is still wanting” (p. 70)
  2. Explains, “somehow, the appeal of the history of philosophy in our academic tradition” (p. 70)
  • →what would be required to do so?

Rabossi sets out to fulfill his purpose by

  1. Explaining how philosophy of history came up (the “Historic Turn” (p. 59ff)
  2. Pointing out that apparent “facts” were established in histeriography
  3. Listing the claims historians of philosophy claim or assume
  4. Explaining why the history of philosophy appears appealing to academic philosophers
    • what would be required to do so?

”Geistesgeschichte” (According to Rabossi)

  1. Beyond doxography, attempt to show the divelopment of “spirit” in history towards a more enlightened state
  2. there are criteria to identify classes of philosophical heroes, problems and systems, and to determine the kind of pertinent theo-retical nexus that holds among them;
  3. those criteria are produced aprioristically, insofar as philosophers deal paradigmatically with a conceptual, spiritual, and/or transcendental realm;
  4. the history of philosophy has an immanent lineal continuity no Kuhnian revolutions are possible;
  5. the history of philosophy displays the efforts of the human mind to deal with and to answer to a set of recurrent problems;
  6. truth is distributed, somehow, among philosophical systems, doc-trines and theses the criteria to determine how truth is distrib-uted are provided, again, by a preferred aprioristic philosophical standpoint; and singular studies on individual philosophers and/or philosophical systems or periods make sense only within such a holistic frame.” (p. 60–61)

According to Rabossi, Nietzsche claims,

in his “clever essay on the use and disadvantages of history for life”,

  • that “people tortured by the past are in need of a critical history” (p. 73)
  • However, according to Rabossi:
    “In Latin America, the justificatory role played by the history of philosophy is a hybrid that lurks between antiquarian and monumental history.” (p. 73)

Nietzsche 1874 Untimely Meditations: On the Use and Abuse of History for Life

distinguishes three kinds of history:

  1. monumental: the monumental historian thinks her/his destiny is embedded in the higher history of the development of humanity
  2. antiquarial: the antiquarial human identifies with some bigger history as part of her/himself and tries to conserve it for future reverence
  3. critical: intends to show the flaws of the past to destroy it and to create something new

All three are problematic, but also necessary for human life. The point is not to stop doing any of them, but to do them in the right way: Recollect one’s true desires and order the “chaos” of history that makes up oneself.

“To be sure, we need history. But we need it in a manner different from the way in which the spoilt idler in the garden of knowledge uses it […] we need it for life and action.” (Introduction)

  1. philology as untimely: against its time, for a future time


Cerutti-Gulberg, Horacio [1997] How and Why to Foster the History of Philosophy in Postcolonial Context

The aim of Cerutti-Guldberg’s paper

”[…]central thesis: in our postcolonial context a reconstruction of our historic philosophic memory is necessarily required in order to exercise our philosophic activity in a pertinent manner.” (p. 211)


“[…] my aim is not to provide a proof or a demonstration but rather an informative summary for those who are not acquainted with the tradition of Latin American thought.” (p. 197)

Cerutti-Guldberg attempts to do so by:

  1. surveying three mayor steps in the establishment of the historiographic tradition in Latin America
  2. pointing out similarities between the Latin American tradition and contemporary African philosophical reflection
  3. stating examples of how history of philosophy is taught at universities
  • are these steps sufficient to reach Cerutti’s aim, and to show his central thesis?

The three mayor steps in the establishment of the historiographic tradition in Latin America

  1. Ortega y Gasset’s concern for context (both cima and sima): “Philosophy is thus history of philosophy and vice versa.” (p. 199)
  2. José Gaos
    • the opinion that there is no philosophy in Mexico rests on the assumption that philosophy is exhausted by a limited canon of thought
    • the concept of philosophy must be re-conceptualized to allow for Mexican philosophy to be recognized
    • pensamiento as embedded in circumstances, e.g. historical
  3. Salazar Bondy 1968 ¿Existe una filosofía de nuestra América? (Does there exist a philosophy of Our America?)
    • it was turning point for Latin American philosophy: made central the concepts of alienation, dependence with domination, and structural transformation
    • yet, it continued with old historiographic schemes: assumption that philosophy started with the conquest, imported from Europe in purely receptive (and lacking) ways.
    • ”Bondy’s histeriographic proposal appears as an antimodel” (p. 203)

Cerutti-Guldberg’s idea of the relation of history and philosophy

  1. attempts to develop a notion of philosophy that allows for the integration of pre-Columbian philosophy
  2. integration of the oral tradition and forms of thinking that still express in cultural manifestations
  3. investigation of development and modernity, and their relation to local tradition
  4. conceptualization of the ways in which philosophical conceptions of reality are situated
    1. affinity to African philosophy, in which these problems play a central role, and in which colonialization and liberation are more recent
  5. philosophy professors that treat the history of philosophy should be people dedicated to the history of philosophy (usually, this is not the case)

An argument for the indispensability of history for philosophy?

  1. “Philosophy advances – if it indeed advances – by chewing on its past […] or overcoming it (aufheben)” (p. 208)
  2. in either case, it relates to the past
  3. philosophical knowledge proceeds by reflection
  4. in order to reach knowledge, we need to reflectively relate to the past

Hegels three senses of aufheben (to sublate):

  1. to pick up / elevate
  2. to annihilate / cancel
  3. to preserve / keep

Cerutti-Goldberg suggestions

  1. take pre-Columbian philosophy into account
  2. question continuity
  3. re-conceptualize the pre-existing historical categories (maybe abolishing some)
  4. understand dominant thought as hegemonic, but not necessarily exclusive
  5. investigate the “institutional embeddedness of thought” (p. 209)
  6. take oral and fragmentary written expressions of philosophy into account (e.g. graffiti)
  7. foster the essay form
  8. compare philosophical history with other forms of history
  9. accommodate different forms of regionalization (not only national)
  10. entertain normative conceptions of the future

Mauricio Beuchot (*1950)

Beuchot, Mauricio 2005 The Study of Philosophy’s History in Mexico as a Foundation for Doing Mexican Philosophy.

Especially known for his work in hermeneutics

Beuchot on the importance of history

”In order to do significant work in Mexican philosophy, knowledge of philosophy’s history in the region is fundamental. Mexican philosophy is most certainly an integral part of universal philosophy, but beyond this it is concerned with problems that are specific to Mexico, such as its identity, its independence, its cultural diversity, and its symbols.” (very first sentence)

  • How does Beuchot, already in the first sentence of his paper, situate himself with regards to the relation of history and philosophy, and how does his position relate to the different positions we discussed?
  1. Hurtado
  2. Pereda
  3. Zea
  4. Gracia
  5. Cerutti-Guldberg

Why Philosophy has to be concerned with History

  1. We always belong and depend on a tradition (without, however, being bound to it).
  2. Especially in Mexico, the history of ideas is bound to the history of the country.
  3. There is a “dynamic relationship” between tradition and creativity.
  4. Old philosophical doctrines are often surprisingly timeless.
  5. Philosophy must always be done “in close contact to reality”, in particular sociopolitical events, which have a historical horizon.
  6. History is the memory of humanity, memory is what enables us to have experience, so history is the great reservoir of human experience.
  7. The study of the past allows us to avoid errors, and to foment good things.
  8. History can show what leads to something of value.
  9. History reveals what goes beyond each historical context, this teaches us how to surpass historicism and relativism
  10. The study of history allows to move tradition forward.

Philosophers especially concerned with the topic of Mexican identity (mexicanidad)

  1. José Gaos 1944 Philosophy in the Spanish Language
  2. Leopoldo Zea 1967 American Philosophy as Nothing more than Philosophy
  3. contrast: Luis Villoro and Alejandro Rossi (“professionalization of philosophy”)
  4. Enrique Dussel and Horacio Cerutti-Guldberg: Philosophy of liberation
  5. Mario Magallón: concrete issues such as education
  6. Guillermo Hurtado: colonial and pre-Colonial past as important

Some Important Thinkers of the Colonial Past

  1. Bartolome de las Casas (1484–1566): Important works for the liberation of indigenous people
  2. Vasco de Quiroga (ca. 1470–1565): Familiar with Thomas More, and trying to implement it in hospices in Michoacán
  3. Alonso de la Veracruz (1504-–584): First course in philosophy in the new world in 1542
  4. Tomás de Mercado (ca. 1522–1575): influence on Joseph Schumpeter
  5. Antonio Rubio 1605 Logica mexicana—known by Descartes
  6. Diego Rodríguez and Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora (1645–1700): worked on Scholastic philosophy, but influenced by Descartes
  7. Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (1651–1695): Poet with philosophical knowledge

The Emergence of the Histeriophilosophical Dilemma in the Renaissance

  1. Philological studies not to advance, but to preserve
    • learning all there is to know about an author or era
    • unoriginal: incapable of saying anything not already said by someone else
  2. Counterstream: Attempting a completely new Start (e.g. Descartes, Wittgenstein)
    • concerned with systems or problems
    • copied from science: historical investigations would only slow down
    • only engages with contemporaries
  3. false dilemma (formulated by MacIntyre): “either force philosophy of the past to resemble that of the present, or preserve its original form and make it irrelevant for the presentPhilosophizing cannot be reduced to a mere repetition of the thoughts of others; on the contrary, it must culminate in creation, in contribution (albeit, based on a moderate use of history); but it is also certain that creation cannot be accomplished ex nihilo (at least as far as human beings are concerned).” (p. 120)

Difference and Creativity

x(p. 120)

cp.: Gilles Deleuze 1968 Différence et répétition: 
“With univocity, however, it is not the differences which are and must be: it is being which is Difference, in the sense that it is said of difference. Moreover, it is not we who are univocal in a Being which is not; it is we and our individuality which remains equivocal in and for a univocal Being.” (Difference and Repetition, 1994, p. 39)


  1. racial and cultural mixing
  2. neiher Spanish nor indigenous, but something entirely new
  3. can be observed in the writings of Sigüenza y Gongora, Inés de la Cruz, Clavigero, Quiroga, especially: idealization of Indians, projection of virtues, against Eurocentrism
  4. forced reflection on cultural identity, which are useful in our time of cultural mestizaje
  5. Indigenous communitarianism as a counterpoint to European liberalism

Questions for your next reading (León-Portilla)

  1. What is, according to León-Portilla, philosophy?
  2. Why are the Nahuatl poems philosophy?
  3. Why is Nahuatl a good language for philosophy?
  4. What do you see in the Nahuatl texts analysed by León-Portilla?
  5. Can you find problems with León-Portilla’s interpretations?

Language, Writing, and Philosophy

  1. Do we need language for philosophy?
  2. Are there better and worse languages for philosophy?
  3. What becomes lost when philosophy is put into writing?
  4. What does writing enable philosophy to do?
  5. Are there better and worse forms of writing for philosophy?

The Aztec and Maya civilizations

The Mayan languages

  1. today about 30 different languages spoken by at least 6 million indigenous Maya
  2. go back to the hypothetical common ancestor Proto-Mayan 5000 years ago
  3. agglutinating morphology, mostly syllabical, frequent glottalization
  4. Mayan script probably invented by Ch’olan and Tzeltalan speakers (one of the six Tzeltal dialects and Tzotzil), and adopted by Yucatan Mayas
  5. Mayan script used from 3rd century BCE to 16th century CE

The view from the east

(Frederick Catherwood 1844)

cp.: Orientalism.


The Mayan glyphs

Piedras Negras inscription

Diego de Landa

  1. Auto da fé (1562)
  2. Relación de las cosas de Yucatán (1566)
  3. De Landa Alphabet (1561)

De Landa Alphabet

The Mayan Syllabary

Synharmony and Disharmony

Mayan Logogramms


balam and jix

The Nahuatl glyphs for the 20 calendar days

Nahuatl phonetic glyphs

Where to look for philosophy in Maya and Nahuatl thinking?

  1. Their responses to “eternal” philosophical questions.
  2. But how do we define these? And: Do not questions itself only derive from ways of thinking, don’t they go back to presuppositions?
  3. Are there questions that derive from human existence, and human forms of life? What about:
    • death (observation, reflection back to oneself)
    • time (concern with past and future, observation of cycles, history)
    • unity, plurality, identity
    • human identity
    • illusion, delusion
    • belief, knowledge, degrees of certainty, superstition
    • causes, the elements, nature, space
    • the status of mathematics, experience, logic, language
  4. What would this mean for the European concept of philosophy?
  5. Explicit discourse about “Western” philosophical questions, or the encounter between world views, e.g. in the Coloquio de los Doce?

Miguel León-Portilla (*1926)

León-Portilla, M. (1963) Aztec Thought and Culture: A Study of the Ancient Nahuatl Mind.

Nahuatl thinking is philosophy because it

  1. goes beyond mythology
  2. pursues conscious and formal inquiry
  3. exhibits sense of wonder
  4. expresses mistrust against tradition
  5. is explicit
  6. sees problems already in what things are (their essences)
  7. takes place in a complex and apt language
  8. is practized by professional scholars

tlamatinime – professional philosophers?

tlamatimini – tla: inanimate object, mati: to know, –ni: person characterized by…)

1. The wise man: a light, a torch, a stout torch that does not smoke.
2. A perforated mirror, a mirror pierced on both sides.
3. His are the black and red ink, his are the illustrated manuscripts, he studies the illustrated manuscripts.
4. He himself is writing and wisdom.
5. He is the path, the true way for others.
6. He directs people and things; he is a guide in human affairs.
7. The wise man is careful (like a physician) and preserves tradition.
8. His is the handed-down wisdom; he teaches it; he follows the path of truth.
9. Teacher of the truth, he never ceases to admonish.
10. He makes wise the countenances of others; to them he gives a face (a personality); he leads them to develop it.
11. He opens their ears; he enlightens them.
12. He is the teacher of guides; he shows them their path.
13. One depends upon him.
14. He puts a mirror before others; he makes them prudent, cautious; he causes a face (a personality) to appear in them.
15. He attends to things; he regulates their path, he arranges and commands.
16. He applies his light to the world.
17. He knows what is above us (and) in the region of the dead. .
I8. He is a serious man.
19. Everyone is comforted by him, corrected, taught.
20. Thanks to him people humanize their will and receive a strict education.
21. He comforts the heart, he comforts the people, he helps, gives remedies, heals everyone.
(Códice Matritense de La Real Academia de La Historia)

the false tlamatini

The false wise man, like an ignorant physician,
a man without understanding, claims to
know about God.
He has his own traditions and keeps them secretly.
He is a boaster, vanity is his.
He makes things complicated; he brags and exaggerates.
He is a river, a rocky hill (a dangerous man).
A lover of darkness and corners,
a mysterious wizard, a magician, a witch doctor,
a public thief, he takes things.
A sorcerer, a destroyer of faces.
He leads the people astray;
he causes others to lose their faces.
He hides things, he makes them difficult.
He entangles them with difficulties; he destroys them;
he causes the people to perish; he mysteriously puts an
end to everything.
(Códice Matritense de La Real Academia de La Historia)

Nezahualcóyotl (1402–1472)

    • poet, philosopher, warrior, architect, ruler in Texoco (Acolhua, not Aztec)
    • yóllotl (heart): same root as ollin (movement); it is a dynamic quality inherent in the human being
    • attributed to him (but quite likely written by somebody else):

      What does your mind seek?
      Where is your heart?
      If you give your heart to each and every thing,
      you lead it nowhere: you destroy your heart …
      Can anything be found on earth?

Rough Timeline

according to Mann, Charles 2005 1491. Some points are controversial.

Europe and AsiaDatesThe Americas
25000–35000 B.C.Time of paleo-Indian migration to Americas from Siberia, according to genetic evidence. Groups likely traveled across the Pacific in boats. Possibly other immigration routes.
Wheat and barley grown from wild ancestors in Sumer.6000
5000In what many scientists regard as humankind’s first and greatest feat of genetic engineering, Indians in southern Mexico systematically breed maize (corn) from dissimilar ancestor species.
First cities established in Sumer.4000
3000The Americas’ first urban complex, in coastal Peru, of at least 30 closely packed cities, each centered around large pyramid-like structures
Great Pyramid at Giza2650
32First clear evidence of Olmec use of zero–an invention, widely described as the most important mathematical discovery ever made, which did not occur in Eurasia until about 600 A.D., in India (zero was not introduced to Europe until the 1200s and not widely used until the 1700s)
800–840 A.D.Sudden collapse of most central Maya cities in the face of severe drought and lengthy war
Vikings briefly establish first European settlements in North America.1000
Reconstruction of Cahokia, c. 1250 A.D.*

Abrupt rise of Cahokia, near modern St. Louis, the largest city north of the Rio Grande. Population estimates vary from at least 15,000 to 100,000.

Black Death devastates Europe.1347–1351
1398Birth of Tlacaélel, the brilliant Mexican strategist behind the Triple Alliance (also known as the Aztec empire), which within decades controls central Mexico, then the most densely settled place on Earth.
The Encounter: Columbus sails from Europe to the Caribbean.1492The Encounter: Columbus sails from Europe to the Caribbean.
Syphilis apparently brought to Europe by Columbus’s returning crew.1493
Ferdinand Magellan departs from Spain on around-the-world voyage.1519
Sixteenth-century Mexica drawing of the effects of smallpox**

Cortes driven from Tenochtitlán, capital of the Triple Alliance, and then gains victory as smallpox, a European disease never before seen in the Americas, kills at least one of three in the empire.

1525–1533The smallpox epidemic sweeps into Peru, killing as much as half the population of the Inka empire and opening the door to conquest by Spanish forces led by Pizarro.
1617Huge areas of New England nearly depopulated by epidemic brought by shipwrecked French sailors.
English Pilgrims arrive at Patuxet, an Indian village emptied by disease, and survive on stored Indian food, renaming the village Plymouth.

El Coloquio de los Doce 1524—facts

Bernardino de Sahagún

  • full original title (old Spanish): Colloquios y Doctrina Cristiana con que los Doze Frayles de San Francisco enbiados por el Papa Adriano Sesto y por el Emperador Carlos Quinto convirtieron a los Indios de la Nueva Espanya, en lengua mexicana y espanyola. 1524
  • compiled by Bernardino de Sahagún (1499–1590), and four unnamed Nahuatl speakers
  • discovered in the secret archives of the Vatican in 1924
  • original Nahuatl and Spanish often do not match
  • recommended critical edition (Spanish): Miguel León Portilla (ed.) 1986 Coloquios y Doctrina Christiana. UCSC library BX 1750 S3 (in the oversized section).

El Coloquio de los Doce—text snipplets

Lords, respected lords: You have traveled much to get to this land.
Here in front of you,
we contemplate you, we ignorant people…
And now, what are we going to tell you?
What is what we must address to your ears?
Are we something indeed?
We are just vulgar people…
By means of a translator we will answer,
we will return the breath and the word
about the lord of the near and far. (ometeotl /omecihuatl)
It’s by his word, that we risk ourselves,
that we put ourselves in danger…
Maybe this is our loss,
maybe is our destruction,
where are we going to be taken?
Where should we go?
We are vulgar people
we are perishable, we are mortal.
Let us die, let us perish,
since our gods are dead.
But there should be peace on your
hearts and your body,
we will break a little,
we will show a little,
the secret, the ark of the lord, our God
You said
that we did not know
about the lord of the near and far,
about of one who created earth and sky.
you said
That our gods are not true.
This is a new word,
this that you have spoken.
This is why we are disturbed,
this is why we are annoyed.
Because our ancestors,
the ones that had been,
the ones that had lived on this earth,
they did not speak like that.
They give us the ways of life,
they take by true,
they give cult,
they honored the gods……
they teach us the ways of the cult,
all the ways to honor the gods.
That way we put the mouth on earth,
by them we bleed us,
we accomplished our votes,
we burn copal
and offered sacrifice.

We know to whom we owe life.
To whom we owe birth,
to whom we owe to be beget
to whom we owe to grow,
and how to invoke…

Hear milords
do not harm your people.
Do not let disgrace to be carried,
to let it perish…
tranquil, and friendly,
take this account, milords,
of what is needed.

Here are the ones who rule us,
the ones that take us,
the ones that have the world in charge.
Is it not enough that we are defeated?
that we are taken away?
that we are taken from our rulers?
If in this place we are to stand,
we will be prisoners.
So Do with us what you want,
This is what we have spoken,
what we answered,
to your breath,
to your word,
oh lords!

Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas (1484–1566)

  1. Encomendero and colonist until 1514, fight for the rights of Indigenous people for the rest of his life
  2. first officially appointed “Procurator and Universal Protector of all Indians” in 1516
  3. Bishop of Chiapas 1544–1546
  4. Valladolid debate with Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda in 1550–1

Conversion in 1514

”If one sacrifices from what has been wrongfully obtained, the offering is blemished; the gifts of the lawless are not acceptable….Like one who kills a son before his father’s eyes is the man who offers sacrifice from the property of the poor. The bread of the needy is the life of the poor; whoever deprives them of it is a man of blood.” Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), quoted from Cummins (ed) 1997 Christianity and Missions, p. 119f

Bartolomé on the Indigenous people and Barbarians

  1. Indians are “harmless, ignorant, gentle, temperate, unarmed, and destitute of every human defense” (p. 34).
  2. Four kinds of barbarians (Aristotle):
    1. cruel, inhuman, wild, and merciless – practices of Spaniards
    2. without written language – could still be wise, courageous, and prudent
    3. strict sense: “cruel, savage, sottish, stupid, and strangers to reason” (p. 38) – natural slaves, necessarily very rare
    4. those who do not acknowledge Christ
  3. Indians are not barbarians in the strict sense, and they can easily be converted

Sepúlveda’s reply on barbarism

With respect to the view that these Indians are not barbaric, and therefore that there is no reason to force them to obey those who are prudent and human on the basis that those who have cities and police cannot be said to be barbaric, I assert that ‘barbarian’ refers (following St. Thomas Aquinas, Politicorum I., 1st Lesson) to those who do not live in accordance with Natural Reason and [who] have publically endorsed bad customs, whether these be because they lack religion and so have been brought up as brutes, or because of their bad customs and the lack of a good doctrine and punishments. It is demonstrated by those who have returned from [the New World], principally in Historia General, Book III, Ch. 6, written about the Indians by a diligent and serious reporter [Fernandez Oviedo] that the those men have little mental capacity and fearful customs […]” (Prologue to the Members of the Congretation)

Octavio Paz 1914–1998

  • Key writings on Mexican culture, e.g. in The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950)
  • 1990 Nobel Prize for Literature

The Paradox between Mexico and the United States

  1. the fundamental difference has nothing to do with economical or political power, but is cultural: two different versions of Western culture
  2. the whole “sickness of the West” is moral rather than social and economic
  3. return to one’s countries roots to overcome crisis

pre-Colonial differences between North America and the rest

North AmericaMesoamerica
form of lifenomadic, warrior nationsagricultural civilization, complex social and political institutions, dominated by warlike theocracies, cruel rituals, great art, vast cosmogonies, very original vision of time
ongoing Indian traditionsIndian element does not appear – felt need to search for American rootsconcepts of family, love, friendship, attitudes towards parents, popular legends, form of civility and life in common, image of authority, political power, vision of death and sex, work and festivity

The influence of the English and the Spanish background

attitude towards the indigenous peopleexclusive (conquest and domination, physical exclusion or extermination)inclusive (conversation and assimilation of the indigenous people, fusion with indigenous beliefs)
religionProtestant reformism, Puritarianism, free interpretation of the doctrine, Enlightenment – Purity (cp. Max Weber)Counter-Reformation, Catholic orthodoxy, dogmatic philosophy, authoritarianism, no Enlightenment – Communion
purpose of workredemption, purification, separating from fallen naturespending (fiesta and orgiastic communion), disrespect for manual labor
political systemAnglo-Saxon democracy, embracing reforms, nation before state, tension between freedom and equality: isolated individuals with equal rightsdynastic alliances, Christian and Muslim notions of crusade and holy war, state before nation, 17th century patrimonialism and modern bureaucraticy mix

Resulting Attitudes

bodyprogressive rationalism, now widely replaced by superficial hedonismdogma of resurrection and cult of the Virgin
deathabstract, disappearance of the person, present only as a moral entity, ignoredconcrete and present
gendermasculine capitalism (emancipation: becoming male)consciousness for female distinctiveness
timelife in the now, directed toward the future, mobilitypresent and future as a mirror of the past, immobility, backwardness
possible dangersnihilism, arrogance, opportunism, blindness, short-term Machiavellianismlack of democracy, inability do modernize, lack of examples the state could be modeled on

Your next paper due on Monday!

  • for feedback on your ideas, please come to office hours today
  • don’t forget the reading! Critical questions to look for:
    1. What is the relation between “center” (D.F.) and periphery” (Chiapas)?
    2. Can the Mexican state “rob” natural resources in Mexico itself?
    3. How do the Zapatistas fit in the revolutionary tradition, and what makes them modern?
    4. Are Galeano or the Zapatistas Marxists? Communists?
    5. What is Galeano’s picture of pre-Columbian America?

Eduardo Hughes Galeano (*1940)

  • forced to leave Uruguay after the military coup in 1973, returned to Uruguay in 1985
  • leftist political engagement
  • unclassifiable and widely acclaimed writing style (though also problematic)

Las venas abiertas de América Latina (1971)

April, 2009

  • classic of Latin American political literature
  • foreword by Isabel Allende since 1997
  • prohibited in Argentina, Uruguay and Chile during the military dictatorships

Las venas abiertas de América Latina (1971)

  • open veins: extracting human and natural resources from areas in Latin America to other parts in or outside of Latin America
  • ”thirteen colonies had the fortune of bad fortune” (p. 133)
  • culpables: “system”, “Imperium”, but also many examples
  • attempt to show structures that largely persist through different economic forms like mercantilism, feudalism, liberalism, Keynesianism, neo-Liberalism
  • ”holocaust” (p. 5, 15), “concentration camp for 30 million people” (63)
  • the USA attempt population control to keep the poor under control, and to “justify the very unequal income distribution between countries and social classes” (6)

”History is a prophet who looks back: because of what was, and against what was, it announces what will be” (p. 8)

Mein Flügel ist zum Schwung bereit,
ich kehrte gern zurück,
denn blieb ich auch lebendige Zeit,
ich hatte wenig Glück.
–Gerhard Scholem, “Gruss vom Angelus”*

A Klee painting named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking
as though he is about to move away from something he is
fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open,
his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history.
His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a
chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling
wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The
angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what
has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has
got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no
longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the
future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before
him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

* My wing is ready for flight,
I would like to turn back.
If I stayed timeless time,
I ‘Would have little luck.

(Theses on the Fhilosophy of History, in: Benjamin, Walter 1968 Illuminations. Pp. 257-8)

Core and Periphery

  • transport much faster between center and periphery, the different regions in the periphery are barely connected (examples for faster and cheaper shipments to Europe and then to a different South American country, than from one South American country to another on pp. 260f)
  • ”endless chain of dependency” (p. 2)
  • same structure repeats within Latin American countries – “the rebirth of Latin America must start with the overthrow of its masters, country by country” (p. 261)

The concept of Exploitation

  • unfair
  • somewhat forced
  • exploiter gains an advantage from the exploitee (in contrast to discrimination, abuse, mere oppression, etc.)
  • harmful to the exploitee. Galeano: “We lost; others won” (p. 2).
    • but: how much can the exploitee profit from the exploitation?
  • central concept in Marxism. Aim: Society free of exploitation
  • Hegel’s Master-Slave dialectic in his Phenomenology of Spirit: Spirit (Geist) is, but doesn’t know itself yet. It needs to relate to another to become self-conscious; it is only as it is recognized by another.

Subcomandante Marcos / Delegate Zero

EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional)

  • January 1, 1994: First Declaration from the Lacandonon Jungle. Declaration of war on Mexican government, seizing of a number of towns in Chiapas.
  • Zapatista communities, overrun by military in February 1995, but partly reestablished thereafter
  • Use of force: We don’t want to impose our solutions by force, we want to create a democratic space. We don’t see armed struggle in the classic sense of previous guerrilla wars, that is as the only way and the only all-powerful truth around which everything is organized. In a war, the decisive thing is not the military confrontation but the politics at stake in the confrontation. We didn’t go to war to kill or be killed. We went to war in order to be heard.
    (Subcomandante Marcos according to

  • ”intergalactical” meeting and nationwide campaigns, e.g. “The Other Campaign” in 2006
  • against capitalism, globalization, neo-liberalism, for democratic votes and the rights of the indigenous population

María Herrera Lima

  • investigator at UNAM since 1987
  • publications on Gadamer, Habermas, justice, and multiculturalism

The Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN)

characteristics that distinguish the EZLN from other guerrilla groups in Mexico:

  • Chiapas is anomalous: no regular elections until very recently, oligarchic, post-revolutionary agrarian reform was mimimally implanted
  • ideology of nonviolence
  • emphasis on human rights
  • the Zapatistas perceived as especially threatening because:
    • not just cultural rights, but also economical
    • demands concern Mexican state as a whole and its social contract, and because they seem to threaten capitalism and international investments.

The ideas of Equal and of Special rights for Indigenous people

  1. giving indigenous people the same rights may not be enough, for that alone does not treat the enormous social differences.
  2. What if some indigenous practices contradict federal law, or be non-constitutional (e.g. racist)?
    • Should they be tolerated, or should the toleration be limited?
    • If the latter: what are the criteria to be used? What justifies treating certain people different from others?
  3. There are two different demands, which do not always go along:
    1. The idea of a new social pact within a nation-state.
    2. General Welfare demands.

next reading: Arhuro Ardao

  1. What is positivism?
  2. What were Comte’s ideas?
  3. Why did it have such an appeal in the different countries of Latin America?
  4. How was positivism adapted in Latin American politics, and what was changed in the adaptation?

Isidore-Auguste-Marie-François-Xavier Comte (1798–1857)

Lithographie de Comte par Tony Touillon

  • French philosopher motivated by the social and moral problems caused by the French Revolution
  • invented the terms ‘sociology’, ‘positivism’, and ‘altruism’
  • Cours de philosophie positive (The Positive Philosophy) (1830-42), Catéchisme positiviste (1851)
  • advocated the use of scientific procedures in the study of economics, politics and social behavior
  • believed that the practice of such a science would lead inevitably to social regeneration and progress

Comte’s Positivism

  1. permits only that what is (directly) observable
  2. alleges a historical law of three stages:
    1. theological stage: explanation with recurrence to god(s)
    2. metaphysical stage: untestable forces and essences
    3. positive and scientific stage: knowledge secured by observations
    • the three stages concern both individuals and societies – Europe as the most advanced society
  3. epistemological law: hierarchy of sciences according to positivistic complexity (mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, sociology)
  4. promotes a vision of a positive society, with science in its center (all science always contributes to the advancement of humans)
  5. judges historical figures according to their contribution to positive society
  6. tries to benefit proletarians, but opposes utopian visions
  7. is pragmatic

Later developments

  1. John Stuart Mill: friend of Comte and follower of his method, but later rejection of Comte’s
    • conception of a positivistic religion
    • notion of altruism
    • conception of positivistic politics
    • rejection of psychology
  2. Herbert Spencer
    • radicalized Comte’s project of unification of scientific truth: just one principle, the law of evolution
    • Reasons for Dissenting from the Philosophy of M. Auguste Comte (1864)
    • introduced the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’
  3. logical positivism (Vienna Circle)
    • combining empiricism with rationalism
    • rejection of all metaphysics, ontology, synthetic a priori knowledge
  4. logical positivism is transformed to logical empiricism in the USA
  5. via Carnap, Quine, and others, it was absorbed in Analytic Philosophy in general
  6. well-known contemporary self-acclaimed positivist: Stephen Hawking
    believing in the “Popper legend” (Popper)

(Your) questions for positivism:

  1. How are ‘observation’, ‘facts’, ‘verification’ defined? Comte himself acknowledges that a history of philosophy is necessary to make sense out of such terms. But what is the appropriate history of philosophy? Can it be positively defined? – Danger of circularity.
  2. To avoid circularity, we need to justify positivism with concepts not limited to positive concepts. Does this not throw us back to old metaphysics and speculation? If so, then positivism presupposes the very metaphysics it supposedly aborts. Or is there some kind of rationality that goes beyond positive method (e.g. with Durkheim’s positivism, or transcendental philosophy)? But if so, is not positivism itself in need of some form of metaphysics?
  3. Is or should science really be concerned with positive facts only? Are there other scientific methods, in particular in sociology, or psychology? What, e.g., about the self-reflective element in human behavior (Max Horkheimer and Critical Theory)?
  4. Is there really one universal truth, or do cultural and historical conditions frame what truth is?

Arturo Ardao 1912–2003

  • work on positivism, liberalism, rationalism, Latin America
  • director of the Instituto de Filosofía in Uruguay
  • during dictatorship exile to Venezuela

Latin American Positivism

”L’amour pour principe et l’ordre pour base; le progrès pour but” (Comte)

  1. Positivism was not only adopted, but also adapted.
  2. There were different adaptations in different parts of Latin America
    1. Brazil: Comte. The only example worldwide for the implementation of Comte’s institutional ideas: Rio Grande do Sul.
    2. Uruguay: Spencer
    3. Mexico: mixture of both

Positivism in Mexico

Porfirio Díaz 1830-1915

  • first, Comte was most influential (e.g. Gabino Barreda 1818-1851, reformist under Benito Juárez focusing on education)
  • then combination with Anglo-Saxon positivism
  • establishment of the party “Los Científicos”: emphasis on economic solutions and individual initiative
  • positivism becoming the official doctrine during the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz 1884-1911

Specifics of Latin American Positivism

  • Positivism offered an alternative to scholastic philosophy, neoclassicism, romanticism, Catholocism.
  • Positivism appeared to provide a clear answer to the violent economical and political struggles of the time.
  • In contrast to Europe, movement not from science towards positivism, but from positivism to science: lack of scientific culture, but enthusiasm for science.
  • Positivist thought filled a near vacuum in scientific culture, becoming dominant in sciences and teaching and ousting neoclassicism and romanticism.
  • Positivism helped in the struggle against the dominance of the church, a struggle that had been already pursued by Encyclopedists and romanticists.
  • Positivism was in Latin America an ideology rather than a philosophy.
  • Practically no exchange between the different positivistic streams in Latin American countries – commonalities between them stem mainly from the links between the original European positivists.
  • The exaggerations of a pragmatistic positivism provoked a countermovement around 1900 (especially José Rodó’s Ariel).

Your next response paper

  1. From the many examples of exploitation described by Galeano, Lima, and Freire, pick out two. The first should be a clear case of exploitation, and the other, in your view, more problematic, or not a case of exploitation at all. Analyze what makes them more or less clear cases of exploitation.
  2. Explain Freire’s distinction between the banking concept of education and problem-posing education, and state his reasons against the former. Against Freire, argue for the banking concept, and conclude with your own view.
  • If you like to treat positivism, or another topic from our last meetings which you find especially appealing, please contact Lourdes or me.

Questions for the next text: Paulo Freire, chapter 1

  1. What does the distinction between oppressor and oppressed amount to? Is it convincing?
  2. Is it right that one can only be either oppressed, or an oppressor?
  3. What does Freire mean when he says that the oppresed have the oppression internalized?

Hegel’s Master-Slave dialectic in his Phenomenology of Spirit

  1. “Das Selbstbewußtsein ist an und für sich, indem, und dadurch, daß es für ein Anderes an und für sich ist; d.h. es ist nur als ein Anerkanntes.”
  2. self-consciousness is the experience of mind (Geist), which is the absolute substance.
  3. combines sensual experience and extrasensual ideas and establishes the present: “… farbigten Scheine des sinnlichen Diesseits, und aus der leeren Nacht des übersinnlichen Jenseits in den geistigen Tag der Gegenwart einschreitet.“
  4. The dialectics of self-consciousness:
    1. Consciousness is, but doesn’t know itself yet.
    2. To become self-consciousness, it needs to relate to another.
    3. In the other, whom it negates, it is both negated and realizes itself.

Marx’ 1848 Communist Manifesto

Die Geschichte aller bisherigen Gesellschaft ist die Geschichte von Klassenkämpfen.
Freier und Sklave, Patrizier und Plebejer, Baron und Leibeigener, Zunftbürger und Gesell, kurz, Unterdrücker und Unterdrückte standen in stetem Gegensatz zueinander, führten einen ununterbrochenen, bald versteckten, bald offenen Kampf, einen Kampf, der jedesmal mit einer revolutionären Umgestaltung der ganzen Gesellschaft endete oder mit dem gemeinsamen Untergang der kämpfenden Klassen.

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

Lenin on Oppressors and Oppressed

”That is why the focal point in the Social-Democratic programme must be that division of nations into oppressor and oppressed which forms the essence of imperialism, and is deceitfully evaded by the social-chauvinists and Kautsky. This division is not significant from the angle of bourgeois pacifism or the philistine Utopia of peaceful competition among independent nations under capitalism, but it is most significant from the angle of the revolutionary struggle against imperialism”
—Lenin, Vladimir 1927 The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination

Frantz Fanon’s 1961 Les Damnés de la Terre

  • written during and regarding the Algerian struggle for independence
  • psychoanalytical investigation of Colonialism, nationalism, and imperialism, and the implications for decolonialization
  • only the poorest can make a successfull revolution
  • introduction by Jean-Paul Sartre – Fanon advocates violence?
  • strongly influenced Freire

Paulo Freire (1921–1997)

  • work on positivism, liberalism, rationalism, Latin America
  • raised poor, experienced Great Depression during his childhood in Brazil
  • studied law and philosophy (phenomenology) at the University of Recife
  • became director of the Department of Cultural Extension at the same university
  • imprisonment and exile after the military coup of 1964
  • return to Brazil in 1980
  • Secretary of Education for São Paulo in 1988
  • laid the foundation for critical pedagogy and ecopedagogy

The Pedagogy of the Oppressed

  • first published in 1968 in Portuguese. Spanish and English translations in 1970. Not published in Brazil until 1974
  • Calls for education of the poor in a modernized and anti-colonial pedagogy
  • education is always political

Freire’s concept of Oppression

  • suppresses humanity
  • is unjust
  • leads to false generosity that merely clothes lovelessness
  • constitutes violence (p. 55)
  • has to prevent people from being more fully human (suppressing oppression is not oppression; p. 56f)

The contrast to Galeano’s concept of Exploitation

Galeano’s criteria of exploitation:

  1. unfair
  2. somewhat forced
  3. harmful to the exploitee. Galeano: “We lost; others won” (p. 2). But: the exploited, too, may somewhat profit from the exploitation.
  4. exploiter gains an advantage from the exploitee (in contrast to discrimination, abuse, mere oppression, etc.)

The Oppressed

  • are best apt to understand oppression
  • have internalized the model of oppressors and are prone to identify with the model
  • when promoted, they easily become even harsher oppressors
  • must take care not to become oppressors of the oppressors, or sub-oppressors
  • are fearful of freedom and authentic existence because it is so different from what they are used to
  • fear that their struggle to regain humanity will lead to greater oppression
  • the struggle must be made with, not for the oppressed
  • are often absorbed by the oppressive reality, which prevents reflection

The Oppressors

  • oppress, exploit, rape, have power, are unjust
  • are themselves dehumanized because they dehumanizes others
  • prescription: the oppressor prescribes the behavior of the oppressed
  • yet, the oppressors cannot free themselves; they have to be freed by the oppressed
  • have a possessive consciousness and a materialistic concept of existence
  • want always more riches, even if that is to the detriment of others
  • suffocate in their own possessions
  • have a lack of confidence in the people’s ability to think, to want, and to know
  • -> the oppressed must be educated, and they must be educated in a way that allows them to take initiative


  • awareness of the social, political, and economic conditions, in particular oppression
  • is the “deepening of the attitude of awareness characteristic of all emergence” (p. 109)
  • necessary to be able to act, rather than merely react to a situation

The banking concept of education

  • attempts to control thinking and action
  • leads men and women to adjust to the world
  • inhibits their creative power
  • resists dialogue
  • “isolates consciousness from the world, thereby denying people their ontological and historical vocation of becoming more fully human.” (p. 83f)
  • “fails to acknowledge men and women as historical beings” (p. 84)
  • transforms students into receiving objects
  • “vertical pattern” (p. 80):
    “(a) the teacher teaches and the students are taught;
    (b) the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing;
    (c) the teacher thinks and the students are thought about;
    (d) the teacher talks and the students listen meekly;
    (e) the teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined;
    (f) the teacher chooses and enforces his choice, and the students comply;
    (g) the teacher acts and the students have the illusion of acting through the action of the teacher;
    (h) the teacher chooses the program content, and the students (who were not consulted) adapt to it;
    (i) the teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his or her own professional authority, which she and he sets in opposition to the freedom of the students;
    (j) the teacher is the Subject of the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects.” (p. 73)

Freire’s model of problem-posing education

  • Students and teachers are “simultaneously students and teachers” (Freire, 1970, p. 72).
  • The educator must be humble enough to be disposed to relearn that which he/she already thinks she knows, through interaction with the learner.
  • Responds to “the essence of consciousness – intentionality” (p. 79)
  • “Their fundamental objective is to fight alongside the people for the recovery of the people’s stolen humanity”, not to “win the people over” to their side (Freire, 1970, p. 95).
  • “denies that man is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattachedto the world; it also denies that the world exists as a reality apart from people” (p. 81) – idealism?
  • “In problem-posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation. “ (p. 83).
  • “roots itself in the dynamic present and becomes revolutionary” (p. 84).
  • Revolutionary is dialogical (cp. p. 86).

(Your) discussion questions for Freire, and what he could answer

  1. When Freire gives conscientização and problem-posing education a central role, does he leave behind Marx’ and Engel’s idea that being determines consciousness?
  2. Jay and Graff in A Critique of Critical Pedagogy, p. 203: “Freire assumes that we know from the outset the identity of the ‘oppressed’ and their ‘oppressors.’ Who the oppressors and the oppressed are is conceived not as an open question that teachers and students might disagree about, but as a given of Freirean pedagogy.”
    Donaldo Macedo (Introduction to Pedagogy of the Oppressed): “This form of critique presupposes that education should be nondirective and neutral.”
    Really – are these the only alternatives?
  3. “It is not the helpless, subject to terror, who initiate terror, but the violent, who with their power create the concrete situation which begets the ‘rejects of life.’” (p. 55) – Isn’t this a justification of terrorism by the helpless?
  4. Doesn’t Freire glance over really important differences by subsuming so many different levels of power-relations under one category (oppressor-oppressed)?
  5. Does Freire’s analysis fit all oppressor-oppressed relationships? E.g., are all oppressors materialists?
  6. “Only through comradeship with the oppressed can the converts understand their characteristic ways of living and behaving, which in diverse moments reflect the structure of domination.” (p. 61) – So Engels, Marx, Lenin could not understand oppression?
  7. Can there be an oppression-free society in Freire’s definition? Is not oppression a necessary consequence of strong power differences, and strong power differences a necessary precondition for the possibility of government?

Questions for your reading of Dussel

  1. What are “universal core problems”? Does that notion really make sense, or are there only problems shared by cultures?
  2. What is the contributions of the tlamatinime, Brahmanism, Jainism, and other philosophies to world philosophy?
  3. What are the A. Yabri’s four stages?
  4. What is trans-modern, and what does the trans-modern pluriverse have to do with the Zapatistas?

Enrique Domingo Dussel Ambrosini *1934

  • born in Argentina, exile to Mexico in 1975
  • studied in Argentina, Spain, Israel, France
  • professor at Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM)
  • prolific writer
  • co-founder of Philosophy of Liberation (vs. Theology of Liberation)

“universal core problems”

  1. present in all cultures
  2. “cerebral development allowed for consciousness, self-consciousness, linguistic, ethical and social development” (p. 3) – Dussel seems to mean this in a causal and unidirectional way, which is a particular concept of human evolution.
  3. lead to “humans being confronted the totality of the real” (p. 3), and “bewilderment” (p. 3)
  4. confronted the earliest humans in the beginning of the Paleolithic age (p. 3)
  5. ”core problems” are “variations of the “universal ‘whys’” (p. 3)
  6. core problems themselves are universal (p. 3)
  7. core problems (p. 3):
    • The real nature of things,
    • subjectivity,
    • the ego,
    • interiority,
    • spontaneity,
    • nature of freedom,
    • creation of the social and ethical world,
    • ultimate foundation,
    • “Why being and not nothingness?”

Dussel on mythos (μῦθος) and logos (λόγος)

  • not a development from irrational to rational, but towards more precision and less “resonance of meaning”(p. 6)
  • myths contain wisdom (p. 6)
  • answer to core problems (p. 4)
  • some of them continue to make sense – reference to Ernst Bloch (p. 5)

Dussel on Philosophical Universality and Cultural Particularity

  1. Eurocentrism is a “Universality claim of a particular philosophy” (p. 14)
  2. “argumentative discourse” (Apel) presupposes symmetrical possibilities for engagement (p. 15)
  3. this is an example for a really universal principle because it is “an ethical-epistemological formal principle” (p. 15)


  • “global project” (p. 19)
  • “seeks to transcend European or North American Modernity” (p. 20)
  • more complete than post-Modernity (p. 20)
  • develops “that which has been discardeddevalued, and judged use-less”, or “ignored” (p. 20)
  • stands in a “constructive dialogue with European and North American Modernity” (p. 20)
  • may import notions from European, or other philosophies (p. 20)
  • may lead to a “trans-modern pluriverse” (p. 20), that is neither universalistic nor a continuation of the separate predecessors
  • is “trans-capitalist” (p. 20)

Further questions for Dussel (which he may have answers to)

  1. What makes the core problems universal? (Why) is every human culture confronted with them?
  2. Is symmetry necessary for argumentative discourses? Is this really a principle independent of any culture?
  3. Is not the intercultural dialogue already in place, e.g. when Greek philosophy was continued in Arab philosophy, and Arab philosophy was imported to Europe? Eurocentrism thus only a recent colonial and imperialistic development? Or is the danger of centrism always there, regardless of where and when philosophy is done, and maybe even within traditions?
  4. Why is trans-modernity trans-capitalist?

Questions and Concepts for the next text (Roig)

  1. Why do we need a new ontology? Dussel sees Philosophy of Liberation as a new metaphysics, not ontology – what is the difference from Dussel to Roig?
  2. Why does the facticity of Latin America matter?
  3. What do historicity and technology have to do with it?
  4. Reminder on ome important concepts:
    • historicityGeschichtlichkeit (Dilthey, Husserl)
    • doxaepistme
    • historical a priori
    • facticity (vs. mere factuality)

Arturo Andrés Roig *1922

  • born in Argentina
  • studied in Argentina and France
  • politically motivated discharge from Universidad Nacional de Cuyo in 1974, return there in 1984
  • prolific but dense and profound writer
  • “historical empiricism”

Two kinds of Commitment towards Knowledge:

  1. knowledge itself in a strict sense
  2. knowledge qua social function (p. 401)
    • presupposes “positioning with respect to concrete reality of our people” (p. 401), including social structures
    • social structures are always dominating-dominated relationships, thus unjust (vs. the idea of a society free of oppression)
    • philosophies of “denunciation” (Marxism, Freudianism) provided basis for investigation of social function

Roig’s Philosophy of Liberation:

  1. is a strive towards “things-in-themselves” and
  2. is a strive towards presuppositionless knowledge
  3. is yet it opposed to Platonism, which had been rendered bankrupt in the “existential crisis”
  4. has to integrate with all of society; not just academia
  5. departs from immediate and apodictic evidence – but not necessary truths. Rather: facts
  6. departs not from a “pure facticity”, but from an “enveloping facticity” (p. 403) within which we are simultaneously subjects and objects
  7. “doesn’t ignore the risks and benefits of what is utopian”, the “regulating power of ideas” (P. 413)

Problematic approaches of the “founders” of Latin American philosophy, which misrepresent Historicity

  1. aestheticism
  2. ontologism (Alejandro Deústua)
  3. existential dispositionalism, technology as alien (Mayz Vallenilla)
  4. ethicism (Alejandro Korn and Antonio Caso)
  5. important notions concerning facticity in Ariel (Rodó) and José Vazsconcelos, but underlying categories of spiritualism are in a crisis (cp. p. 407)
  6. national ontology (Leopoldo Zea)

Roig’s Philosophy of Liberation acknowledges that

  1. “consciousness is object before it is subject” (p. 405)
  2. “it is a social entity before it is an individual reality” (p. 405)
  3. there is a “necessary relation […] between philosophical discourse and the system of connections of a given age” (p. 411)
  4. “there is no transparent consciousness” (p. 405)
  5. “intuition does not take the place of the concept” (p. 405)
  6. “the preeminence of being and of man as such is the inescapable point of departure” (p. 405)
  7. “an ontology is necessarily an anthropology” (p. 405)
  8. “Man has no other access to being except through the way it is given to us qua entity, and it is realized in our own ontic nature” (p. 408)
  9. through “a strong preeminence of entity, captured in its otherness and in its novelty, we will be able to develop an open dialectical thought.” (p. 408)

The Historicity of Man and the Relationship of Man to Technology

  1. technology causes alienation
  2. but is not alien to human nature
  3. labor is the use of technology
    • labor and technology have to be understood to allow humans to reach humanity through it
    • “nonalienated labor, undoubtedly displaces the metaphysical need to inquire after being” (p. 411)
    • “historicity is the key to every task concerned with decoding oppressive discourse” (p. 411)

Questions for your next reading

  1. How does Comblín’s idea of the relationship between humans and technology relate to Roig’s?
  2. What is the connection between technlogy, science, and the scientific class?
  3. What are the dangers of technology?
  4. What does Christianity have to do with Comblín’s solution?

José Comblín *1923

  • not a philosopher, but a priest, missionary, and theologian
  • born in Brussels, work in Latin America since 1958
  • was forced to leave for political reasons Brasil in 1971, and Chile in 1980
  • prolific writer, associated with the Theology of Liberation (unlike the last two authors not with Philosophy of Liberation)

Comblín on science, technology, and human life

  1. science and technology are as old as humanity (e.g. fire and the wheel, p. 255)
  2. growth in science and technology started slow, but accelerated always more, though uneven (p. 255)
  3. since the seventeenth century, science and technology emerged as autonomous
  4. only from the end of the 19th century on, science and technology became dependent upon each other
  5. now science is necessary for much of technology, and much of science wouldn’t be possible without technology
  6. “science is now practiced in view of the task of subduing the world and transforming it – the task of humanity as a whole” (p. 256)
  7. work and life “necessarily” depend on scientific and technological progress (p. 257)

Three arguments for the compatibility between Christian faith and science and technology:

  1. Christianity teaches that human nature is earthly, not spiritually detached from the world.
  2. Christians played in important role for scientific and technological discoveries.
  3. Science and technology developed in the Christian civilization and less in “Arab, Muslim, Chinese, or East Indian civilization”. That proves that Christianity is more friendly towards science (p. 257).
  • Comblín doesn’t elaborate more on thes points. For instance, he does not contemplate the fact that during many years in which Christianity seemed to have a strong grip on societies science was developing more elsewhere, e.g. in Arab countries. Also, he seems to presuppose that the relation between spirit and body in Christianity is rather unproblematic.
  • science and technology are eulogized (Puebla Synod from 1974, John Paul II) because they are instrumental for subduing the earth

”Conflicts of the Past”

  1. The apparent opposition of science to the church comes “mostly from people to whom actual scientific research is altogether foreign” (p. 258)
  2. “Scientism became a welcome ally of political liberalism” in the 18th century (p. 258).
  3. Science was shown to be completely autonomous from philosophy in the 20th century (p. 259)
  4. The independence of faith and science has been recognized by the Second Vatican Council (1962–5)
  5. Christianity is at odd with science only where science do not serve the “absolute priority of human beings among creatures” (p. 259)

Three Challenges of Science in the Third World

  1. access to more advanced scientific and technological research
  2. “the training of the young in scientific skills” (p. 261)
  3. “the capacity for invention and creation on the part of the ordinary folk of our nations” has to be developed (p. 261)

(Your) Questions for Comblín (which he may have answers to)

  1. is technology itself really neutral and value-free?
  2. are the humanities and philosophy really independent of objective science, and can they not make use the scientific methods?
  3. does science really not contradict at least some church doctrines and passages from the bible?

Francisco Romero 1891–1962

  • Argentinean philosopher
  • army major, educated himself in philosophy
  • draws mainly upon Franz Brentano, Edmund Husserl, Nicolai Hartmann, and Max Scheler (also close to Henri Bergson and Merleau Ponty)
  • his Teoría del Hombre is “considered by many to be one of the most solid works in Latin American philosophy” (p. 90)

Romero’s hierarchy of consciousness

  1. preintentional psychism
  2. intentional psychism and intentional consciousness
  3. spirit and full-blown consciousness
  • all are founded on the physical/inorganic and the next “lower” level, but each exhibits a decisive increase in transcendence

Romero on Preintentional “Psychism”

  1. “flux of psychic matter with no clear distinction between cognition, emotion, and the will, and without a subject before whom objectified instances might appear” (p. 98)
  2. “undivided succession of states, a kind of psychical repercussion of life” (p. 91)
  3. no reference to “subjective center” (p. 96)

Romero on Pure or Mere Intentional Consciousness

  1. goes beyond the organic
  2. is the “highest expression of natural activity” (p. 108)
  3. intentional
  4. transforms states into objects
  5. intentional activity is analogous to (logical) judgment: it is directed and not just a lived state, BUT it is itself not conscious (gives rise to consciousness), not formulated, not explicit
  6. animals have intentional consciousness, but only rudimentary
  7. intentional consciousness belongs essentially to humans – “man is, in the first place, an intentional consciousness” (p. 92)
  8. the subject “is born as the ability to assign presence to states, to judge that they are” (p. 93) – not itself conscious, but provides us with consciousness: as an objectifying judgment
  9. man is the being who perceives and who judges
  10. judgment is the essential activity of the subject, that what makes the subject a subject
  11. “intimate aspect of the activity of a subject to whom objectivities are presented, who recognizes them intellectually and projects on them, as objectivities, his acts of emotion and will”

Romero on Spirit

  1. superior to psychism and pure intentionality
  2. also intentional
  3. like intentional consciousness structure between self and world
  4. no the return to the subject
  5. not just a subject universalized to “we”, but completely detached from subjective interests
  6. “radical objectivism” (p. 99), complete abandonment of the natural level
  7. creates the “unbridgeable abyss” (p. 100) between nature and spirit, a “duality” (p. 108)
  8. yet a continuation of the intentional attitude
  9. “freedom”, “evasion” (p. 101, 103)
  10. it is absolutely objective
  11. it is universal
  12. is a unit
  13. exhibits historicity
  14. endows responsibility for oneself and others
  15. achieves “absolute transcendence” (105), which is the precondition for objectivity
  16. “Man permanently deprived of the spirit may subsist in the lowest levels of the species, in the midst of embryonic cultures or even sporadically located in middle and high cultures. In any case, at least in some degree, the spirit is indispensable if we are to recognize what is in man that we call human in the full sense.” (p. 108f)

Romero on Culture

  1. stems from the objectifying capacity
  2. objective culture: “man’s creations that achieve substantiality and autonomy with reference to their creator” (p. 94)
  3. cultural life: the lived life in midst of all human creations
  4. everything human, apart from that what humans share with other living beings, is culture
  5. is not necessarily spiritual [cp. cultural life and high culture]

Francisco Miró Quesada Cantuarias *1918

  • Peruvian philosopher
  • work on Husserl’s phenomenology, mathematical logic, juridical logic, political theory, synthetic apriori judgments, evidence, intuition, humanism…
  • neorationalist approach
  • → Quesada exhibits an interesting tension between rationalism and empirisism

The Failure of all Theories of Man

  1. from few, simple hypotheses one can derive an infinite number of consequences
  2. future consequences are unexpected and unforeseeable
  3. theories are inflexible
  4. since they predict so much, on the long run, there will be contradictions with facts
  5. old theories are frequently abandoned
  • “Along the millennial pathway of history, theories lay semidestroyed and rusted like military equipment left behind by an army in retreat” (p. 152)
  • Ortega y Gasset: our age is an “age of disillusioned living”; Quesada: “age of disillusioned theorizing” (p. 153)

Two Kinds of Theory

  1. “implicit and spontaneous” (p. 155)
  2. “conscious, elaborated and created for specific purposes of knowledge” (p. 155)

Why not Abandon all Theorizing?

  1. that would give the impression to give up the struggle for good
  2. no matter what man does he is condemned to theorize

Implicit Theory

  1. is the knowledge of things and events [ambiguity in ‘knowledge’ – Bertrand Russell’s “knowledge by acquaintance” and “knowledge by description”, Gilbert Ryle’s “knowing how” and “knowing that”, besides many others]
  2. is necessary to defend against the “assaults of the world” (p. 147) – “The simple act of dodging an automobile indicates the possession of a rather clear concept of the principles of causality and the laws of dynamics.” (p. 154)
  3. is unavoidable
  4. “speech itself is a theory” (p. 155); philosophical analysis can show theoretical presuppositions, philological analysis the “immense background of cosmological, metaphysical, and ethical theory upon which all possible language rests” (p. 155)
  5. words like “to exist” or “devil” had originally a clear theoretical background, which became forgotten over time – the theory is only implicit, or may be even unimportant
  6. “all men are theoretical” (p. 147) – some know it, others not
  7. technology is a late and secondary product of theory [this view on technology prima facie seems contrary to that of all other philosophers we have been reading]

Explicit Theory

  1. “every theory formulated by man about the world, life, and its destiny” (p. 156)
  2. avoidable
  3. in spite of the change of theories or perhaps precisely because of this change, one can clearly identify the facts, so in the human realm the facts remain stable over against the changes in the understanding of life” (p. 157)
  4. observation of facts alone can lead to categorizing somebody as a person; no theory needed
  5. the same fact through all history: some humans make others suffer, and some suffer so that others do not suffer
  6. two ways from which to choose: One can decide either to exploit man or to defend him” (p. 157)
  • cp. Spinoza’s and Galileo’s conceptions of nature as mathematical vs. Wittgenstein’s question about natural laws and rule-following
  • cp. rationalism vs. the (empiricistic) phenomenological conception of theory as secondary to life
  • Quesada brings together rationalism and empiricism; the dualism of ‘theory’ is central.

Questions for your next reading (Astrada)

  1. Astrada replaced Romero when Perón came to power (and Romero again Astrada when Perón was ousted) – are there be any traces of that in Astrada’s text (nationalism, or the idea of a third way between capitalism and socialism)?
  2. Romero is especially interested in (the phenomenological concept of) intentionality, Quesada also draws on phenomenology (but departs from it), Astrada relateds more to Heidegger’s Dasein and existence – what does that mean for their philosophical conclusions?

Presentation by Robert Moddelmog


Is Christianity No Longer Useful To Science? Comblin seen through Quesada

(see Robert’s presentation slides)

Carlos Astrada 1894-1970

  • Argentinian philosopher
  • draws primarily on Heidegger, Sartre, Hegel, Husserl, Nietzsche, Scheler, Hartmann, but also fundamentally criticizes their positions
  • replaced Romero when Romero resigned in 1947 in protest against Perón came to power, and Romero replaced again Astrada when Perón was ousted in 1956

Astrada on Dasein and Existence

  1. Heidegger: Dasein is human being, which is characterized by a reflective attitude towards its own existence – “Die ontische Auszeichnung des Daseins liegt darin, dass es ontologisch ist” (SuZ, p. 12)
  2. Astrada: “concrete existence with its socio-historical environment and of man’s destiny as ground of being” (p. 129)
  3. has meaning
  4. its horizon is temporality
  5. “ek-sistence”: standing out towards future. The essence of man (p. 133).
  6. Heidegger: “Das Sein selbst, zu dem das Dasein sich so oder so verhalten kann und immer irgendwie verhält, nennen wir Existenz.” (SuZ, p. 12). Existenzielle understanding of one’s being, existenzialeunderstanding of the structures of existence. → Fundamentalontologie
  7. “crisis of philosophy”: the “alienation in the Platonistic categories”, eternal essences, values, and absolute truths (p. 134), as much as the alienation of human beings by reducing them to means of production
  8. Astrada is opposed to transcentalist philosophy (e.g. Romero), and Christian metaphysics (e.g. Comblín), but interested in the development of humanity: “making clear for man the way that leads to full humanity without transcendentalist interference or calls from the beyond.”
  9. ”Objective truth as well as objective structures do not reside in a transcending moment nor in a transcending world of reason that has no tie with human historical becoming, rather they belong to such becoming, to its primary existential temporality, since they have been formed by its flowing.” (p. 140)
  10. transcendence: sketching of Dasein’s own being in the comprehension of being – “existential immanence” (p. 131)
  11. Heidegger’s ontology is “anchored in an irrationalist solipsism” (p. 142)
  12. Sartre’s exitentialism is “reduced to a phenomenalist ontologism with no foundation” (p. 142)


  • normative, cp. παιδεία, humanism
  • historical, not an “ontological structure or nucleus of a supratemporal character” (p. 129)
  • man is an “eternal coming to be” (p. 136) towards humanitas
  • against the idea of “the man who comes from nowhere” (p. 137)
  • goes beyond the “pseudoantinomy of individualism and collectivism” (p. 138)
  • Dilthey: “The facticity of race, of space, of the relationships among powers constitute everywhere the foundation which can never be spiritualized. It was a mere dream of Hegel that different ages represent stages in the development of reason.” (according to Astrada, p. 140)

Humanism of Liberty

  • freedom is the “affirmation and rescue of the being of man” (p. 132)
  • “humanism of liberty”: defense against what alienates humans from Dasein – “subjection of his spirit to supposed truths, essences, eternal values, or superhuman powers, all of which reduce him to the infrahuman level by seeing him primarily as a means for the production of goods and riches, as is the case in capitalist economies” (p. 133)
  • against the “rationalist idea” of modern man promoted by the incumbent “capitalist and mercantile commanders” (p. 139) – Yorck von Wartenburg

Prompt for your Final Paper

  • see course page

Questions for your next reading (Frondizi)

  1. What is so important about experience, and where does the concept of Gestalt come in?
  2. Why is the self structural?
  3. Can Frondizi recover a version of transcendentalism that is not refuted by Astrada?

Risieri Frondizi 1910–1983

  • Argentinian philosopher, taught in many countries
  • politically motivated exile 1846-1955 and 1962
  • friend of Romero
  • Our reading is from his 1953 (reprinted 1971) The Nature of the Self: A Functional Interpretation.

”The Nature of the Self”

PowerPoint Presentation by Itzel Nuno

Frondizi’s concept of the Self

  1. “The self is the unity of the multiplicity of its experiences” (p. 126).
  2. “Its esse is equivalent to its facere” (p. 113).
  3. The self entails its own potentiality, past, and future.
  4. Any attempt to explain the self by analysis of its parts misses what is really important about the self.
  5. The self does not transcend the empirical world, “There is nothing under or above the totality of experience” (p. 117). But it “transcends experiences at the same time” (p. 125).
  6. What the self is can be best captured with the concept of Gestalt.

The concept of Gestalt

  1. Form has long been an important concept for philosophy, e.g. Plato’s forms, and Aristotle’s hylemorphism.
  2. ‘Gestalt’ introduced 1890 by Christian von Ehrenfels, student of Brentano. His example: a melody.
  3. Gestalt is a whole that is formed by structures (e.g. round), qualities (e.g. red) and a character (e.g. the happy character of a melody).
  4. Thera are laws of Gestalt.
  5. Cp. the popular saying: “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts”. Köhler’s original expression was “The whole is different from the sum of its parts” (cp. Carroll Pratt’s introduction to the German translation of his The Task of Gestalt Psychology).
  6. Ehrenfels’ ideas were taken up in Gestalt psychology, and Gestalt therapy.
  7. Fundamental work to Gestalt psychology was contributed by Wolfgang Köhler, who was one of Frondizi’s teachers at Harvard.

The Apparent Paradox of Immanence and Transcendence of the Self

  1. immanence: the self is equivalent to the totality of experiences (=atomism)
  2. transcendence: the self transcends the experiences (=substantialism)
    • Hume: “(a) that the self is nothing apart from its experiences;(b) that the self cannot be reduced to its experiences.” (p. 125)thus: the self is a bundle of perceptions
    • Frondizi: Hume and other atomists presuppose the same metaphysics as the substantialists:
    1. a real existence has to be a substance (immutable, simple, independent)
    2. the principles of identity and noncontradiction are interpreted in a very rigid way
    • Frondizi, in contrast, interprets the principles dynamically, and conceives the self not as substance, but as Gestalt
    • “the self is immanent and transcends experiences at the same time” (p. 125)

Presentation by Luciano Hidalgo

see handout

see his handout

Miguel Reale 1910—2006

  • professor of philosophy and right at São Paulo (Brazil) university, twice its rector, twice Secretary of Justice for the state of São Paulo
  • chief architect of Brazil’s current Civil Code
  • proposes a three-dimensional theory of law (fact, value, act)
  • like Frondizi, influenced by Wolfgang Köhler (and implicitly applies the Gestalt idea to his philosophy of law when he rejects the idea of laws as ideal objects and searches for a new conception of their kind of being)
  • speaks of ontognoseology, in which ontology and epistemology come together (Experiência e Cultura, p. 77, fn); a concept inspired by Edmund Husserl’s concept of the lifeworld.
  • Our text is from his Filosofia do direito, originally published in 1953.

How to Speak of Value: An Explanation of Miguel Reale’s classification of Values

PowerPoint presentation by Nadia Peralta

Philosophy of Law: Values

PowerPoint presentation by Cynthia Juarez

To Be Or Ought To Be

Keynote Presentation by Michael Vahradian