The Dilemma Facing Ramos and Us

In his last post, Carlos talked about the hazards of endorsing “philosophy sín más,” or to put it his way, the value of pursuing “philosophy y más.” I agree with him that the quest to purify philosophy is idealistic or utopic and oppressive (you’d be hard-pressed to find a metaphysics the doesn’t justify, however indirectly, social and political divisions and hierarchies). I also agree with him that it’s the “then some” in “philosophy y más” that carries the value of philosophy for Latino life (i.e. as opposed to life sín más). But we have to proceed carefully for at least two reasons. First, whatever counts as the “y más” of a particular philosophy–circumstances, social and political agendas, human psychology, cultural identity–there has to be a threshold across which an investigation no longer counts as philosophy. And second, philosophy ought to be transferable: philosophy may be a particular discipline, but it is not one full of idiosyncrasies.

So what the phrase “Mexican philosophy” presents us with is a dilemma, which is what leads philosophers to doubt its possibility. For example, here’s Romanell criticizing the trajectory of Ramos’s work:

We have observed that Ramos’s Perfil is not an inquiry into the philosophy of Mexican culture, despite his aim. Why? The reason is simple enough. Given the ineradicably universal nature of philosophy itself, a philosophy of Mexican culture as such is just not possible. To be sure, one can write, say, a psychology of Mexican culture, as Ramos does, but one cannot write a philosophy of it, strictly speaking. In other words, a philosophy of Mexican culture, if it is really such, has to be of necessity a philosophy of culture, that is, without any nationality attached to its philosophical basis. The only legitimate object of inquiry for a philosophic analysis of culture is human culture itself, the analysis or philosophical basis of which has no particular nationality. This leads to the dilemma facing Ramos and those in Mexico who think like him.

Romanell goes onto say that Ramos realized this dilemma himself and resolves it in his later writings which deal with universal characteristics of humanity. For instance, in his Hacia un nuevo humanismo, Ramos seeks to “arrive at a super-historical and super-empirical idea which only retains the characteristics that may fit any man independently of his temporal specifications and empirical peculiarities.”

The reason I mention Romanell’s criticism is twofold. First, Romanell’s response to “Mexican philosophy” is typical. To the extent that it is concerned with Mexcican culture, it is more likely considered psychology, history, sociology, or part of some other empirical discipline, but it is not philosophy. Second, one of the weaknesses of the development of Ramos’s philosophy is that he seems to accept Ortega’s perspectivism and views about history as a starting point or a framework to be applied, not as something that needs to be justified. In his Historia de la filosofía en México, Ramos says, “Reuniendo estas ideas con algunas otras que había expuesto en las Meditaciones del Quijote, aquella generación mexicana encontraba la justificación epistemológica de una filosofía nacional” [Assembling these ideas with some others that he had expounded in Meditations, that Mexican generation found the epistemological justification of a national philosophy.] Ramos says that his generation found the epistemological justification; they did not provide it themselves. And, as a result of only applying the views of Ortega, not defending them, Ramos does in fact waver between the two horns of the dilemma in his work.

I say “waver” and not “resolve,” like Romanell does, because Ramos’s Hacia still applies Orteguian perspectivism. In Hacia, he says, very clearly, “Each individual possesses as part of his existence a concrete world, which is the sole window available to him to look out into the world in general. … This is doubtless a limitation of our knowledge, but also on the other hand an advantage, that of discovering in the world something which the rest would never be in a position to see” (40). And I take it this is part of what Carlos has in mind in endorsing “philosophy y más.” But in order to be taken seriously–which is a condition for successfully recruiting young Latino/a philosophers–and for the sake of being resolute (not wavering between the horns of the dilemma), we need to provide our own epistemological and metaphilosophical justification of a national and/or ethnic philosophy.

One response to “The Dilemma Facing Ramos and Us

  1. Muy bien! I think that Frondizi was correct when he said that Ramos, Zea and others….misunderstood what Ortegat meant by “yo soy yo y mi circumstancias”


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