Reflections on a year with Mexican Philosophy, 2014

When Robert and I first thought about starting this blog, the purpose, as we saw it, was to keep a running record of our adventures in translation. While that is still a project in which we are engaged—our mission being to translate as much Mexican philosophy as we can, while we can—the purpose of the blog has changed some. We now want it to serve as a platform for anything “Mexican philosophy.”

Why Mexican philosophy?

I’ve spent a good part of my post-Dissertation energy reading and thinking about Mexican philosophers and their ideas. At first, I was merely curious. A “phenomenology” of relajo? The balls!! Having recently written a dissertation on Husserl, the thought that a Mexican “philosopher” had written a phenomenology about something he considered particularly Mexican in Spanish seemed to me, at the time, like an audacious and subversive act. Portilla had taken Husserl’s pristine, pure, phenomenology and bent it to his will; I imagined Husserl turning in his contingent grave. In that work, Portilla re-buries Husserl in a footnote and forgets him. I was no longer curious, I was inspired.

Then came Uranga, and Villoro, and Zea. And with every sentence, while carrying the realization that my Spanish was embarrassingly insufficient for quick reading and quicker thinking, the recognition of a radical absence of Mexican philosophy in English inspired me further.

Robert was having similar thoughts and similar experiences. In April of this year, he called a meeting at The College of William & Mary. And with other like-minded folks, we pledged to do something about the absence that bothered us. This blog was a result of that “something.” So we’ve posted thoughts and ideas, the beginnings of projects, and recently a discussion on Memo Hurtado’s fantastic essay. In addition, I’ve completed a manuscript on Mexican existentialism (currently occupying megabytes in some Reviewer’s Cloud). Robert is about to go on a hunting expedition to the libraries in Mexico City where he’ll try to capture some essential work that might be deemed worthy of translation and publication by a reluctant US academic press.

As the year ends, I’ve begun to think about the work ahead and the reasons why we should undertake it….here’s my reason:

It is valuable work. In the work of the Mexican philosophers of the mid-20th century, for instance, we encounter a passionate attempt to do philosophy and to be philosophers despite the limitations of history, colonialism, and geopolitical relevance. In their efforts to produce, or reproduce, philosophy sin más, they could not escape their grounding, their circumstance, that history, colonialism, or limitations. The themes they chose to focus on, e.g., mexicanidad, insulted the hegemony of universalizing philosophy. So what we read is philosophy in a different voice, borne of the struggle against and with the “white mythology” of Western philosophy.

Purists, guardians of the Western philosophical tradition, will not help but question the authenticity of a “Mexican” philosophy, will not help but question the credentials of such philosophy on a priori grounds, and might want to demand my philosophical passport or seek to deport Robert and I from the academy for not doing more metaphysics and analytic epistemology—because we always need more of that! And I would probably go willingly, if I didn’t think that this work was work that needed to be done, if only because, as a whole, it is a lesson in courage, resistance, and hope.

One response to “Reflections on a year with Mexican Philosophy, 2014

  1. What’s interesting about your last line is that I’m of the opinion that all philosophy is a lesson in courage, resistance, and hope – courage, if nothing else, to resist the comfort of narrow-mindedness and deleterious effects of prejudice. So, Carlos, you may not be saying much more than this is our chance to do philosophy, our own philosophy. However, buried in your optimism, which I of course share, is the criticism that much of what passes for “philosophy” today, isn’t. What it’s time to show is that the universalizing tendency in philosophy, what you call the “white mythology,” has its own tradition and historical context, which it has strengthened and protected precisely by disguising that it is historical and traditional. It might even be fair to say that we are working within a new kind of Scholasticism. So much of the Mexican philosophy we are interested in, like much of what might go by the name “comparative philosophy,” can help disorient us (make the familiar strange), causing us to have to take responsibility for our own thought and for ourselves. And, on a practical note, it will help to make philosophy available to those who may not identify with the traditional philosophy class, or who may want to learn something about philosophers who wrote in their own language.

    In any case, right on, man … let’s make 2015 the year.

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