This past March (2015), I was honored with a couple of invitations to Mexico to lecture on some topics of interest to me. My first stop was at the Benemérita Universidad Autonoma de Puebla, I gave the Ponencia Magistral for the III Coloquio Internacional de Etica y Filosofía Política. My paper, “Otra vez a las Tesis de Feuerbach: Filosofía y Circunstancia,” aimed to lay the groundwork for an opening up of the philosophical to include philosophers and texts that, for historical, ideological, and other obnoxious reasons, can’t seem to make it into the Western philosophical canon. I took the Third Thesis as my starting point and went from there.
The Coloquio itself showcased original readings of classic texts in ethical and political philosophy. It was an impressive ensemble of philosophers from Mexico and beyond. A recurring, and surprising, theme of the presentations had to do with the Mexico itself; it was explicitly and implicitly phrased as a question regarding either applicability or influence. That is, for example, how could this Hegelian reading help us understand our current (Mexican) predicament? Or, in what way does the history of Mexico shape the articulation of this problem? I say this was surprising because in my ignorance or blindness I had assumed that Mexican philosophers, like most Anglo-American philosophers, cared little about cultural, historical, or circumstantial applicability or influence, especially when dealing with figures such as Hegel or Machiavelli. But, it soon became abundantly clear that philosophy, like history or culinary pride, has an actual operational force; that it can shape things, ideas, or events, influence personal and social action. The Mexican philosophers that asked questions about Mexico asked them in the anxiety of authenticity. Again, due to blindness or ignorance, I thought that this sort of questioning had died with Leopoldo Zea!
After a few days of walking around Puebla and marveling at the ambition of the colonial urban planners who thought it reasonable to put a church in ever block (and oftentimes 3 churches in every block), of the beauty of a city that was certainly built with religious intent and at the cost of the wealth of a nation (none of these churches skimp on the spectacular!), I took a 7 hour bus ride to Morelia for an 8-day residency at the Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolas at the invitation of its director, Mario Teodoro Ramirez, and the Instituto de Investigaciones Filosoficas Luis Villoro.
I lectured on Mexican philosophy, particularly, the Mexican existentialists of El Grupo Hiperíon. It was a nerve-wrecking experience, since some of the best readers of los hiperiones attended several of the lectures, including Jaime Vieyra (specialist in Uranga) and the director himself, Mario Teodoro Ramirez (specialists in Luis Villoro and everything having to do with Mexican philosophy of culture). I fully expected to encounter resistance to my readings of the Mexican existentialist. After all, what could a pocho like myself possibly contribute to the interpretation of texts whose primary purpose involved the carrying out of an autognosis of Mexican cultural life? I hadn’t been to Mexico since I was 10 years old! My Spanish was groggy and unaccented (that is, I had trouble respecting the accents!) and corrupted by decades of California living! But my readings were accepted, violations and all, as the interpretations that they were—that is, as culturally, historically, and ideologically informed readings by a situated and concrete historical subject. Not only were they accepted, they were welcomed. It seems that the majority of contemporary Mexican philosophers reject insularity and repetitive, institutionalized, sameness on principle.
I dare generalize and say that, from my perch on the lectern, Mexican philosophy is alive and well and more concerned than ever about the problem of culture, history, and the future of Mexico.