Beethobens Gross Fudge and Mexicans; or Why Critics Don’t Critique

The previous post by Robert was both heartfelt, honest, and a little worrisome. I agree with everything he said, 100%! But, I am troubled by how much he’s being troubled by those troubling thoughts.

The idea that our efforts to discombobulate the Western philosophical canon by introducing the philosophy of “lo mexicano” into it makes us complicit in a sexist, classist, or racist agenda

1. assumes that all of the philosophers of lo mexicano were sexists, classists, or racists. The fact is that I (don’t want to say “we” yet) care only as much about the personal lives of these thinkers as understanding a life will allow me to understand a process of thinking. The recently published Black Notebooks show that Heidegger was, in fact, a Nazi sympathizer; but even that seems unconcerning to those who will no doubt continue to judge Being and Time as one of the most, if not the most, important creations of the Western philosophical mind in the 20th century. Our blindness is not so detestable. Leopoldo Zea was a telegraph delivery boy before Jose Gaos and Alfonso Reyes saw it fit to use government funds to pay him to devote himself to the study of philosophy full time. Jorge Portilla’s father owned a bar in the Zocalo, so I guess that puts him in a certain social class, but I doubt it–but he was also a Marxists, an alcoholic, a pill-poper, who committed suicide when he couldn’t handle his shit. What should I do with his philosophy?
2. forgets that these guys were existentialists, who cared little about essentializing anything. Here’s Uranga: “Pero el humano de que aquí hablamos no significa en modo alguno el “hombre en general,” “la naturaleza humana,” ficha intercambiable sin distingos en toda la latitud de la historia. Lo humano mexicano es precisamente lo opuesto a ese mar sin confines de lo humano en general, y el problema verdaderamente cordial que se ha planteado en estas conferencias [on “lo mexicano”] es justamente este, de si debemos seguir hablando sin diferenciación de lo humano y no mas bien determinar previamente cual es ese modo de ser de un hombre de que predicamos una historia particular” (1951, 127). Make of this what you can, but, despite his all-too-common use of the masculine, what he is saying is that “lo mexicano” is an indescribable particularity the only essential aspect of which is that it is not “humanity in general.” We can philosophize away all other essentialism, but I’ll keep this one.
3. and, finally, it is simply blind to the fact that the real allure of this philosophy, for myself, for Robert, for Bartra, for Villegas, etc., is that it gives us an occasion for thinking. An occasion that is neither Western nor Anglo, but OURS, or as close to OURS as we can have. It served as a foil, for instance, of a great feminist philosophical movement in Mexico at about the same time. For this, I refer the reader to Rubí de María Gómez Campos’ book “El sentido de sí: un ensayo sobre el feminismo y la flosofía de la cultura en México,” in which she says what I simply can not.

One last thing:
4. I am sure that sexism, elitism, and racism has played a role in the emergence of philosophical thought in Mexico. No doubt about that. But it’s good to remember that sexism, elitism, and racism has also played a role in the emergence of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the US academy, the site of our current struggle. Our current project, believe it or not, is a concrete act of resistance and subversion. If we succeed, and one more Mexican or Mexican American makes it through to the PhD and beyond, then it’s all worth it. We can’t address or redress all of the crimes of those who have come before us. But just because we can’t perform those supernatural feats doesn’t mean that the texts are worth abandoning. I’m not ready to abandon those texts–I don’t care how useless my social science colleagues think my efforts.

Carlos Alberto Sanchez
San Jose, CA.


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