By Carlos Alberto Sanchez
There’s been some chatter about their difference, or about whether there should be a difference between these two. So, I thought I’d reflect a moment on the question. I do not speak for my crime-partner Robert here, which is why I’m signing it, so as to shelter him from any blame that I’m sure my simplistic view on the matter might deserve.
Empirically, there’s an obvious difference. Guillermo Hurtado and Mario Teodoro Ramirez, Luis Villoro and Leopoldo Zea, Samuel Ramos and Rosa Krauze have written on, thought about, and promoted “Mexican philosophy.” From a historical standpoint, it is a philosophical tradition rooted in, about, and reflecting a specifically “Mexican” history and consciousness, in all of its complexities (and with all of its problems). Mexican philosophy is circumscribed by history in very particular ways; it relates to Western philosophy in very particular ways–antagonistic, assimilative, deconstructive ways; it worries about authenticity, both individual and cultural as well as philosophical, because its worth has been put into question by thinkers both internal and external to it; and, more importantly, it has been called “Mexican” by philosophers intent on affirming their difference as Mexican and affirming, also, their capacity for this, the grandest of gestures, filosofia.
But, what happens when I, who happens to be a Mexico-Americano, a pocho, a Michoacano agringado; when I, who happens to have studied philosophy in the US, in broken English, while focusing on German Phenomenology and Analytic Epistemology; what happens when I, with great difficulty, read, evaluate, analyze, and interpret Mexican philosophy? Can we say that my readings, evaluations, analyses, and interpretations now belong to the Mexican American philosophical “canon”? Yes, yes they do. What about my readings of Husserl’s phenomenology? Or Wilfred Sellars? I’ve never been very good at keeping myself out of my readings, much less my writings, so, I would say, yes, they do belong! However, I wouldn’t want them to belong, for the simple reason that it was a forced reading–a coerced relationship that, although it still influences me in subtle and not so subtle ways, I’m in the difficult process of divorcing. But my readings of Mexican philosophy are not forced readings, even if they are, as I say in my Contingency and Commitment, “violent readings”; perhaps due to a historical familiarity, I’ve allowed myself the right of interpretation and the intimacy of appropriation with those texts. Accuse me of being a demented, diluted, and misinformed, post-structuralist all you want, but my readings of those texts transforms those texts, assimilates them into my world, and deprives them of their radical otherness. They are now filtered through my experiential and interpretive horizon; that is, what I say based on those readings is filtered through the entirety of my Mexico-Americanoness. My point is that the study of Mexican philosophy in the US falls within the purview of a Mexican American philosophical tradition (or the tradition to come!).
Does that mean, however, that Mexican philosophy and Mexican American philosophy are the same? No, it doesn’t. I don’t think that Mexican philosophers would appreciate us conflating the two. What it means, rather, is that, as Mexican philosophy crosses its northern border, reaching us here in California, or Oregon, or Texas, or Wisconsin, or Massachusetts, we have a responsibility to care for its well-being, for its integrity, and its history, to give it a voice and a platform–we are its guardians.
The chatter I refer to above arose in the context of talking about whether a conference on Mexican philosophy was also a conference on Mexican American philosophy. At the time, I said that we should keep these two separate, and that no, it wasn’t. But if I truly believe that Mexican philosophy in the US falls under the purview of Mexican American philosophy, and that my reading of Mexican philosophy would count as Mexican American philosophy, a conference on Mexican philosophy in the US would also count as a conference on Mexican American philosophy; however, you would have to accept the loose post-structuralist postulates I’m assuming in order to say this. Otherwise, the fact of the name of the conference, the fact that its keynotes were not engaged in such readings, the fact that the Mexican American experience factored only minimally into our papers or discussions, makes it into an event about Mexican and not about Mexican American philosophy.
All of this begs the question as to what Mexican American philosophy is. I don’t have an answer to that yet, although I’m confident one is coming. All I have been able to consider is that it is coming and that it is. But enough of that. CS.