Lo Particular and Lo Universal

Sorry, Reader, for the recent delay in posts. Carlos and I are hard at work translating, editing, reading, and writing to meet our deadline, which is only five short weeks away. But today, while I’m reading Alfonso Reyes, I thought I’d check in with a brief, perhaps rambling thought.

In “Thoughts on the American Mind,” Reyes says:

On the contrary, it is my feeling that the [Latin] American mind is called upon to fulfill the highest complementary function: that of establishing syntheses, even though they be of necessity provisional: that of applying the results quickly, testing the truth of the theory on the living tissue of action. In this way, just as European economy now has need of us, so will the mind of Europe need us, too. […] While the European has never had to approach America to construct the system of his world, the American studies, knows, follows Europe from the time he starts school.

And herein lies our biggest advantage and our biggest responsibility. If philosophy aspires to universality – and if by “universality” we do not simply mean “maximally abstract,” untethered from or unconcerned with the “living tissue of action” – then how incredibly impoverished is European philosophy and the culture and tradition it represents. Not to have to incorporate the culture, thought, tradition, or intelligence of the other; to always impose, demand, and wait for obedience, fear, or respect; to vacillate between “ours” and “no one’s” (which is all the European has ever meant by “universality”) – all these can only be a major disadvantage in an increasingly complex and hostile world that calls for action, sympathy, and, dare I say it in English, love.

The main advantage of the Latin American – a theme throughout Rodó, Vasconcelos, Reyes and others – is its history of having to know itself and the European, of essentially being both, of being in the unique position of having to learn to love the other by loving oneself, of having to reconcile the tragic tension of conflicting or contradictory cultures and histories in one’s own Latin American being. This is the experience that will complement the European flight to logos, the Absolute, and eidos, and the morally reprehensible inaction and indifference that those ideals have historically inspired in the Western European philosopher.

One response to “Lo Particular and Lo Universal

  1. Yes, this is essential to learning and I applaud you and Carlos for this work helping all of us to make philosophy, philosophy. Philosophers have been working without a ‘full view’ for centuries.

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