Reflections at the Gate

As we head down the home-stretch with our project (it’s August 10th, Oxford expects our manuscript by September 2nd), I can’t help but think about how massive this undertaking really is. I mean, we aren’t even scratching the surface with what we’re doing. There’s a profound and rich tradition of Mexican philosophy that stretches back to the ancient pueblos—a tradition that is still there, alive, and well in some places (our friend Manuel Bolom Pale, for instance, writes on the philosophy of the pueblos tsotsiles and their “tsotsil epistemology”). All we have to do is sit with folks from the different corners of Mexico over huevos and coffee to find out what it is that we’re missing—which over the last year, Robert and I have been lucky enough to do on a couple of occasions. We’ve decided to focus on what’s properly understood (by Mexicans themselves) as “Mexican” philosophy, or the philosophical tradition of the 20th century that emerges with a consciousness of a “Mexican” identity, Mexican history, and the Mexican difference. But even this is a landmine of controversy. There will be some that question this delimitation (so read our book and get our reasons), still others that will question the apparent homogeneity of the umbrella concept of “Mexican” etc. And then there’s the issue raised by the previous post: so, where’s the women? Where’s the marginalized voices? Surely, these existed in the 20th century! A recent comment to one of our posts asks about the Catholic presence. For my part, I could’ve spent a volume talking about José Revueltas. What about the non-professional philosophers? Poets, song writers, painters, etc., who also must’ve contributed to 20th century philosophy. Jorge Portilla wasn’t a professional philosopher, so maybe that counts, but I doubt it. There will be holes in our story; there will be omissions and blind spots. These will be a result of our ignorance, mostly, but some will have to do with our own biases and presuppositions. I wish we could do more. Once we are done, I’m thinking of spending a good portion of the coming years talking about one of the topics raised by Abelardo Villegas, namely, historicism. Historicism, or the view that truth and justification is intimately tied to the sites of its historical emergence, played a key role in the formation of Mexican philosophy—if not the key role. While it was brought across the Atlantic by fans of Dilthey and Ortega y Gasset, Nietzsche and Heidegger, like José Gaos and Eduardo Nicol, there’s something organic about its adoption by Mexican philosophers, who recognize that it is their history that will lend their philosophy its difference. But, again, we can’t go into much of that. Our goal has been to introduce a selection of texts that will begin a much broader and long-lasting conversation; that will allow Mexican philosophy to exist as an option for students of philosophy in the US; and that will allows us to introduce it. The last of these is perhaps my selfish desire to say something about what I read. It’s my nature. Otherwise, why the eff would I start something like this in the first place? Anyway, the clock is ticking….cas

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One response to “Reflections at the Gate

  1. Thank you professor, I am not a professional philosopher myself but I have spent a great part of my life reading and talking about philosophy. I do think this project open ups a great deal of possibilities for us Mexicans/Americans that are trying to bring solutions to the current problems facing Mexicans/Americans. I do intend to focus my work more on history itself to trace the epistemological shifts throughout early Mexican history. My approach came about when I was visiting Mexico and I noticed the strong Catholic presence in the minds of the Mexican pueblos and even larger cities. I noticed a great deal of Catholic symbols and codes all across Mexican society. I walked into a Walmart parking lot in Guadalajara and there was an over-sized Nacimiento in the center of the parking lot. I realized then that I have been thinking of Nietzsche and Foucault to understand Mexican philosophy, but the reality is that the Catholic church itself has a powerful reach over Mexican society. I again ask myself, “I’m I afraid to question religion, specifically the Catholic church as a scepter of Power in our own Mexican self?” . Should I be afraid to question power, at least religious power, in particular the Catholic church? Could it not be that the Catholic church itself has remain hidden from discourse, especially critical discourse because of the sacredness of the Church in Mexican society. I remember reading Paz’s book on Sor Juana, and how Sor Juana’s “desire for knowledge” had made her pursuit a religious life to have access to knowledge. Paz’s other hypothesis had been that Sor Juana had quit her intellectual pursuits because of the condemnation of the Church and society for being a women in pursuit of non-religious intellectual curiosity. I want to make sure that Power does not remain hidden in all this, that I have enough huevos myself to raise these questions.

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