Next April, one of our translators (Dr. Roberto Cantú) is organizing a conference on Alfonso Reyes. Be sure to check out the website for the conference here. Because this conference (as well as its timing) lines up so perfectly with our anthology, which includes Cantu’s translation of Reyes’s The X on the Brow: Some Reflections on Mexico (1952), I thought I’d send off an abstract for the conference, which I plan to attend even if I don’t present.
Here’s the paper I’m proposing:
In the history of 20th century Mexican philosophy, Alfonso Reyes is often (though respectfully and backhandedly) disregarded as un gran pensador, ensayista, or poeta and he was often at odds with the philosophical currents of his day, particularly mid-century existentialism. However, in this paper, I will argue that the philosophy/not-philosophy binary, which was endorsed by several prominent Mexican philosophers, is ethnocentric, imitative, and fails to fully appreciate one of the main Mexican contributions to world philosophy—namely, a style of essay that explores the intersections and tensions between the universality and particularity of cultural identity. So, to the extent that Reyes offers a model of what I call “the Latin American essay”—which promises to enrich our contemporary understanding of the aims and parameters of philosophy, and thus of “philosophy” itself—I argue that there is a sense in which Reyes ought to be considered one of the most important Mexican philosophers, that is, one of the most productive representatives of the uniquely Mexican contribution to philosophy. This paper, then, is an attempt to enlarge a contemporary, predominantly European conception of contemporary philosophy to make room in the canon for Mexican philosophy in general and for los filósofos de lo mexicano in particular.