Latin-American Philosophy

Thursday, September 26, 2013 -- 5:00 PM

It's National Hispanic Heritage Month, and this week on the program we'll be tackling Latin-American Philosophy. By Latin America we mean all the Spanish and Portuguese speaking parts of the Americas, including Mexico.  We’ll just say American philosophy when we mean the U.S. and Canada, and apologize in advance for the somewhat arrogant terminology.

All philosophy in the Americas can be divided in two: that connected with the native American cultures that were here before Columbus, and what developed from the 16th century on. There’s a lot of rethinking going on about every aspect of pre-Columbian America: the population of the continent, and the complexity and sophistication of the cultures.  But we’ll concentrate mainly on the later, post-Columbian period.

Like American philosophy, Latin American philosophy was, and continues to be, closely linked with European thinking.  The various trends in European philosophy -- positivism, Marxism, phenomenology, existentialism, analytic philosophy -- all have their champions. Of course the Iberian influence is greater than in the US. But when you look at the non-political side of philosophy, there’s not such a great difference between the north and the south.  In fact, many Latin American philosophers have moved north and fit comfortably into mainstream American departments.

For example, one of my heroes and friends was Hector-Neri Castañeda, a very influential thinker who spent most of his career at Indiana after being part of the famous Wayne State crowd. I'd describe him as sort of a Fregean of a very original sort. He was the most analytical of philosophers, but his accent and his passion for life and ideas seemed to be rooted in Guatemala.

So, speaking in a broad sweep, on the metaphysics and epistemology side of things, Latin American philosophy is basically the story of philosophers, who happen to be in Latin America. But when you move to social and political philosophy, there’s a very distinctive Latin American Philosophy. Again, speaking broadly, the American political philosopher is likely raised a Protestant, likes to read Locke and Hume and Mill, thinks about social contracts, and rights, maybe applying game theory or writing a monograph on Locke.

The Latin American social and political philosopher is more likely to be raised a Catholic, likes to read Marx and Ortega y Gasset, and to think about -- and perhaps be involved with -- the long struggle against European tyranny, the struggle for native rights.  Latin America is the home of liberation philosophy, as well as liberation theology. In anthologies of Latin American philosophy, the first person mentioned is usually Bartolome de las Cassas, a truly fascinating figure.  I used to cover him in my freshman western culture course.  Many of the themes of Latin American social and political philosophy begin with him.

De las Cassas settled with his family in Hispaniola -- what’s now Haiti and the Dominican Republic -- in 1502, just ten years after Columbus’s first voyage.  He grew up in the encomienda system -- that is, farms and plantations based on enslaving the native Americans.  But as he grew up, he saw the injustice of this, became a priest, later a monk, and spent the last part of his life back in Spain trying to convince the Holy Roman Emperor and the Papal representatives to abolish slavery.

Now you may have heard that De las Cassas was the instigator of African slavery.  That’s a bum wrap.  He did mention African slaves as a human alternative to native American slaves in one of his early writings.  But he disavowed that and later apologized.  In terms of actual impact, the scholarly consensus is that his remark had no effect whatsoever.  The African slave trade was already in operation when he wrote. 
 
But of course we’ve probably exhausted our knowledge of Latin American philosophy, so our guest, Joseph Orosco Professor of Philosophy at OSU in Corvallis, will help us continue the conversation and our education.

Comments (6)


Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 -- 5:00 PM

So, just which OSU are we

So, just which OSU are we talking about? You folks are in California; there is also an OSU in Oklahoma; and I live in Ohio...if you mean Oregon, maybe you ought to say so. If not, enlighten us ignorant mid-westerners, please. I am not certain that Latin Americans have a distinct philosophy. If they do,---well: good. Come to that, however, so do Canadians. Perhaps they would merit consideration if they were awarded a philosophy month of their own? Oh, hell---let's designate a philosophy month for pygmies while we are at it. How quaint.

Guest's picture

Guest

Monday, September 30, 2013 -- 5:00 PM

I have spent some time in

I have spent some time in Latin America, and, I like their philosophy: 1) never do today that which can easily be done tomorrow, 2) if it is ordained that you get where you are going, it shall be so. therefore, take your time---roads are bad and mistakes may be permanent, 3) take a nap around 2:00 pm. it is hot and heat makes us irritable--even, cranky. Latin America is certainly a misnomer. Few (if any) "Latin Americans" speak that archaic language. Mass ought to be conducted in Spanish---but that is another matter. Like the declaration of papal sainthood, and so on...

Guest's picture

Guest

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 -- 5:00 PM

I do not disparage anyone who

I do not disparage anyone who truly wishes to improve their lot in life. However, I do have problems with some folks who cannot accept and adapt to change. One such group encountered is those I characterize as urban hillbillies. These folks, who believe themselves to be modern and enlightened are, in fact, stuck in the 1950s and 1960s. They are stuck in the vocal aphorisms, as in: do you know what I am saying (or: num'sayin?); do you know what I mean?; "I'm like..."; and, perhaps worst all: um. Equally archaic is the practice of not being ready when your ride comes by, thereby eliciting the horn honking from Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, or any number of mundane TV series from that bygone era.
Flash forward (and this is more serious): people who walk, run, or ride bicycles, while tuning out the world with earphones, listening to their favorite music. Question: why are we obligated to look out for these irresponsible fools? All of the above nonsense is part of the urban hillbilly phenomenon. And it just makes me sick.

Guest's picture

Guest

Friday, October 4, 2013 -- 5:00 PM

Hey there Mr. Harold G.

Hey there Mr. Harold G. Neuman ...
You obviously have internet access, so instead of taking a cheap shot at this show and wasting the time of other commenters who'd like to discuss the subject in a more adult manner, you could have ...
Google searched for "OSU Corvallis" and found a bazillion correct answers to your question. But that probably wasn't your real agenda.

Guest's picture

Guest

Friday, October 4, 2013 -- 5:00 PM

Kudos to the Doctor. I have

Kudos to the Doctor. I have had discussions with friends concerning all of those issues raised above and more. If I may summarize: Our world condones personal irresponsibility and praises the refusal of accountability as being an expression of independent thought and action. Other current circumstances come to mind, but all of that is merely repetition.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Tuesday, October 8, 2013 -- 5:00 PM

Oops! Cool your jets Willie,

Oops! Cool your jets Willie, my bad.

 
 
 

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