SETTING A TONE: JOAQUIN SANCHEZ MACGREGOR AND RICARDO GUERRA
The lecture delivered by Ricardo Guerra (1927-2007) at the French Institute is not without its merits. My reasons from omitting that lecture from a fuller account of what I like to think of as the inauguration of existentialism in Mexico has to do with what this lecture lacks, namely, a particular enfoque or perspective. Sure, philosophy, as traditionally conceived and laid out by its long history and by its advocates, cares little about enfoque, so that biography, situation, circumstance, or historical milieu purportedly plays an insignificant role, if any, on its nature and scope. However, I insist that this enfoque is unavoidable, that we are always already entangled in ideologies and prejudices, crises and emergencies, ways of life and epistemological orientations that necessarily structure our interests and color our ideas. To try to go beyond that, to transcend that which is most immediate, seems, to me, an exercise is intellectual arrogance—a stubborn wish to keep philosophy “pure” and “universal,” even if universality and purity is a Western invention that, in philosophy at least, seems hard to cash out (more on this in chapter 3).
Guerra’s essay is structured as a glossary of Sartrean terms from Being and Nothingness. He does an admirable job of defining and textually supporting his definitions. Ironically, the finest moments in the essay treat the significance of the “situation” for a proper articulation of our existential condition. Paraphrasing Sartre, Guerra says, “all of my projects, my choices, can be understood from the point of view of an overall project. . . . This project is free, global . . . fundamental . . . [and] must be continuously reaffirmed” (1948, 307). This project is necessarily embedded in a situation that includes, according to Sartre, “my place, my body, my past, my position . . . that is, my fundamental relation to another” (309). This suggests, of course, that the reading of Sartre will likewise be conditioned and affected by all of these elements. I am not suggesting that we, in fact, filter our readings of all philosophy in this way—say, of Immanuel Kant or G. E. Moore—but existential philosophy, especially of the Sartrean variety, invites such readings, filterings, and appropriations.