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Home arrow Economics arrow Contingency and commitment : Mexican existentialism and the place of philosophy


Uranga’s reading of Merleau-Ponty is itself tasked with making a future phenomenology possible. And this phenomenology, in turn, is tasked with grounding the possibility for an authentic Mexican identity and a genuine Mexican community, one that sees itself in its full historical and ontological significance. “Philosophy,” Uranga says, “is not the reflection of a previous truth, but . . . the realization of the truth” (1948, 238). What is to be realized, or revealed, is that “the phenomenological world is the sense that emerges [transparece y rezuma] from my experiences and those of the other; it is thus inseparable from subjectivity and intersubjectivity, which give meaning unity, assuming my past experiences in my present experiences, assuming the experience of others in mine. The phenomenological world . . . is the foundation of being” (238). Said differently, the unity of meaning to be realized emerges from the ground up, from the real lived experience of the community, of the historical, social, and cultural interaction of the I with the other.

So what lesson can be taken away, ingested, and deployed from our reading of Uranga’s lecture? Generally this: philosophy, properly understood, is liberatory. But the proper understanding of philosophy-as- liberatory rests on a consciousness of our oppressions and a desire for liberation from them. The appropriation of philosophy must be made for the sake of our own ends, and with our own crises in mind. Merleau- Ponty’s existential phenomenology gives itself as an appropriate tool for liberation, as it invites us to consider the whole of our being-in-the-world in all of its historical, psychological, political, and cultural complexity. In emphasizing our attachments it reveals those that are inescapable (e.g., attachments to our bodies and rootedness in world) from those that are (e.g., perspectives that profess completeness and totality). The appropriation of these insights justifies actions and thinking that benefit our local projects. Moreover, once appropriated, that is, internalized in our readings and deployed for the sake of our lived experience, these lessons are concretized as tools available to all, applicable to a human condition that transcends the limits of our perspective and that can cross over to unfamiliar worlds.

Mexico, representing such a limited perspective or community, can confront its unique crises—whether they be crises of historical or national identity—empowered by an appropriated sense of universal limitation, with an understanding of necessary and unnecessary oppressions or attachments, that no one can claim to escape. This empowerment through appropriation manifests itself in acts of self-concern, or worry for the vital reality immediately before us. Uranga’s liberatory reading of Merleau-Ponty reveals the conditions for the possibility of overcoming historical oppressions, for instance, colonial representations of Mexicans as overly passionate and thus incapable of the kind of rational detachment that Western thinking preached was uniquely human. Uranga’s Merleau- Ponty shows that this kind of detachment is itself not human; the human is passionate and attached.

Finally, as representatives of communities in crisis (especially of the peripheral kind), moreover, the way in which Mexicans pursue and articulate these appropriations can be applicable to all communities—that is to say, other communities in crisis can appropriate these readings. Mexican philosophy, in this way, avails itself to others that occupy a different cultural space and, as is the case with this reader, a different historical moment. Thus, it transcends a provincialism or regionalism and aspires to a human struggle that labors and liberates in invisible spaces beyond a determined purview.

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