Die Grundfrage

Luis Villoro (1922-2014), who would go on become one of Mexico’s most celebrated thinkers, credited among other things as a founding figure in Latin America’s analytic philosophy movement (Bassols 2014), was initially influenced by the existentialism of Kierkegaard (“All existentialism is already in Kierkegaard!” he used to say, according to Ruanova), Gabriel

Marcel, and Karl Jaspers, and was considered by his contemporaries as “the supreme authority” on Husserl’s phenomenology (Ruanova 1982, 206).

Villoro’s contribution to the 1948 spring lecture series at IFAL deals with Marcel’s metaphysics, specifically, the question regarding the possibility of transcendence: how can consciousness reach an object outside of itself? Or, as Villoro puts it: “how to pass from being to entities?” (1948, 291). It is worth noting that this question had been asked by Husserl, in his 1907 lecture series, The Idea of Phenomenology, where he named it the Grundfrage, or the foundational question for his new phenomenology: “How can the absolute self-givenness of cognition reach something not self-given and how is this reaching to be understood?” (Husserl 1964, 5). That Villoro finds Marcel’s take on this question captivating despite the question having a historical trace going back to Husserl (about whom he was the “supreme authority”) is interesting simply because it is not a particularly fruitful question or one that would yield any significant liberatory insights—or at least, it is not a question that appears to fit with the more existential, action-oriented concerns of his contemporaries, such as Uranga or Portilla. A more fitting analysis would have been one that delved into Marcel’s idea of philosophy as “concrete philosophy,” dealing with issues of death, suicide, betrayal, or what he called the “bite of reality” (Marfas 1967, 439). It is toward the end of the lecture that the Grundfrage seems to yield any significant insights, and we get a clue as to the potential value of Marcel for a Mexican reading. This clue has to do with others, or with how a being, enclosed in itself, reaches out toward the other and, as much as possible, apprehends the other. This is the aspect of the Grundfrage that so much troubled Husserl. While Husserl stumbled and was unable, in his Cartesian Meditations, to give a satisfactory answer, Marcel, on Villoro’s account, provides the answer to how this contact with otherness is possible: it is love. “In lovingly turning to the other,” writes Villoro, “I merely begin on the road that will lead me to my awakening in the total being of the universe” (1948, 294).

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