A circumstantial philosophy, one grounded on the crises and emergencies of vital experience, promises liberation from the “arrogant” idea that we can escape from our enclosures and be genuinely universal. The apparently universal truth that “all men are mortal,” for example, cannot escape the ether of our immediate circumstance; everything that points to its validity is in certain proximity to me. I am convinced that all men are mortal, ultimately, because history is replete with corpses. And I read this history; and I hear this history; and this history establishes a pattern that, based on my limited life experience, has not been proven wrong. People die all the time, and I am certain that I will, too. I have no pretension of immortality. But that too, my belief in my own death, is intimate and enclosed within me, as is my desire for wisdom and my many crises of identity.

And here lay the tensions and the heartbreak: pressured by the illustrious history of philosophy to think universal ideas; convinced by argument and the presumed elegance of clear thinking that big thoughts are pure and unsoiled by the dust of circumstance, Mexican philosophers eventually found it necessary to deny the human ground to philosophy. Encouraged by smart men to aspire to great heights and think of possibilities and not actualities, as the latter can only trap us in provincialisms that will not translate into invitations to the great philosophical conversations that await all men of dignity, Mexican philosophers have found it necessary to deny their own history and their own circumstance.

But how far into the abstract can we go, Mexicans, Latino/as, or otherwise historically constituted philosophical beings? My readings suggest that we cannot go far enough or deep enough to fulfill the condescending aspirations of the Western ideal of philosophy. On this note, I close with a thought William James attributes to his mentor, Louis Agassiz, who says that “one can see no farther into generalization than just so far as one’s previous acquaintance with particulars enables one to take in” (James 1999, 240). And so, if reason is to be of any use, it is better to focus it on the proximal and the urgent and begin our philosophy from that place. In this sense, the existentialist violations of philosophy carried out by Gaos, Zea, Uranga, and Villoro should not be condemned to oblivion, as they have been thus far.

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