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Home arrow Economics arrow Contingency and commitment : Mexican existentialism and the place of philosophy
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CONCLUSION: PEACE, AT LAST?

Paul Ricouer writes: “Without the reader who accompanies it, there is no configurating act at work in the text; and without a reader to appropriate it, there is no world unfolded before the text” (Valdes 1991, 395).

I will add that this displacement of the text as the site of meaning and world-unfolding is a violent act. But, violent as it may be, it allows the text to play a role—it allows it to be. My readings of the Mexican existentialists have been violent by necessity. Portilla would not confess to a divine inspiration behind his critique of relajo without what Paul Ricouer calls a “configurating” or ordering act on my part that placed his text at the scene of the crime, that is, his religious conversion. Moreover, without permission or legal right, I have unfolded before the texts here discussed the question of philosophy itself—about its nature and possibility. Althusser adds: “a philosophical reading . . . is quite the opposite of an innocent reading. It is a guilty reading, but not one that absolves the crime on confessing it. On the contrary, it takes responsibility for its crime as a ‘justified crime’ and defends it by proving its necessity” (Althusser and Balibar 1997, 15). With Ricouer, Althusser, and Ortega, I take the reading act as anything but innocent; rather, it is a “search for coherence,” or “drama of discordant concordance,” as Ricouer puts it (Valdes 1991, 401), and, thus, ultimately immoral. But this is a justified immorality: in the present case, an immorality in the service of a life-world distanced by both time and space, in other words, contemporary Latino life. The assumption being that there is something to be learned from the violent appropriations of the Mexican existentialists.

The violence of reading that I mentioned in the introduction does not properly end; hostilities continue even after the text is shelved. But the violence takes a different form and, in fact, is more brutal. Now, without the text as witness, the reader can configure the text in any way the reader desires, to herself and to others. What is comforting, however, is that texts have advocates—we who defend them against careless interpretation and vulgar appropriations. The battle without the text is a battle between interpreters.

I, of course, do not expect to be absolved of the crimes here committed. The Mexican existentialists surely did not intend for their existential analyses of “lo mexicano” to be dissected for signs of coherence with the cultural life of Latinos half a century in the future. Nor would they sanction the aggressiveness of calling the universality of their philosophy into question. But, again, only through such a violent appropriation can a present reader—culturized by postmodern, capitalist, consumerist, Anglophone ideologies—appreciate the transformative potential of the reevaluative project undertaken by thinkers once disenfranchised and marginalized by philosophy itself.

 
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