Latin American Philosophy: An Introduction with Readings

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9780130485168: Latin American Philosophy: An Introduction with Readings

This book offers the reflections of Latin American thinkers on the nature of philosophy, justice, human rights, cultural identity, and other issues that have faced them from the colonial period to the present day. Most of the essays are short and easy to read—making them accessible to readers with little or no philosophical background. This book presents readers with philosophical ideas about present-day controversies such as poverty, racism, the equality of women, and the distribution of wealth. For anyone interested Latin American philosophy and the development of philosophy in Latin America.

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Susana Nuccetelli and Gary Seay's text, Latin American Philosophy: An Introduction with Readings, makes original and translated writings of Latin American thinkers available on a variety of philosophical problems. These problems include the nature of philosophy, rationality, justice, human rights, cultural identity, and many other questions that have concerned them from the colonial period to the present day.

Features of Latin American Philosophy: An Introduction with Readings
  • Invites discussion of topics currently generating considerable interest in philosophy
  • Offers contrasting views, facilitating a deeper understanding of the issues of Latin American philosophy
  • Reconstructs the history of ideas in Latin America with an emphasis on philosophical topics
  • Introduces students to major social figures advocating clearly defined ideologies, in which issues easily lend themselves to philosophical debate
  • Promotes cross-cultural understanding by selecting topics which affect all Latino groups
  • Provides vivid examples for students' appreciation, especially on topics such as fairness in the distribution of wealth, the persistence of poverty, racism, and the liberation of women

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Educated readers in the United States today are often familiar with some of the traditional literature and topics of Western philosophy. Very little is known, however, about the development of philosophy in Latin America. Is there, indeed, a Latin American philosophy at all? What exactly is characteristically Latin American in the way intellectuals in Hispanic America have reflected on philosophical issues? This volume intends to provide some answers to questions of this sort by making available in the English-speaking world the writings of Latin American thinkers on a variety of philosophical problems. We do believe that there is a characteristically Latin American philosophy, and ample evidence of its existence can be seen in the materials included here. We hope that some familiarity with the works of las Casas, Sor Juana, Sarmiento, and others will make it abundantly clear that Latin American thinkers score high in both originality and sensitivity to live issues of philosophical concern that have arisen in the subcontinent.

At the same time, we do not regard the existence of a characteristically Latin American philosophy as incompatible with the claim that there are some problems of philosophy that have a universal import. For, traditionally construed, philosophy can be taken to consist in a core of great controversies over fundamental questions, together with numerous branches of "applied" philosophy (e.g., biomedical ethics, environmental ethics, and philosophy of law), where the elements of a general theory are analyzed more narrowly in connection with specific uses or contexts. Latin American philosophy could thus be thought of as another of these branches. Unfortunately, many supporters of this universalist conception of philosophy who accept such applied branches as part of the subject are nonetheless skeptical about the existence of a Latin American philosophy. To us, any such skepticism could only rest on inadequate factual information about the intellectual history of the subcontinent oróworseóraise suspicions of a double standard at work. As far as we are concerned, if there is a role for philosophical analysis in thinking about the problems that arise in the practice of medicine, law, and public policy, then why not also in thinking about the issues that have arisen in the experiences of Latinos?

The thesis that there is a characteristically Latin American philosophy is supported in this book by evidence that philosophy in the Spanishand Portuguese-speaking Americas has gone beyond merely borrowing from major Western philosophical methodologies and schools of thought. A careful reading of the selections included here reveals that, from the colonial period to the present day, Latinos have devoted serious thought to philosophical puzzles arising in their own historical and social contexts, and often proposed original arguments to resolve them. Whether those who applied themselves to these intellectual exercises were trained philosophers, as all practitioners of the discipline are now expected to be, does not matter to us. Although it has been only in the twentieth century that academic philosophers in Latin America have achieved a status similar to those in the Northern hemisphere, Latino intellectuals had long before that been concerned with problems of social and political philosophy, ethics, and even feminist epistemology. Sor Juana's vigorous defense of women's right to knowledge, Acosta's rebellion against Aristotelian science, Mariategui's discussion of the indigenous question, and the works of other thinkers represented in this volume speak for themselves. Whether or not these thinkers had formal training in philosophy, readers willing to put aside any preconceptions about that discipline will find in their writings extraordinarily rich material for philosophical reflection.

Needless to say, no single volume could do justice to either the breadth of philosophical questions that have concerned Latinos or the history of their philosophical ideas. In selecting materials for this collection we have attempted to offer (a) representative topics, (b) an approximate outline of the history of ideas in Latin America, and (c) original writings suitable for class discussion. The materials are arranged into seven chapters, each of which takes up a different philosophical topic related to the experience of Latinos. Each chapter also involves different areas of philosophy, from social and political philosophy to epistemology and metaphysics. If the reader desires a chronological sense of the development of ideas in Latin America, from pre-Columbian cultures to the present, the chapters can be read as a historical sequence.

Most of the essays are short and easy to read, so they are accessible to readers with little or no philosophical background. To maximize understanding of the selected materials, we have whenever possible included articles illustrating contrasting points of view. These readings also raise questions that lend themselves easily to the use of vivid examples from present-day controversies in other parts of the world, such as those concerning fairness in the distribution of wealth, the persistence of poverty, racism, and the equality of women. At the same time, such questions are often instances of larger, theoretical problems, and thus are plainly connected with ongoing disputes in the mainstream areas of philosophy. For readers who wish to pursue these topics beyond this volume, further readings are suggested in a comprehensive bibliography that lists current materials as well as classic sources.

St. Cloud, Minnesota, October 2002

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