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Latin American Philosophy as Metaphilosophy
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Latin American Philosophy as Metaphilosophy

There are indeed many good reasons for needing (wanting) to study (consider?) Latin American philosophy. In my case, for existential and personal reasons, I want to study Latin American philosophy to ground a personal sense of cultural integrity and gravitas. There are also demographic reasons for needing to be concerned with Latin American philosophy. As Latinos become the largest minority in the United States, our curriculum should be designed to address some of the educational and cultural needs of such a large group of people. There is an imperative need to integrate in the curriculum an understanding of the history, culture, and social forces that have shaped the lives of Latinos. Finally, there are curricular and pedagogical reasons for needing to teach Latin American philosophy. The last two decades have been decades of tremendous philosophical upheaval precisely because the epistemic matrixes that organized the production and presentation of knowledge have been so thoroughly destabilized. The end of the Cold [End Page 31] War, coupled with the rise of postcolonial and postmodern critiques of so-called Western philosophy, have necessitated a rethinking of the canon and its educational goals. In tandem, there has been a lot of discussion, writing, and theorizing about globalization. Indeed, some would rather think that with and through globalization, the ethical censure implied in postmodern and postcolonial theory might be avoided. Yet both traditions of criticism aim at grasping the same tectonic shift in the way knowledge is produced, ordered, disseminated, and consumed.

Still, although most work about globalization has come from the social sciences, some philosophers have taken up the challenge. The end of the Cold War, the rise of postcolonial theories, and the emergence (or at least the naming) of a new social condition—some call it globalization, others, the colonial present—have put on the philosophical agenda the questions: whence, how, and for whom do we philosophize? The whence, how, and for whom are questions that form part of an attitude that I would like to call “dialogical cosmopolitanism” (Mendieta, 2007).

We live in a period, time, Zeitgeist, in which thorough and devastating critiques, as those performed by postmodern and postcolonial critics, have resulted in a dual process: the provincializing of Europe and the universalizing of the Other. For most of our recent history, Europe and the West were taken to be the universal norm, the paragon of universality—for the moment I want to suspend discussion of what is the West vis-à-vis Europe. The West, and thus its philosophy, was untouched by the particular and local. Western and European philosophy were philosophy as such, sin mas, tout court, thinking thinking itself. As such, this philosophy was unmarked, uncontaminated, de-historicized and de-territorialized. But the historical events and epistemic critiques I mentioned above have made it almost impossible to hold on to such self-imposed blindness. Only stubborn epistemic hubris can sustain such a magisterial gesture of denying one’s own place in history and geography. Conversely, the postcolonial and postmodern critiques have disclosed to us the ways in which the putatively monolingual and impossibly homogenized other is in fact, polyglot and extremely heterogeneous. Additionally, these critiques have revealed how these others have their own claim to universality, how their thinking and knowledge production have a universality claim that [End Page 32] can be neither negated nor neglected. But perhaps most importantly, these critiques have revealed how their histories and the history of the imagined West and real Europe have been in a continuous interaction, intermingling, codetermination, interbreeding, and cross-fertilizing with its imagined and real others. Epistemic hubris, the kind that has been instigated and condoned by the philosophy of modernity, has been about affirming one’s placeless epistemic privilege while negating those others’ contribution to our own philosophical insights. But this attitude and philosophical posture has become illicit, proscribed, and anathema to a world that deems itself global. For this reason, among the many good pedagogical reasons why we should be interested in Latin American philosophy, this: because our students must be prepared to interact with a growing number of Latin Americans and peoples of Latin American descent.

All of these reason are...