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Reviewed by:
  • El pragmatismo en Cuba
  • Rosa Mayorga
Antonio Armas Vázquez. El pragmatismo en Cuba. Habana, Cuba: Sociedad de Investigaciones Filosóficas, 2004. 184 pp, no index.

In his 1987 article “Introducción al pragmatismo en Cuba” (“Introduction to Pragmatism in Cuba”) for Revista Cubana de Ciencias Sociales (Cuban Journal of Social Sciences) and in his 2004 book El pragmatismo en Cuba (Pragmatism in Cuba), Antonio Armas Vázquez1 theorizes that crucial events in Cuba’s history between 1895 (the commencement of the war of independence from Spain) and 1959 (the official takeover by the Castro rebellion), are directly related to the promulgation of pragmatism as a philosophy in Cuba by the United States.2 Through social and pedagogical reform as well as publicity and marketing campaigns, Armas argues that the U.S. sought to exert its complete control over the young nation in order to fulfill its own capitalist and imperialist agenda. In the 1987 article, Armas proposes to answer the following questions:

In dealing with a philosophy with profound roots since its origins in the North American tradition and the needs of a developing capitalism, we are led to ask, during the time of the hindered [Cuban] republic: what relation could exist between a “pure” philosophy article and an educational program? Between a psychometric test [End Page 327] and a class in middle school? Between the political program of the Conservatives and Liberals, the economic policy propagated by the governments in place, and the publicity campaigns and marketing?

[Armas, 1987, p.51]3

Armas’ basic thesis (in both his paper and in his subsequent book) is the following answer to these questions:

It is not possible to understand the diversity of the philosophical problems of the time. . . unless we become aware of the determining factor of capitalist production needs which demanded a “suitable” alteration of the Cuban political superstructure in line with the new needs of development and the characteristics of the ties of dependence with respect to the U.S. . .. We could therefore confirm that pragmatism spread in Cuba not by a proper calling card, but rather by various coinciding currents, schools of thought, theories, and through the ever present propaganda of North American imperialism.

[1987, pp.40, 51]

The book is an attempt to argue, with particular examples, how Cuban life was guided and controlled by the U.S., sometimes overtly, sometimes in more subtle ways, by a continuous and constant bombardment of ideas, techniques, organizations, social projects, cultural manifestations, and policies (scientific and economic) all with the intention of restructuring the base of a new social system and to consolidate a new culture based on the Anglo-Saxon one. Pragmatism as a philosophy provided the methodology for this, Armas argues, since its strides in psychology, education, and sociology served to become “a notorious influence” in better integrating the aspirations of the U.S. in spreading its system of ideas in Cuba.

Before presenting historical examples of how Cubans were affected by pragmatism, Armas proposes to explain pragmatist theory in the first part of the book in order to substantiate his claims regarding its influence during this period in Cuba’s history.

He rightly identifies pragmatism’s origins with Charles Peirce and William James. However, Peirce is mentioned only in passing; the most that is said about him is that one of his contributions was to focus on semiotics. Indeed, none of Peirce’s works are listed in the bibliography, nor for that matter any of the works of Peirce scholars. Armas has more to say about James, Dewey, and Mead (listed in the bibliography are five of Dewey’s works, two of James’, and Mead’s Mind, Self and Society).4 With two or three exceptions in Dewey’s case, however, there is no mention of secondary philosophical sources for these other pragmatists either.5

According to Armas, for Dewey “the proof of the truth of a proposition is its practical usefulness, which explains the purpose of thought guiding action,” so that “the effect of an idea is more important than its [End Page 328] origin” (2004, p.11). Armas’ point, which he will argue for throughout the book, is that it is...


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