- Pragmatism in the Americas ed. by Gregory Fernando Pappas
At the University of Oregon, where I received my PhD, one of the requirements for advancing to doctoral candidacy was the completion of a History Paper. The History Paper challenges the student to bring together two philosophers from different philosophical traditions on a similar question and/or topic. The two philosophers that I chose for my History Paper were Latin American philosopher Enrique Dussel and the American philosopher John Dewey. As I began work on this project, I quickly realized that it was not so easy to find relevant secondary literature on what I thought to be an extremely rich and [End Page 121] exciting topic. Yet, despite this setback, I remained convinced (and still am) that Dewey's notion of "reconstruction" and Dussel's notion of "trans-formation" not only share similar insights, but they also complement each other in very interesting and productive ways.
I have chosen to begin this review of Gregory Pappas's latest book, Pragmatism in the Americas, by briefly recounting my History Paper writing experience because I wanted to highlight two important things. First, I wanted to give some sense—at least to those who might not be as familiar with this literature—of the apparent similarity or at least the possible compatibility between the projects of many Latin American philosophers and (North) American philosophers. Second, I wanted to emphasize the lack of philosophical literature that attempts to puts these two "American" philosophical traditions in conversation with each other. In this respect, it is very difficult to overstate the service Pappas's latest collection of essays provides the discipline of philosophy. The overarching theme that drives and unites Pappas's collection validates not only the intuition that originally motivated my own project, but also the intuition that has motivated the projects of many other Latino/a philosophers who practice their craft in the United States. The theme of this collection, as Pappas himself put it, is that: "There is no deep rift between these two philosophical traditions; instead, there is a real affinity between the central questions of American pragmatism and the topics and problems addressed by many Hispanic thinkers" (Pappas 1-2).
Outline of the Volume
The volume itself is divided into three parts. Part 1 is entitled "The Reception of the Classical American Pragmatists in the Hispanic World." In this section, the essays aim to provide a biographical and historical account of the relationship between American pragmatism and Hispanic philosophers (i.e., philosophers from both Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula). Of the three parts of this volume, I have to say that I found the essays in this part to be the least compelling.
My lack of enthusiasm for the essays in this part of the book can be attributed largely to the one-sided nature of their presentation. Of the four essays, for example, three of them functioned as eulogies to the influence of John Dewey and his work in Spain, the whole of Latin America, and the American Southwest. This is not in itself a bad thing. I can see how these essays might be of interest to Dewey scholars who are mainly interested in finding the extent of the impact Dewey's work has had (and in this respect [End Page 122] Anón Donoso's essay, "John Dewey in Spain and in Spanish America," is not a bad piece to look at). My worry is that as actual historical tracings of philosophical ideas between American pragmatists and Hispanic philosophers, these essays perpetuate rather than challenge the colonialist mentality. In these essays it always seems to be North American white men who are brining their ideas to bear on the problems of the Hispanic world (even when it is through the proxy of their Mexican students, as Ruben Flores writes in "John Dewey and the Legacy of Mexican Pragmatism in the United States"). This is not an equal exchange, as was originally advertised, and I am not convinced that these exchanges were as one-sided as these essays seem to...