New Philosophy

Latin American Philosophy

What have been the major trends in Latin American philosophy?

Many commentators identify four periods in the 500 year history of philosophy in Latin America: colonial, independentist, positivist, and contemporary. Overall, Latin American philosophers have been actively involved in political and social events in their countries; they have not, until very recently, incorporated indigenous world views into their intellectual perspectives.

The colonial period (1550–1750) was characterized by interest in medieval scholastic philosophy, such as the work of Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274) and Francisco Suárez (1548–1617). During this time, Mexico and Peru were important in intellectual life and the influence of Spain dominated. The Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico, founded in 1553, was where Alonso de la Vera Cruz (1504–1584), Tomás de Mercado (1530–1575), and Antonio Rubio (1548–1615) flourished. Antonio Rubio’s Mexican Logic (1605) was a celebrated textbook on Aristotelian logic throughout Europe. Bartolomé de Las Casas’ (1474–1566) In Defense of the Indians is still widely read.

During the independentist philosophical period (1750–1850) intellectual interest was focused on political issues, although European rationalism, empiricism, and ethics were also taken up. The positivist period (1850–1910) embraced European positivism and had local social and political applications. It was assumed by many, after independence, that positivist philosophy, backed up by social science, would usher in “Order and Progress.” Juan Bautista Alberdi (1812–1884), in his Idea (1842), sought to modify European positivism to the specific circumstances of Latin America.


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