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Hispanic Philosophy: Its Beginning and Golden Age

By Gracia, Jorge J. E. | The Review of Metaphysics, March 1993 | Go to article overview

Hispanic Philosophy: Its Beginning and Golden Age


Gracia, Jorge J. E., The Review of Metaphysics


HISPANIC PHILOSOPHY. The notion of Hispanic philosophy is a useful one for trying to understand certain historical phenomena related to the philosophy developed in the Iberian peninsula, the Iberian colonies in the New World, and the countries that those colonies eventually came to form.(1) It is useful for two reasons. First, it focuses attention on the close relations among the philosophers in these geographical areas; and second, other historical denominations and categorizations do not do justice to such relations. This becomes clear when one examines the standard general categorizations according to which the philosophical thought of the mentioned geographical areas is divided and studied: Spanish philosophy, Portuguese philosophy, Catalan philosophy, Latin American philosophy, Spanish-American philosophy, and Ibero-American philosophy.

The category "Spanish philosophy" usually includes only the philosophy that has taken place in the territory occupied by the modern Spanish state, whether before or after the state was constituted in the fifteenth century as a result of the efforts of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. Thus, most histories of Spanish philosophy discuss the thought of Roman, Islamic, and Jewish philosophers who worked in that territory, as well as of medieval and subsequent authors who did likewise. In some cases, these accounts concentrate on Castillian-speaking philosophers, and at other times they also include those that speak Catalan and Portuguese. They generally ignore, however, the work of Latin American authors and seldom explore the close ties of those authors to philosphers working in the Iberian peninsula.(2) Something similar can be said about other peninsular histories of philosophy, with the added disadvantage that they, like those histories of Spanish philosophy that deal exclusively with Castillian-speaking philosophers, tend to ignore the developments in the Iberian peninsula that take place in linguistic and cultural contexts other than their own.(3) The reasons for these sometimes conscious oversights are rooted in nationalistic feelings dating back to historical conflicts and antagonisms which have little to do with philosophical, historical reality but which nonetheless affect historical accounts of that reality.

New World histories of philosophy concerned with Latin America suffer similar shortcomings, although in this case their neglect concerns the thought of Iberian authors and their close relations with, and impact they have had on, Latin American philosophers.(4) Histories of Latin American or Ibero-American philosophy and thought tend to concentrate on developments in the New World, ignoring the strong relations that tie such developments to the thought from Spanish and Portuguese sources.(5) In the case of histories dealing specifically with Spanish American philosophy, the situation is even worse, insofar as they tend to ignore the Portuguese side of Latin America and the cultural and intellectual ties that relate it to the rest of the area.(6)

General histories of philosophy seldom, if ever, do justice not only to the historical relations between Iberian and Latin American philosophers, but also to the philosophy of Spain, Catalonia, Portugal, and Latin America.(7) Indeed, it is particularly rare to find any reference to Latin American contributions to philosophy.(8) This becomes quite evident when one turns to particular periods of the history of philosophy, such as the period which will especially occupy us: the sixteenth century and part of the seventeenth century. This period is studied under such labels as "Renaissance philosophy," "Counter-Reformation philosophy," "Late Scholasticism," "Late Medieval Philosophy," "Second Scholastic," and "Silver Age of Scholasticism," to mention just the most frequently used. Some historians may want to argue that there is justification for this oversight in some cases. Indeed, one could argue that the impact of the Renaissance in Latin America came too late to be incorporated into a general history of the Renaissance, and also that the vector of influence went only one way, from Europe to Latin America, and not vice versa.

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