Latin American Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: Man, Values, and the Search for Philosophical Identity

Latin American Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: Man, Values, and the Search for Philosophical Identity

Latin American Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: Man, Values, and the Search for Philosophical Identity

Latin American Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: Man, Values, and the Search for Philosophical Identity

Excerpt

Major trends in contemporary Latin American philosophy emerged from the reaction against positivism.

Excepting scholasticism, positivism is the most widespread and deeply rooted philosophical movement in Latin America. The depth of its impact was due to historical factors: it arrived at the proper time and it addressed the needs of that age. This positive philosophy, developed by the Frenchman Auguste Comte (1793-1857), attempted to develop a rigorous, systematic understanding of man both as an individual and as a social being. Comte sought to base his understanding on experience and reason and to let it serve as a means for solving social problems. To achieve this objective, he sought to impose upon the study of human affairs the methods, criteria of truth, and conceptual precision that had borne such excellent results in the natural sciences. He coined the term "sociology" to designate the new science of social phenomena and gave special attention to its development. He maintained that the sciences were characterized by an undeniable unity and could be arranged in hierarchical order, according to the degree of matheU+00A matization they would allow, with physics as the fundamental science and sociology the less scientific. Sociology, the newest and most complex of the sciences, required much empirical investigation before its discoveries could be reduced to mathematically formulated laws.

Comte was not moved by a mere desire to know. Knowledge was a servant of action and should lead to the solution of concrete problems. This practical aspect, perhaps, was one of the most captivating for Latin AmeriU+00A cans, who desired to overcome anarchy, eradicate misery and disease, and place their own countries on the path of progress.

This, however, was not the only reason for the wide acceptance that positivism experienced. There were also reasons of a strictly cultural and theoretical nature. Latin America had been nurtured in scholasticism and consequently, the sciences of man were in a deplorable state. Conceptual and terminological vagueness, irresponsible speculation, as well as unfounded and archaic dogmatism were predominant characteristics. Positivism, howU+00A ever, brought principles based on experience and logical rigor, and offered . . .

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