Latin American Thought

Philosophical Problems and Arguments

Susanna Nuccetelli

First Edition • December 1, 2001 • 292 pages

Print ISBN: 9780813365534 • $45.00 USD$48.50 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780786742585 • $29.99 USD$34.99 CAN

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Many of the philosophical questions raised in Latin America may seem to be among the perennial problems that have concerned philosophers at different times and in different places throughout the Western tradition, but they are not altogether the same—for Latin American thinkers have often adapted them to capture problems presented by new circumstances, and sought resolutions with arguments that are indeed novel. This book explains how well-established philosophical traditions gave rise in the New World to a characteristic form of thought not to be found in other cultures. There was no clean sweep of the past and an attempt to start over: rather, Latin American thinkers gradually adapted European ideas to their needs, sometimes borrowing on a larger scale, sometimes less. It is then no surprise that, under Iberian rule, Scholasticism became the accepted view and began to lose its grip only when the rulers did. But what does seem surprising is the radical way in which those traditions were on occasions challenged, as illustrated by the cases of José de Acosta, a Jesuit priest in Peru, and the Mexican nun, Juana Inés de la Cruz–each of whom spoke out against certain aspects of the official philosophy in colonial society. And when theories familiar elsewhere arrived to Latin America, as in the cases of positivism and Marxism, they were often seen differently in the light of new circumstances. But above all, this book shows that there is a body of interesting philosophical arguments offered by Latin Americans concerning problems that have arisen in Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking parts of the New World. In connection with this purpose, it examines how Latin Americans have thought about philosophical issues belonging to metaphysics, philosophy of science, cross-cultural psychology, feminist epistemology, ethics, and social and political philosophy. These are taken up in due course, paying special attention to questions of rationality, gender discrimination, justice, human rights, reparation for historically dispossessed native peoples, and relativism vs. universalism—all matters of continuing concern in Latin American thought, from its earliest stirrings to the present day. And among some specific issues that have generated heated controversies from the early twentieth century to the present, the book explores how Latin Americans and their descendants abroad think of their own cultural identity, examines their critique of US mass-culture and moral philosophy, and considers at some length the vexing problem of which name, if any, is the correct one to use to refer to all of this exceedingly diverse ethnic group. A closer look at the defining elements of Latin American identity has often led to questions concerning the characteristic features that might distinguish Latin Americans and their descendants abroad from other peoples of the world, the existence of a typically Latin American philosophy, and the correct name to refer to them. These, often conflated in the literature, are treated separately by the author, who favors a historically-based account of Latin-American identity. She also argues that the existence of a characteristically Latin American philosophy can be shown–though not by appealing to some standard but implausible reasons. And to resolve the question concerning a correct ethnic-group name, she proposes a new approach to the semantics of those names.

Susana Nuccetelli is assistant professor of philosophy at St. Cloud State University.

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“…[a] long-needed book.”
— Choice

”A useful survey of ideas… Susana Nuccetelli attempts to make sense of a rowdy intellectual tradition.”
— Ilan Stavans, Amherst College

”Nuccetelli’s book is the first successful attempt at presenting Latin American thought in a philosophical manner that is accessible to undergraduates. This splendid work is written with clarity and precision and should become an indispensable tool in teaching Latin American thought for the foreseeable future.
— Jorge J. Gracia, State University of New York at Buffalo

”This book is timely and provocative. From the Mayans to Rodo, Nuccetelli, is able to evaluate Latin American thought regarding some important philosophical issues without neglecting historical context. She tackles difficult issues in trying to bring forth and validate the thought of many who have been unjustifiably neglected in the history of philosophy. This is necessary reading for anyone for whom Latin American thought is important, including students, philosophers, historians, and sociologists.
— Gregory Fernando Pappas, Texas A&M University

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