Vol. 18, No. 1 (Spring 2014)
AESTHETICS IN THE LATIN AMERICAN TRADITION
Guest Editors: S. Hugo Moreno & Elizabeth Millán
S. HUGO MORENO & ELIZABETH MILLÁN, Introduction: The Aesthetic Tradition of Hispanic Thought
LOIS PARKINSON ZAMORA, Exuberance by Design: New World Baroque and the Politics of Postcoloniality [abstract]
My essay consists of three parts. In the first section, I review the historical context of Baroque aesthetics as it is developed during the late 16th and 17th centuries in Europe and then I track its development in Latin America into the third quarter of the 18th century. The principled excess of the Baroque, to adapt Cyrano de Bergerac’s formulation cited below, was designed for theological and imperial purposes. Secondly, I address more recent literature and literary theory. Why, in the early 20th century, did Latin American poets, novelists, essayists and critics begin to rediscover, recover and reconstitute Baroque modes of expression? What was it about this Catholic, monarchical, colonizing aesthetic that now seemed suited to postcolonial purposes? I refer to several theorists and writers who pioneered and/or inspired the 20th-century idea of the New World Baroque as a rebellious retort to Europe rather than a passive reflection. My third section considers how to teach the politics of Baroque aesthetics, and why Baroque aesthetics remains relevant today.
MARIO J. VALDÉS, Philosophical Hermeneutics and the Concept of Literary Art in Mexico [abstract]
This essay deals with two poetics of distinctly different traditions that arrived at the same concept of literary art, one in which the reader of, or listener to, a poem shares in the creative process with the poet. The first tradition I will examine is the that of the pre-Hispanic Mexican poets of the Cantares mexicanos and the 20th-century appropriation of their work by two of Mexico’s most distinguished poets, Octavio Paz (1914–1998) and José Emilio Pacheco (1939–2014), both awarded the Premio Cervantes, and Paz, the Nobel Prize. The second part of this essay examines the contemporary Continental tradition of philosophical hermeneutics that began with Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) and Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900–2001) and culminated in the work of Paul Ricoeur (1913–2005). Although Heidegger is now well known among philosophers throughout the world, it should be noted that José Gaos of the National University of Mexico, an exile from Spain, completed the first translation of Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit in 1951, more than a decade before the English and French translations appeared.
AMY A. OLIVER, Context and Kant in the Aesthetics of José Enrique Rodó and Samuel Ramos [abstract]
In the classic essays Ariel (1900) and Filosofía de la vida artística (1950), the Uruguayan José Enrique Rodó (1872–1917) and the Mexican Samuel Ramos (1897–1959) present distinctive and divergent claims about aesthetics. While Rodó asserts the existence of an innate and abundant aesthetic sensibility among Latin Americans, Ramos believes that aesthetic experience is relatively rare and that aesthetic sensibility needs to be cultivated. While historical grounding in the Latin American context is missing in the works of both Rodó and Ramos, Ariel contains an argument for an innate Latin American aesthetic sensibility linked to high moral development along with the hope that Latin America’s youth will use their aesthetic and moral gifts to advance Latin America’s place in the 20th century. In Filosofía de la vida artística, Ramos argues that the aesthetic experience in Mexico is far from innate or even widespread: on the contrary, it is rare and much in need of further development. Kant, referenced by both Rodó and Ramos, in his Critique of Judgment, argues against a relationship between aesthetic sensibility and moral capacity. Rodó, then, is at odds with Kant while Ramos’s view is closer to Kant’s.
DEZSŐ CSEJTEI, Ortega’s Aesthetics: A Dialogue between Spanish Reality and European Aesthetic Currents [abstract]
Ortega’s philosophy can be conceived as a permanent dialogue between contemporary European spiritual currents and Spanish reality. The following paper tries to justify this statement in the field of aesthetics. We examine the main intellectual periods of Ortega’s oeuvre from this point of view, beginning with neo-Kantianism, moving to his encounter with phenomenology and life-philosophies, adding a touch of existentialist thinking and, finally, reaching the balance of a hermeneutical life-philosophy in his books on Velázquez and Goya.
OMAR RIVERA, Mariátegui’s Avant-Garde and Surrealism as Discipline [abstract]
This essay explains Mariátegui’s critical relationship with Breton in terms of his views on Surrealism. In order to understand this relationship, this essay engages in an analysis of (i) Mariátegui’s notion of the avant-garde as a synthesis of aesthetics and politics and of (ii) the positioning of Mariátegui’s avant-garde in relation to post First World War European bourgeoisie and fascism. This interpretation of Mariátegui’s reveals a determination of Surrealism as discipline that preserves this movement’s revolutionary task in different geo-historical sites. With attention to the difficult, non-systematic character of Mariátegui’s writings, this essay also provides a series of concepts that could assist further interpretations of Mariátegui’s aesthetics and politics.
ALEJANDRO A. VALLEGA, Exodio / Exordium: For an Aesthetics of Liberation out of Latin American Experience [abstract]
This article identifies temporality as a constructed and elemental level of aesthetic experience, and exposes the elemental role of such aesthetic experience in the unfolding of contemporary Latin American liberatory thought. This particularly with regard to the sense of temporality that underlies the unfolding of the development of modernity, a development that occurs throughout the colonization of the Americas in the construction of a rational European ego cogito and its “other.” Temporality in the westernizing linear sense figures a projective horizon for the perception and understanding of existence and its coming. The key aim and meaning of all existence under this linear temporality is order and progress. However, ultimately in looking at Latin American thought and experience one finds a distinct sense of history and temporality beyond the possible determination of that sustaining westernizing European thought. In the recognition of distinct temporalities space-times open for re-thinking modernity (understood at large now with the inclusion of distinct Latin American experience and thought) and the accompanying senses of humanity, life, freedom, and philosophical thought’s issues and ways of articulating beings.
MARTINE BÉLAND, Nietzsche’s Greek Ethics: His Early Ethical Symptomatology Reconstructed [abstract]
This paper seeks to circumscribe the concepts, sources, and limits of Nietzsche’s early ethical thought through a reconstruction of his ethical “symptomatology.” In the 1870s, Nietzsche stressed that the Greeks understood the true nature of the political phenomenon, and that this could correct fundamental errors that were responsible for the illness of German culture. His definition of the Greek ethos radically challenges modern democratic politics through a reassertion of aristocratic, heroic, and agonistic values. But be-cause Nietzsche did not systematically describe his early ethics, a reconstruction is necessary. His metaphor of the philosopher as a “physician of culture” is a guide for this reconstruction. Using concepts of wellness and illness, Nietzsche identified different symptoms and possible remedies, and hoped to cure German culture through a therapeutic transvaluation of modernity. To reconstruct this symptomatology I turn to The Greek State, Homer’s Contest, and The Birth of Tragedy. First, I define the notions of “agon” and “eris” that are central to his reading of Greek ethics. I then describe four ethical symptoms and their remedies. I conclude with interpretative hypotheses that address issues that were left unanswered by Nietzsche. This symptomatology shows that his reading of Greek ethics functions as a radical—albeit fragmentary—normative critique of his time, and of our democratic age.
DEBRA BERGOFFEN, (Un)Gendering Vulnerability: Re-scripting the Meaning of Male-Male Rape [abstract]
The testimonies of men raped by men in Uganda indicate that the meaning of rape as an aggression that enforces the gendering of women as vulnerable and therefore dependent on men’s protection needs to be reformulated to account for the fact that being raped transforms a man into a woman. In describing their humiliation, these men reveal that gendered masculinity is grounded in a flight from vulnerability that depends on the presence of vulnerable/rapeable victim bodies. Their words teach us that as long as men’s illicit identity as autonomous and invulnerable is illegitimately secured by stigmatizing vulnerability, heterosexual and male-male rape will be used to denigrate women and men alike. They indicate that the antidote to the scourge of rape lies in delegitimizing gender systems that victimize vulnerability and in creating cultural norms that recognize vulnerability as inherent in the interdependence and dignity of the human condition.
BRYAN LUECK, Exposition and Obligation: A Serresian Account of Moral Sensitivity [abstract]
In The Troubadour of Knowledge, Michel Serres demonstrates, by means of an extended discussion of learning, that our capacity to adopt a position presupposes a kind of disorienting exposure to a dimension of pure possibility that both subtends and destabilizes that position. In this paper I trace out the implications of this in-sight for our understanding of obligation, especially as it is articulated in the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Specifically, I argue that obligation is given along with a dimension of moral possibility, and not, as Kant thought, as an unmediated fact of reason.
FIONA UTLEY, Considerations Towards a Phenomenology of Trust [abstract]
Merleau-Ponty identifies an intertwined affective state of anxiety and courage, claiming that these are one and the same thing, as a fundamental characteristic of human existence. I argue that trust, understood as phenomenologically basic, is the unity, or the something beyond, the singularly conceived states of anxiety and courage, and that trust itself cannot be conceived apart from these states. Merleau-Ponty says little, directly, about trust in his work, yet his focus on the fundamental precariousness of existence demands such an exploration. I explore how our ordinary day-to-day experience of existence is related to an intertwined affective state of anxiety and courage and how trust is operative in affective depth, in order to understand how it is we come to speak of trust not only in terms of proximity and distance, emotional depth and extension across time, but most markedly, in terms of how we see someone and what it is like to be in relation to them.
KENNETH DORTER, Thought and Expression in Spinoza and Shankara [abstract]
Philosophers from traditions that are not only entirely different but apparently uninfluenced by each other sometimes show remarkable similarities. In the case of Spinoza and Shankara such similarities include the dual-aspect model according to which the apparent pluralism of the world rests on an inadequate perception of its oneness, and the way the overcoming of that inadequacy is conceived as a liberation from the passions and an achievement of immortality. A significant difference between the two, however, is that Spinoza’s explanations are epistemologically conceived while Shankara’s are conceived ontologically. Not that Spinoza lacked an ontology or Shankara an epistemology, but rather their explanatory approaches emphasize the differences of the worlds within which they wrote.
Peter Gratton, Towards a Transcendental Materialism: Johnston’s Attempted Marriage of Recent Neuroscience and Lacanianism