As was noted, the philosophy of liberation belongs to the“maturity” stage of the “contemporary” periodof the history of Latin American philosophy (Gracia and Vargas 2013;Gracia 1988–89). As a philosophical movement that engages in thecritical task of recovering what is distinctly “LatinAmerican” thought, it has sought explicitly to unearth andrescue Amerindian thought, in its pre-Colombian and post-Conquestforms, as well as all the different philosophical tendencies andmovements that emerged during the long history of colonialism,independence and projects of national formation. It is for this reasonthat the philosophy of liberation has as one of its goals a criticalhistoriography of Latin American thought, specifically, and philosophytout court, in general. Figures such as Enrique Dussel,Rodolfo Kusch, Arturo Roig, and Leopoldo Zea have articulated theirversions of the philosophy of liberation in terms of a recovery ofearlier stages in the formulation of a project of Latin Americanliberation. Yet, the philosophy of liberation as a self-consciousmovement and current, emerged out of a very distinct convergence ofgeo-historical, cultural, intellectual and philosophical tendencies,conflicts and processes.
1.1 The Long History
The philosophy of liberation, arguably, began in the late sixties whenLeopoldo Zea and Augusto Salazar Bondy launched a debate with thequestion: “Is there a Latin American philosophy?” Whetherthe answer was affirmative or negative did not affect the fact thatthe movement would have to embark on the long path of the recovery ofLatin American philosophy, at the very least in order to identifythose moments of originality and authentically autochthonous LatinAmerican thinking. It is for this reason that some philosophersliberation have argued that there are at least three antecedenthistorical stages that serve as the geological subsoil of liberationphilosophy. Following Dussel, they could be sketched as follows(Dussel 2005: 374–5):
First Period. This is the period of the beginning of thecritique of the conquest and the development of a discourse thatengages Amerindian thought. An important inaugural date is 1511 whenAntón de Montesinos critiques the way evangelization is takingplace in the Americas. This is the period when a distinct continentalawareness of the injustice that is being committed against theindigenous populations of the so-called New World emerges. The debatebetween Ginés de Sepúlveda and Fray Bartolomé delas Casas at Valladolid in 1550 marks the clear emergence of aliberation discourse and consciousness. In this debateSepúlveda articulated a moment in the emergent imperial andcolonizing modern consciousness of Europe when he argued thatAmerindians were naturally born slaves and that therefore they were tobe subjugated. Sepúlveda questioned the humanity of Amerindians(Dussel 2007, 2007a; Ruiz Sotelo 2010). In contrast, de las Casasaffirmed the rational humanity of Amerindians, while acknowledgingtheir distinctiveness. In fact, de las Casas affirms their rationalityand treats appeals to their reason as a theological and evangelicalnorm. The only true way for evangelization is the path ofrational deliberation and not violent religious usurpation andimposition.
Second Period. This epoch is defined by the process of whatmight be called the first emancipation, from 1750 until the end of thenineteenth century. Defining figures are Benito Diaz de Gamarra, whopublished in 1774 his Elementa Recientioris Philosophiae,Carlos de Singüenza y Góngora, and Francisco XavierClavigero, who articulated an anti-colonial and anti-absolutistpolitical philosophy that launched a critique of the Spanish monarchy.Some of the notable figures of this epoch include Fray Servando Teresade Mier (1763–1827), Manuel M. Moreno (in La Plata, what wouldbecome Argentina, 1778–1811), Simón Rodríguez (inVenezuela, 1751–1854), Simón Bolivar (1783–1830),Francisco de Miranda (1750–1816), Juan Germán Roscio(1763–1821). In the eighteenth century, these thinkers and manyother “patriotras” articulated a politicaldiscourse of emancipation from the Spanish crown. They called forcontinental independence, as well as the development of a distinct“American” identity. Because of her blend of poetry,theological speculation, praise of Amerindian traditions, and nascentfeminist awareness, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651–1695)shouldalso be considered a contributor to this first discourseof emancipation and should be included among the figures that definethis epoch.
Third Period.This epoch could characterized as a secondmoment of emancipation, beginning at the end of the nineteen centuryand being bookended with the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Definingfigures are José Carlos Mariátegui (1894–1930),whose book Siete ensayos sobre la realidad peruana (SevenInterpretative Essays on Peruvian Reality) (1968) gave expression to anew emancipation agenda that is explicitly elaborated in terms of adual approach that is attentive to the historical reality of theAmericas, with its indigenous and criollo backgrounds. Itlaunched a critical appropriation of European ideas in the“Latin American” context. This epoch is defined by thecrises of both development efforts and populisms that were inattentiveto the severe racial, ethnic, and class divisions within the LatinAmerican nations. It is against this context that Augusto SalazarBondy (1925–1974) and Leopoldo Zea (1912–2004) began todebate the question whether there is a Latin American philosophy. Thisthird period is defined by the explicit consciousness of economic,political, social, and cultural dependence, under-development, anddomination (Vallega 2014). It is in this period that the need of adiscourse of liberation begins to be explicitly articulated.
1.2 The Immediate History
This section discusses the broader social and intellectual context ofthe third period indicated above, from which an explicit and nuancedphilosophy of liberation would emerge.
An important part of the origin of the philosophy of liberation as anautochthonous philosophical movement was rooted in the question of adistinct or authentic Latin American philosophy. The problem of adistinct Latin American philosophy has been in gestation at leastsince the late nineteen century, when the so-called “generationof patriarchs” began to ask about a philosophy or thinking fromand for the “Americas” (Beorlegui 2004). This problem tooka distinct shape when Salazar Bondy (1968) re-framed it in terms ofthe question as to the actual existence of a Latin Americanphilosophy. Using existentialist and Marxist categories, Salazar Bondygave a negative answer. There is no authentic Latin Americanphilosophy because the sub-continent has lived and developed underconditions of mental colonialism, intellectual subordination, andphilosophical dependence. In order to achieve an authentic LatinAmerican philosophy, Salazar Bondy maintained, the sub-continent hadto achieve its independence and establish its autonomy andself-determination. These thoughts, and Zea’s subsequentresponse (1969), set the agenda for a generation. The philosophy ofliberation , so explicitly christened, it could be argued, has gonethrough at least the following three stages: constitution andmaturation, persecution and exile, challenges and debates (Dussel2005; Beorlegui 2004; Cerutti Guldberg 1983 ).
Constitution and Maturation (1969–1975). The philosophyof liberation was explicitly labeled as such at the Second ArgentineNational Congress of Philosophy, which was held in Cordoba in 1971(Dussel 2017). The inaugurating group was conformed by OsvaldoArdiles, Alberto Parisini, Juan Carlos Scannone, Julio de Zan, andAnibal Fornari. But this group took a more formal shape at thejornadas (week long working seminars) of philosophy that wereorganized at the Jesuit University, Universidad of San Salvador (wherePope Francis was educated), in San Miguel, in the outskirts of BuenosAires, Argentina. The first jornada took place in 1971, and asecond was held later the same year with the title “LatinAmerican Liberation”. A third jornada was held in 1973,at which Salazar Bondy gave a paper titled “Filosofía dela dominacion y filosofía de la liberación (Philosophyof Domination and Philosophy of Liberation” (1973), and LeopoldoZea gave a paper titled “La filosofía latinoamericanacomo filosofía de la liberación (Latin AmericanPhilosophy as a Philosophy of Liberation)” (1973). Thisstage comes to a close in 1975 with the First Mexican NationalCongress of Philosophy in Morelia, Mexico, with papers by Dussel,Miró Quesada, Arturo Roig, and Abelardo Villegas. This was animportant meeting because it signaled the launching of the philosophyliberation as a Latin American philosophical agenda that supersedesits initial Argentine formulations. A new group of philosophers fromacross Latin America entered into the debate: Hugo Assmann, CarlosBazán, Arturo Roig,
In 1974 the journal Revista de FilosofíaLatinoamericana begins to be edited and published in BuenosAires, and goes on to become a major publishing venue for philosophersof liberation, along with Stromata, published at theUniversity of El Salvador, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in which manyof the inaugural essays and quasi-manifestos of the movement werepublished.
Persecution and Exile (1975–1983). Following themilitary lead coup d’état against María EstelaMartínez Perón in March of 1976, there began a periodcalled the “dirty war,” which was in fact a form of“state terrorism,” that included the persecution andassassination of philosophers affiliated with the nascent movement ofthe philosophy of liberation. Due to their persecution, many went intoexile, moving to Canada, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela. One ofthe consequences of this persecution was that hitherto Argentineproject of a Latin American philosophy of liberation was brought toother parts of Latin America, making it into a continental project.However, the Latin American dictatorships of the sixties and the ColdWar in general, had directly influenced internal debates about the“who” of Latin American philosophy, and consequently hadpolarizing and decisive effects for how liberation was understood. Therole of populism and nationalism in defining the task of philosophybecame a litmus test. In 1980, the AFYL (Asociación Filosofia yLiberación [Philosophy and Liberation Association]), wasestablished in Bogotá, Colombia, and it become a major vehiclefor organizing congresses, round tables, and sessions at internationalphilosophy congresses.
Challenges and Debates (1983 to today). With the transitionto democracy and the collapse or defeat of the military dictatorshipsin Latin America there began a new stage in the normalization andmaturation of liberation philosophy. Horacio Cerutti Guldberg’sFilosofía de la liberación latinoamericana(Philosophy of Latin American Liberation) (2006) offered themost comprehensive historical and critical reconstruction of themovement. In 1988–89, Jorge J.E. Gracia edited a special issueon “Latin American Philosophy”, with a long essay byCerutti Guldberg in which a synoptic overview of the movement ispresented. In 1993, Ofelia Schutte published her Cultural Identityand Social Liberation in Latin American Thought in which acritical confrontation with some key theses of liberation philosophyis developed. These substantive texts signaled the maturity andgeneral coherence of the philosophy of liberation, at the very leastas it was perceived by its critics. These works called forre-articulations and reformulations that made explicit the innertensions and divisions within the group of thinkers that had firstgiven voice to this new current and method of doing philosophy inLatin America.
These differences and divergences have become increasingly pronounced.It may now no longer be possible to speak of a “philosophy ofliberation”, in the singular. Instead, it may be moreappropriate to speak of “philosophies ofliberation”, in the plural, where what is shared is a set ofoverlapping themes among the distinct accounts of what are thesituations and conditions from which liberation is to be sought, anddifferent philosophical methods and traditions used to articulatethose accounts . To be sure, there remains a substantive core thatholds together the constellation of the philosophy of liberation nowin the middle of its fourth decade of existence. Widely sharedcharacteristics of the various philosophies of liberation include thefollowing:
- An indisputable point of departure for all philosophers liberationis the consciousness of the economic, social, political and culturaldependence of Latin America on Europe and the United States.
- The general affirmation that “philosophy” has to bepracticed from a specific context of both engagement and commitmentwithin the distinct Latin American historical and geopoliticalsituation. The claim is that implicitly or explicitly allphilosophizing is always a form of commitment with an existentialsituation. All philosophers of liberation share the conviction that aphilosophy that is worthy of that name is a tool or means ofenlightenment, a theoretical elaboration at the service of apraxis of liberation. The philosophy of liberation is thetwin of a practice of emancipation.
- All philosophizing is done out of a concrete historical situation.Yet, this “concrete historical” situation has receiveddifferent formulations, which define the different currents within thephilosophy of liberation (see section 3, below). For now, we can note that the “point ofdeparture” can be a people, nation, or autochthonous culture; itcan refer to a class or economic group understood along Marxist lines;it can include a cultural, historical, existential project thatmanifests itself in terms of a historical formation or agent.
- As a critique of putatively colonized thinking and dependentphilosophy, the philosophy of liberation is a metaphilosophy. For thisreason, issues of method are integral to its philosophical agenda. Intandem with the different “points of departure” forphilosophy that is authentically grounded, different liberationphilosophers argue on behalf of the virtues of one or anotherphilosophical method or current. Thus, we find some philosophers ofliberation who are “indigenistas”, some who at one time oranother were Ricoeuerian, Heideggerian, Levinasian; others who wereDiltheyan, Gadamerian, and Gaosian and/or Ortegian, and some who wereMarxists. The philosophy of liberation, which is critical of Europeanphilosophy, is so from within, immanently, even when some of itsrepresentatives argue from some “analectical” standpoint,or standpoint of metaphysical “exteriority” to imperialand totalizing thought. It is thus not surprising that philosophy“companions” or handbooks to Existentialism,Phenomenology, Marxism, or to figures such as Martin Heidegger, KarlMarx, Emmanuel Levinas, include entries on “philosophy ofliberation”, or some of its most representative figures.
- Inasmuch at it is defined by the word “liberation”,all philosophy of liberation is entangled with the project ofsketching an utopia and identifying the “subject” of theconstruction of such an utopia. The utopia of liberation entailseither recognizing the suppressed historical subject, or forging a newone. This liberation or emancipating subject couldbe“el pueblo”, or the proletarian class, orthe popular sectors, made up by the “pueblo” nowunderstood as the destitute and exploited of the nation. For others,as we will see, this subject is constituted by the nation as it isembodied in its popular sector. That sector is not understood simplyin terms of class or even cultural identity, but in terms of ananti-colonial attitude aimed at national sovereignty.
These general and shared characteristics, problems and themes could besummarized in three observations about the coherence and unity of thephilosophy of liberation.. First, there is a general agreement thatLatin American philosophy must be a philosophy of liberation that aimsat overcoming dependence, domination and subordination. Second, thereis ample disagreement as to the who, what, or how, is this project ofliberation to be undertaken. Third, there is also ample disagreementas to the “content” or final goal of liberation. In short,the philosophy of liberation is defined by what many would argue isintegral to all philosophy as such, namely questioning the generalindividual existential situation of alienation, the correspondingproject of liberation, and what the utopia of achieved liberationcould and would look like. Philosophers of liberation argue,nevertheless, that this questioning takes on a universal characteronly and precisely because it is taken up from within a specific andunique existential, historical, and geo-political situation.
Like all philosophical movements and traditions, the philosophy ofliberation emerged out of both world historical and regionalsocio-historical contexts. In terms of the world historicalbackground, World War II, and in particular the disclosures about thegenocide of the Jews, the Cold War, and the South East Asian wars,created a world historical stage in which Europe and its intellectualand moral traditions stood discredited. Whereas before, all thingsEuropean were regarded as the standard against which everything wouldhave to be measured, Europe had become suspect. Latin Americans had tolook elsewhere for inspiration and intellectual guidance.
The regional socio-historical situation was framed, on the one side,by the Cuban revolution, and the numerous military dictatorshipsthroughout the Latin American subcontinent, on the other, that tookplace as a consequence of the Cold War and the failures of economicdevelopment in Latin America. The Cuban revolution, however, had aprofound impact in the socio-political-cultural imagination throughoutLatin America. In the iconic image of Che Guevara (1928–1967),the revolution promise a transformation of the Latin American humanbeing—el nuevo hombre—as it also raised thepossibility of political sovereignty for Latin American nations. Thedecade of the sixties in Latin American was a time of politicalturmoil, but above all of cultural renewal and utopian yearning.
The philosophy of liberation, however, was above all an intellectualand philosophical response and unquestionably synthesis of a series ofintellectual and cultural movements that had been gestating for adecade throughout Latin America. The cultural context was so ripe withproclamations and thinking about “liberation” that if thephilosophy of liberation had not been so named in the late sixties andearly seventies, today we would have wondered whether philosophers hadbeen abducted from this world and sequestered in some time capsule.The philosophy of liberation was both necessary and inevitable.
Drawing on the work of Carlos Beorlegui, a historian of Latin Americanphilosophy, we can say that there are some identifiable“matrixes”, or intellectual sources, from which liberationphilosophy emerged (Beorlegui 2004: 677–690). Here, they will be characterized as follows.
The Economic Matrix: The Theory of Dependence. After the endof World War II, the United States undertook to finance the“development” of Latin America on the model ofindustrialized and capitalist nations. This is what the Alliance forProgress (1961–1973) aimed to do this by granting loans thatwould help economically underdeveloped nations to ascend the ladder ofeconomic development. This program was guided by the economic theorycalled “desarrollismo” ordevelopmentalism. Yet, Latin American nations continue to lagbehind both socially and economically.
It is in the face of this failure that a series of economists began todevelop “dependency theory”, or the “theory of thedevelopment of underdevelopment”, among who were: Theothonio dosSantos, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Enzo Falleto, Celso Furtado, andAnibal Quijano. The core of this theory was that the underdevelopmentof the Latin American nation was not due to endogenous factors, butrather was a direct consequence of economic dependence on Europe andthe United States. The model of development that reigned during thefifties and sixties, according to these theorists, had a doubleperverse effect: greater capital accumulation in the metropolises andlending nations, and greater indebtedness and impoverishment in theso-called underdeveloped nations. The economic underdevelopment ofLatin America was now to be understood in terms of an economic theorythat showed that underdevelopment is not a prior stage in the naturaleconomic development of nations, but rather an integral dimension ofthe international economic order created by colonialism, imperialism,and neo-imperialism.
The Religious Matrix: The Theology of Liberation. Theemergence of Liberation Theology has been amply documented and studiedin the specialized literature. Yet, liberation theology is as much aphenomenon of global Catholicism as it is a unique Latin Americandevelopment. The reforms began with Vatican II (1962–1965) andthe Second Latin American Bishops congregation in Medellín,Colombia (1968), created the church context for the consolidation ofwhat was in effect a social movement, namely the“communidades de base” (base communities). Thetheology of liberation developed in response to a new understanding ofthe church’s relationship to the “people” and therole of the faith in a world of incredible poverty and socialinequality.
The theology of liberation forged a whole new language: the“preferential option for the poor”, the “undersideof history”, “the church of the people”,“orthopraxis is prior to orthodoxy” that influenced somephilosophers of liberation. Still, two of the most importantcontributions of the theology of liberation to the philosophy ofliberation were the imperative that critical reflection had to emergeout of committed praxis, and the problematization of theconcept of “el pueblo”. The theology ofliberation may be understood as theological reflection on whatconstituted a people, a community of faith. In short, theology ofliberation asks: who is the subject of God’s soteriology. Mostnoteworthy is that Gustavo Gutierrez published his Teologíade la liberación. Perspectivas (A Theology of Liberation)in 1971 in Peru, while Hugo Assmann published hisOpresión-Liberación: desafío a loscristianos (Oppression-Liberation: Challenge toChristians) the same year in Chile. The Catholic Church alsoprovided an institutional framework within which some of the work ofphilosophers of liberation could be pursued by hosting“jornadas”, sponsoring congresses, and providingteaching opportunities in its affiliated universities for philosophersof liberation, many who had been expelled from publicuniversities.
The Educational Matrix: The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. In1970, after nearly two decades of literacy work in the Brazilianfavelas and poor sectors of Brazil, Paulo Freire publishedhis paradigm shifting text Pedagogia del oprimido(Pedagogy of the Oppressed) (1970), which was followed in1972 by his Education for the Praxis of Liberation. At thecore of Freire’s work were three key ideas: if the people are toovercome their dependence, they can only do so through their ownagency, by becoming the subject of their own liberation; to become asubject of one’s own liberation means to engage in a process ofconscientização, or consciousness raising, thattakes place through a pedagogy that rejects the notion of the learneras a passive receptacle and instead departs from the fundamentalrealization that learning is a dynamic process. Two key notions ofFreire’s pedagogy of liberation were that (1) teaching requireslistening to the people, and (2) schooling means life, that is,learning is both indispensable to life and it takes place in the midstof living. Freire’s key phrase“conscientização” goes on to beappropriated by liberation philosophers as their own goal: philosophyis at the service of the raising of both individual and collectiveconsciousness.
The Literary-Artistic Matrix: The Boom and the Muralists. Itis often forgotten that the sixties were the time of the LatinAmerican literary Boom. This is the decade when José M.Arguedas, Julio Cortázar, Carlos Fuentes, GabrielGarcía-Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Octavio Paz, JuanRulfo, Ernesto Sábato published their major works. During thisdecade there also emerged a genre that gave expression to the heavyconsciousness of dependence and the spirit of rebellion and quest foremancipation, namely the Novelas de Guerrilla; among whichare Julio de la Vega’s Matías, el apóstolsuplente (1971, Jesús Lara’sÑaucahuazú, Sueños (1969, Renato PradaOropeza’s, Los fundadores del alba (1969), Gaby Vallejode Bolívar’s Los Vulnerables (1973, Oscar UzinFernández’s, La oscuridad radiante (1976). Justas these writers demonstrated how a distinct Latin American literarytradition could be forged, the muralists demonstrated how standards ofartistic beauty that celebrated proudly the aesthetic sensibility andcreativity of the continent. The estética indigenista(indigeneous aesthetics) celebrates by muralists like DiegoOrozco, Rivera, Siqueiros, and painters like Frida Kahlo, created anew iconic representation of the Latin American people that moreecumenically reflected the continent’s mestizaje, orracial mixing and hybridity.
The Sociological Matrix: The Sociology of Liberation. Thefifties and sixties, as was already noted, were decades of tremendoussocial-economic-political turmoil throughout Latin America. LatinAmerican industrialization went in tandem with massive urbanizationand de-ruralization. Extensive migrations from the countryside to thecities gave rise to the shantytowns that are so distinctly visible inmost Latin American metropolises. Sociologist began to address theunique challenges of de-ruralization and urbanization. In Colombia,sociologist Orlando Fals Borda, who worked with Colombian peasants,began to develop what he called a “sociology ofliberation” that meant to address the very unique situation ofthe urban and rural poor in contexts in which the state was nearlyabsent. Fals Borda studied in particular the ways in which the poorcreated their own institutions and norms of social interaction.Combined with the theory of dependence, the sociology of liberation,created an interdisciplinary matrix that sought to address theconditions of systemic inequity, while raising the norm that peoplecould be the agents of their own liberation.
It is clear that both dependence and liberation were in the lips ofeconomists, sociologists, theologians, and writers. The philosophy ofliberation gave expression in concepts what was a lived local andglobally interlinked experience.
Like existentialism, hermeneutics, phenomenology, andpoststructuralism, the philosophy of liberation was never ahomogeneous or monolithic movement. From its inception the philosophyof liberation was marked by internal tensions, which over time havebecome more intense, but that have also led to philosophicaldevelopments that have taken the original theses to new levels ofrefinement and theoretical elaboration. Cerutti Guldberg, who haswritten the most substantive and comprehensive study of liberationphilosophy, has offered a typology of the internal currents that namesfour different currents (Cerutti Guldberg 1983, 1988–9, 2006).Beorlegui, writing more recently, argues that there are in fact sixcurrents, though he accepts Cerutti Guldberg’s four as being thecore and originating current (Beorlegui 2004: 695–727). Thesefour currents will now be discussed sequentially.
3.1 The Ontologicist
This current is generally associated with Mario Casalla, CarlosCullen, Gunther Rodolfo Kush, and Amelia Podetti. According to thesethinkers, a Latin American philosophy of liberation has to begin fromthe ontological situation of the American people, which has a distinctrelationship to being. This distinct relationship to being isexpressed in the two forms of the verb “to be” in Spanish:ser (to be) and estar (to be in). Authentic LatinAmerican philosophy begins from the estar of the Americanpeople in its own being. At the same time, everything that is eitherEuropean or North American has to be rejected as manifestations of aphilosophy of oppression and philosophical hegemony. This newphilosophy that breaks with the past and everything that is allegedlyforeign must break with the “ontological dependence” thathas been suffered by Latin American in different ways. This currentrejects as much European liberalism, as a form of abstractindividualism, and Marxism, as a form of economic and inorganiccollectivism. It calls for a form of populism that is neithernationalistic nor class oriented. Instead, “elpueblo” is considered as an ontological entity, a communityof fate, and organic unity that is a pure manifestation of a being-inthat assumes distinct cultural characteristics. This“pueblo” is not the nation, but the Americanmestizo and Amerindian. It is for this reason that CeruttiGuldberg also refers to this current as a manifestation of“anti-historicist populism” (Cerutti Guldberg1988–9: 46).
3.2 The Analectical
This current is associated with Enrique Dussel and Juan CarlosScannone. Like the ontologicist, the analectical also presents itselfas a critique of both Eurocentrism and North American neo-colonialism.It presents itself as a critique of modernity, conceived as a colonialand imperial ideology that has “encubierto” orconcealed what is distinctly Latin American. More generally, however,the analectical current articulates itself as a metaphysical critiqueof the thinking of the totality, of all that is thought in terms ofbeing, the whole that is postulated as the true. At the same time, italso argues that philosophy must “depart” or“locate” itself with reference to both a subject andobject of philosophizing. This subject and object is also“el pueblo”, or the people.
In contrast to the ontologicist position, however, the people is notunderstood ontologically, but metaphysically, or more preciselyanalectically, (derived from “ana” or beyond, incontrast to “dia” or through and between). Thisstrand of the philosophy of liberation aims to overhaul all ofphilosophy by subsuming all Western philosophy under the logic of thethinking of ontology and the dialectical totality that is alwaysself-referential, from Aristotle and Plato, to Hegel, Marx andHabermas.
For philosophers in the analectical current, the authentic people iswhat is always outside the totality. Its form of being cannot bedetermined once and for all. It is at a given time, as it givesexpression to its quest for justice that has left its own legacy andmemory of struggle. However, its continuing quest for justice and theredress of past sufferings remain undetermined and unaccounted for. Iffor the ontologicist current the role of the philosopher is to guidethe people to recognize its own deep and unsuspected wisdom, for theanalectical philosopher the role of philosopher is one that is focusedon being attentive to the clamoring, or “interpellations”,of the people, so that he or she can give voice to their cry forjustice. That said, it must also be noted that both Dussel andScannone have moved beyond many of these ideas, as they were firstformulated in the early seventies (Dussel 1998, 2007; Scannone 1990).To this extent the analectical denomination may be alreadyanachronistic. While Scannone, remaining faithful to his Levinasianphilosophical commitments, has turned towards the development of“inter-cultural philosophy”, Dussel’s criticalengagement with Karl-Otto Apel and Jürgen Habermas has led him todevelop a more dialectical philosophy of liberation, one which hasmade the linguistic and pragmatic turn (Vallega 2014). Furthermore, indialogue with Walter Mignolo and Santiago Castro-Gómez, Dusselhas been arguing that the philosophy of liberation contributed and ispart of the “decolonial turn” in Latin American philosophy(see Castro-Gómez, 2011; Dussel 2015; Mignolo, 2011; Mignol andWalsh 2018; Moraña, Dussel, Jáuregi, eds. 2008; Allenand Mendieta, forthcoming).
3.3 The Historicist
This current is associated with the work of Horacio Cerutti Guldberg,Arturo Roig, Arturo Ardao, and Leopoldo Zea. Like the“problematizing” current (see below), it presents itselfas a critique of the two prior tendencies. These thinkers argue thatit is neither possible nor desirable to set out from some absoluteunsoiled and authentic point of departure. Instead, they argue that weare always already immersed in a history of ideas, and the task isthus to think the experience of Latin America from out its distincthistory as it has been already thought. Indeed, a lot of the work thethinkers in this current have done is to engage in a rigorousreconstruction of the history of ideas in Latin America, to see theiremergence out of unique process of social transformation, and theircontinued dialogue and confrontation across the decades and centuries.This history of ideas in Latin America has also been presented as partof the project of political emancipation. It is for this reason thatthe historical antecedents of Latin American philosophy cannot bedismissed, for they are also part of a history of the forging ofpolitical freedom in the subcontinent (Zea 1991).
3.4 The Problematicizing
This current is associated with the work of Horacio Cerutti Guldberg,José Severino Croatto, Manuel Ignacio Santos, and GustavoOrtiz. Cerutti Guldberg has also argued that Salazar Body and HugoAssmann ought to be considered as contributing to this current. Forthis group of thinkers, the criteria of philosophy’s efficacy orrelevance cannot be authenticity, or how it relates or departs fromsome “null” point of enunciation that either responds toor is an interpellation of some “macro” subject. For thiscurrent, the question is what could constitute a critical reflection,without fetishes or mystifications, on the demanding crises andchallenges of Latin American social reality. Unlike the ontologizingand the analectical currents, both the historicizing and theproblematicizing reject all ontological or metaphysical attempts tofix “el pueblo” or what is properly “LoAmericano”, (that is, what properly belong to the“Americas”). Philosophy is caught in the river of history,it cannot jump out of, or pretend that a “rupture” withthe past can be executed or proclaimed. For this group of thinkers,the critical issues were twofold. First, how does philosophy respondto a specific set of historical challenges, without falling pray tothe ideological prejudices that condition that presentation of thatvery historical? Second, what is the language that will allow thatphilosophical reflection to remain ever vigilant?
Notwithstanding these substantive and often time irreconcilabledifferences, the philosophy of liberation has been recognized as anextremely important and representative philosophical movement thatsynthesized and responded to distinctly Latin American intellectualtraditions and historical challenges. In nearly half a century, otherfigures have aligned themselves with the movement, even if they werenot part of the founding cohort.
This is the case with Franz Hinkelammert, who was born in Germany in1931, and was educated in the Free University in Berlin. In 1963, heemigrated to Latin America, first to Chile and then to Costa Rica,where along with Hugo Assmann, he funded the DepartamentoEcuménico de Investigaciones (DEI). His original training wasin economics, but over the last four decades he has produced a seriesof influential books dealing with the relationship between theology,economics, and philosophy. His work takes up liberation theology, butfrom the perspective of political economy and aims to show that thetheology of liberation’s critique of religious idolatry arematched by Marxism’s critique of the fetish of the commodityform and exploitation. Hinkelammert has also produced a series ofmonographs aimed at the critique of neoliberalism. Still, what he hascontributed is what he calls the Crítica de la razónutópica (Critique of Utopian Reason) (1984), which isoperative as much in Marxism as it is in liberalism. To counterunrealizable utopian projects, Hinkelammert introduced the principleof “factibilidad” or feasibility, as criteria forthe evaluation of the ethicalness or morality of any transformativemoral-political project.
Another figure that has contributed to the further refinement of thephilosophy of philosophy, mostly through his students, is the Jesuittheologian Ignacio Ellacuría, born in 1930 in Viscaya, Spain.He was a student of Karl Rahner and Xavier Zubiri. He moved to ElSalvador, to teach at the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA), where hebecame rector in 1969, a position he led until 1989 when he wasassassinated by paramilitary forces trained by the United Statesmilitary.
Ellacuría worked closely with the Spanish philosopher Zubiri,whose work aimed to overcome the separation between epistemology andontology, knower and known, through the notion of what he called“sentient intelligence”, or “feelinglogos”. Ellacuría took up Zubiri’sontological work and transformed it into a philosophy of history.Reality is historical and thus it is dynamic. Dynamic historicalreality is where subjects are formed, but they are also the ones thatmake historical reality transformative because of theirpraxis, their practical engagement with the world. Thepraxis of human, however, is also always the expansion of thehorizon of action. Praxis gives rise to more possibilitiesfor engagement historical reality. The telos ofpraxis is thus greater liberty. His incomplete magnumopus Filosofía de la realidad histórica(1991) aimed to develop a philosophy of history that celebrated the“historical intelligence” that is the sediment of praxicalbeings taking charge of their historical reality that aims at greaterliberty. It is to be noted that Ellacuría’s philosophy ofhistory and “feeling logos” have been mosteffectively taken up in Dussel’s most recent work on the ethicsand politics of liberation, which is one reason that, as was notedabove, the “analectical” designator may no longer be auseful denomination for a current that has been influenced soprofoundly by recent developments in Latin American philosophy (Dussel1998, 2007, 2009, 2017, 2018; Bautista 2014; Grant 2020; Mills2018).
4. Themes and Debates
Philosophical currents have distinct profiles not only because of thetheses that define their methods and approaches, but also because ofthe themes and problems that remain their preoccupations despitechanges and the incorporation of new methods and theses. Thephilosophy of liberation has since its inception taken up thefollowing themes.
The question of populism. At the heart of the philosophy ofliberation is the problem of the historical subject of liberation.This problem has been addressed in terms of the idea of the“pueblo” or people. Yet, this has been defined ina variety of ways: as an ethnocultural historical formation; as asocio-economic entity; as a cultural entity that transcends bothnations and classes; as what is to be forged through a democraticpolitical project. The problem of what or who is the“people” has taken on a new urgency as new forms ofdemocratic participation have emerged, and as Latin American nationsfind themselves more integrated economically and politically due tohemispheric transformations. The political transformations of the lastdecade throughout Latin America, away from revolutionary violence andtowards political participation, have been addressed in terms of theneed to rethink the issues of political representation andparticipation.
The question of the subject. This problem is the other sideof the question about the historical subject of liberation. What isthe relationship between the individual subject, whether it beconceive as an epistemic or ethical agent, and their belonging to amacro-historical subject, where this may be conceived as “elpueblo” that is either a national-cultural unit, or atransnational, cultural entity, such as the “Americas”. Asa chapter in phenomenological-hermeneutical philosophy, the philosophyliberation has addressed the nature of the particular and distinctembodied, free, historically located, and dependent subject. Theembodied and historical situatedness of the agent is continuouslyaddressed from the standpoint of the most deprived and most vulnerablein the collective historical subject that is always underquestion.
The Question of Gender/Race. As in the liberation oftheology, the philosophy of liberation was initially slow to addressthe questions of both gender and race, although the later was always acentral theme of Latin American philosophy in general. The issue ofrace was addressed in terms of mestizaje, blanqueamiento(whitening, i.e. the idea that through racial mixing Blacks wouldbecome White and thus assimilate into the broader society),indigenity, negritude, and racial mixing in general. Mestizaje,however, has tended to cover up the distinct role that race has playedin the formation of Latin American identity. The question of gender,nonetheless, was explicitly addressed by Enrique Dussel as early as1977 in the third volume of his Filosofía EticaLatinoamericana (Dussel 1977), in which he developed an erotics ofLatin American liberation. In 1980 Dussel publishedLiberación de la Mujer y Erótica Latinoamericana,which is made up of re-edition of the seventh chapter of this thirdvolume, along with a new text titled “Toward a Metaphysics ofFeminity,” which as the title suggests aims to offer ametaphysical understanding of gender, in which woman is the“Other” of man. Dussel’s metaphysics was critiquedfor being an anachronistic and “machista” ontologizationof Catholic, in particular, and Christian, more generally,understandings of sex and gender that negated the historicalcontingency of gender roles that resulted in a recalcitrant rejectionof sexual difference other than man/woman (Schutte 1993). In theepilogue to the 1994 edition of Liberación de la Mujer yErótica Latinoamericana, Dussel, however, rejected andcritiqued his earlier views, noting that the Latin American feminismof the sixties was primarily oriented towards a critique of NorthAmerican feminism, and that the category of “gender” hadnot yet being thoroughly absorbed and appropriated within LatinAmerican thinking. He also rejected the unintended“homophobic” dimension of his earlier call for an“Erotics” of Latin American liberation. Over the lastthree decades, in dialogue with Linda Alcoff, Lynda Lange, MariaLugones, Ofelia Schutte, and Elina Vuola (Alcoff and Mendieta, eds.2000), as well as theologians such as Maria Clara Bingemer,Ivone Gebara, and Elsa Tamez, philosophers of liberation havebegan to address what Lugones has called “the coloniality ofgender” (Lugones 2010).
The question of utopia. As a philosophical movement definedby the quest for liberation, the philosophy of liberation has had toalways address the question of the role of utopia in energizingindividual and social movements. The question of utopia, however, isthe problem of the collective imaginary that projects goals that willguide transformative movements. Yet, at the same time, suchtransformative imaginaries are criticized because of their lack offeasibility or operability.
The question of history. The significance of history is aproblematic that threads the entire current and tradition of thephilosophy of liberation, not only because “dependency”and “liberation” are understood as historical issues, butbecause the very project of liberation is to be undertaken from withinhistory. Indeed, even in its most “ontological” and“analectical” versions, the philosophy of liberation isalways addressing the historical character of human existence.Collectively, philosophers of liberation affirm that historicalindexicality of freedom, that is, that human freedom cannot beunderstood in the abstract, but only against a very specifichistorical conditions that are material because they take the form ofsocio-political institutions. For philosophers liberation, humanliberty must be embodied and material precisely because it is part ofa dynamic historical reality.
The question of democracy and social order. The philosophy ofliberation was defined as much by its resistance to all forms ofauthoritarianism as by the persecution that many of its philosopherssuffered at the hands of dictators and authoritarian politicalfigures. In its early years question of democracy, legitimacy andlegality were subordinate to the metaphysical and ontologicalquestions of the subject of historical emancipation. However, over thelast two decades, the political future of Latin American has become amore pressing issue. The quest for national sovereignty and liberationfrom Euroamerican imperialism is now framed in terms of ethnoracialdemocracies and the greater participation of sectors of the LatinAmerican people that were either excluded or entirely ignored duringthe processes of national independence and national-state formation.In the first decades of the twenty-first century, philosophers ofliberation think of themselves as contributing to the elaboration ofwhat has been called “multicultural” democracy, and inthis way, more historically inflected and less“ontological” notions of “el pueblo”are being embraced and developed.
To close, like most vibrant and still alive currents in worldphilosophy, the philosophy of liberation has been contributing tothree key issues that are vital to all philosophy in general, namely:the question of meaning, i.e., how we produce, reproduce and transmithistorically produced meanings across a variety of semiological andhermeneutical practices. This is the general question of how humanscontinue to communicate across time, even when their basic conditionsof the production of world-views has radically altered. In tandem, thephilosophy of liberation, which began partly as a challenge to acertain historiography of ideas in Latin America, continues to raisethe question of how we write the history of philosophy, for whom andfor what purposes, in such a way that we surrender to neitherideological distortions nor naïve purisms, neither Eurocentrismnor thirdworldism. Finally, like all transformative and enduringphilosophical movements, the philosophy of liberation has since itsinception articulated itself as a metaphilosophical reflection, i.e.,as a philosophy that reflects on its own practice and what merits thedignity of being called philosophy tout court (Vallega2014).