UPDirectory Highlighted Philosopher of June 2017: Carlos Alberto Sánchez

Carlos Alberto Sánchez

Professor of PhilosophySan Jose State University


AOS: Comparative Philosophy, Continental Philosophy, Existentialism, Phenomenology, Philosophy of the Americas, Social and Political Philosophy

I read, study, and write about 20th century Mexican philosophy and 20th century Mexican philosophers. I’m particularly interested in the manner in which Mexico itself—as a historical, cultural, and spiritual difference—influences the articulation of the philosophical and the manner in which it shapes the philosophical approach to certain philosophical problems. Ultimately, I defend the idea of a “Mexican” philosophy (an idea that goes beyond merely affirming the empirical fact of a philosophy in Mexico), one in which philosophical considerations of identity, authenticity, history, death, etc., are marked by a Mexican difference that makes these considerations contributions to and not merely repetitions of the Western philosophical tradition. This sort of work requires hermeneutical, historiographical, and analytic interventions into those texts in which this difference most resoundingly shows itself.

Recently, I’ve found myself defending the controversial thesis of historicism, what in several places I call “circumstantialism,” following the work of the Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset. Historicism, or the idea that philosophizing itself is circumscribed by historical, cultural, and otherwise worldly constraints, is often misrepresented as historical or cultural relativism. What I try to show, especially in my analyses and interpretations of the work of the Mexican philosophical group Hiperión, is that historicism is not relativism, but rather, and simply, a complex, rich, and nuanced philosophical perspective grounded on a view of history as the constant, stable foundation upon which all accident, change, and consistency rests. Historicist philosophical explanations and descriptions aim to account not only for the particular spirit of a people, but also for its relations, interrelations, internal and external to itself that justify its philosophical truths and propositions. Mexican philosophers thus find in historicism a means to contribute to the human philosophical conversation a perspective, that although necessarily worldly and pluralistic due to the historical relation, is nonetheless Mexican in its articulations and emphases.

By necessity, my work requires translation. In my book, The Suspension of Seriousness: On the Phenomenology of Jorge Portilla (SUNY Press 2012), an analysis and interpretation of Portilla’s La fenomenología del relajo, I also include the translation of that text as an Appendix. A current project with Oxford University Press (co-edited with Robert Elí Sanchez) the goal is to translate and anthologize significant texts representative of Mexican philosophy in the 20th century, addressing a serious lack in available resources. My other work is related directly or indirectly to this primary preoccupation. Directly, my latest book, Contingency and Commitment: Mexican Existentialism and the Place of Philosophy (SUNY Press 2016) continues the work of situating Mexican philosophy within a broader tradition of existentialism in the 20th century. Indirectly, I’ve published papers on the phenomenology of immigration, the philosophy of Mexican Narco-Culture, and am currently working on issues in Mexican American Philosophy.

I am the Editor of the APA Newsletter on Latino/Hispanic Issues in Philosophy, co-creator (with Robert Elí Sanchez) of the website/blog mexicanphilosophy.com, and founding member of the Society for Mexican American Philosophy.