UPDirectory Highlighted Philosopher of November 2017: Grant J. Silva

Grant J. Silva

Assistant Professor, Marquette University


AOS: Comparative Philosophy, Ethics, Indigenous Philosophy, Philosophy of Race, Philosophy of the Americas, Social and Political Philosophy

My work strives to maintain a sense of philosophical practice endowed with much social significance. While philosophers should continue to ask and answer metaphysical, ethical and epistemological questions, these endeavors are not ends in themselves. Paraphrasing Ignacio Ellacuría, the Jesuit philosopher murdered during the Salvadoran Civil War, even if reduced to “the pursuit of truth,” philosophy is not reducible to “the pursuit of truth for its own sake.”

Recent publications of mine take place at the intersection of philosophy of race, political philosophy and ethical questions pertaining to immigration and nationality. My current research focuses on the nature of racism as connected to anti-immigrant and xenophobic sentiment as well as officer related shootings of African Americans in the United States. Rather than predicated on hatred or malice, I think of racism as predicated on self-love. In the above contexts, “self-love” first materializes in the need to preserve the social conditions enabling one’s sense of self, a feat accomplished by means of national borders and the specious embracement of law and lawfulness. Second, engendered by interactions with individuals viewed primarily through the lens of black criminality, self-love racism is visible in the heightened sense of self-preservation expressed by law enforcement agents. In terms of the ethics of immigration, I am working on a theory of migratory disobedience that views the act of irregular migration as protest against the unjust nature of immigration law into first world nations like the United States.

My work in Latin American philosophy focuses on the idea of liberation as a philosophical point of departure. As espoused by those immersed in decolonial, anti-racist and even anti-sexist struggles, the idea of liberation suggests of an ongoing process the meaning of which should be viewed as of comparable magnitude for the peoples of the Americas as that of “enlightenment” within in the contexts of Western intellectual traditions. Whereas the sense of subjectivity problematized by Western philosophy grapples with skepticism, dogmatism and a variety of forms of heteronomy, liberatory thinkers focus on forms of subjective experience unfolding in the contexts of racial/sexual objectivity, colonial “totalization” and historical marginalization. Along these lines, I think there is a fundamental difference between philosophizing for freedom and philosophizing from freedom. This difference manifests in the types of questions one considers worthy of philosophical analysis, the kinds of interlocutors and range of experience one is willing to dialogue with, as well as the overall significance of philosophical inquiry. Extending these ideas, my book project provides a narrative of Latin American philosophy that views this sub-discipline as a response to decolonial attempts at liberating the mind. Because I take seriously the notion that to describe oneself as a “Latin American philosopher” is a political statement challenging preconceived understandings of the nature of philosophical inquiry, I offer a take on the history of Latin American philosophy that recognizes the significance of “place,” i.e. from where one philosophizes, as an important factor to the philosophical process.