Hispanic Philosophy in the Age of Discovery (review)

Journal of the History of Philosophy 36 (3):463-465 (1998)
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In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:Reviewed by:Hispanic Philosophy in the Age of Discovery ed. by Kevin WhiteIván JaksicKevin White, editor. Hispanic Philosophy in the Age of Discovery. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1997. Pp. xv + 326. Cloth, $59.95.The quincentennial of what has been termed the “encounter” between Europeans and Indians in the New World in the late fifteenth century furnished the occasion for much denunciation of the evils inflicted by greedy intruders on the indigenous population and their environment. Many a conference was convened to reflect on such [End Page 463] events from the perspective of what appeared to be a consensus on the ultimately negative effects of European discovery, conquest, and colonization. In this context, it is quite remarkable that a conference on Hispanic philosophy in the age of discovery should have been convened to examine the philosophical figures and treatises of the era. As it turns out, this volume represents probably one of the most enduring outcomes of the myriad activities of 1992. This is a volume that ranges widely into the philosophical world of the period, brings to light the richness and significance of philosophers and their work, and provides a coherent and consistently well-researched set of essays.The volume consists of fifteen essays divided into five parts. Part I consists of one essay by Jorge J. E. Gracia which offers a wide panorama of Hispanic philosophy from 1500 to 1650, as well as a lucid interpretation of the historical reasons why Hispanic philosophy seems to have reached a dead end in the context of modern European philosophy, and suffered the neglect of intervening centuries. Part II consists of one essay by Mauricio Beuchot on discussions concerning the conquest of Mexico; two essays by John Doyle and Marcelo Sánchez-Sorondo on the work of Francisco de Vitoria; and two essays on the celebrated dispute between Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda and Bartolomé de las Casas in 1550–51, the first by Eduardo Andújar and the second by Rafael Alvira and Alfredo Cruz. Part III includes essays by William Wallace on Domingo de Soto and Galileo’s science; Juan Antonio Widow on the economic thought of the Spanish Scholastics; Jean de Groot on the mysticism of Teresa de Avila; Yves Floucat on St. John of the Cross, and Mirko Skarica on the problem of future contingents. Part IV includes three essays by Norman Wells, Stephen Menn, and Carlos G. Noreña on the works of Francisco Suárez, probably the best-known Spanish thinker of the period. The volume closes with Part V, which has a long essay by John Deely on John Poinsot’s doctrine of signs.A volume of this scope and nature is bound to contain some overlap and repetition, as is the case with the pieces concerning the Las Casas-Sepúlveda debate. And yet these essays read well because the authors seriously undermine the conventional treatment of Sepúlveda as the hawkish defender of Indian slavery, and place him in the context of a larger Renaissance view of non-European peoples. Las Casas, in the view of the authors, had a great deal more in common with his opponent than the historiography has thus far suggested. In other sections of the volume, the variety of approaches and subjects on the part of the contributors challenges the reader to constantly shift grounds. Part III, for instance, takes us from the disquisitions on the velocity of falling bodies to the moral aspects of economic thought, and to the meaning of mystical theology. Fortunately, the competence of the researchers makes all individual pieces worthwhile even if this particular reviewer would have been somewhat more stringent with the space allotted to make a point.Contributors to this book leave no doubt as to the importance of their subjects, and yet they resist the temptation of exaggerating the extent of the influence of many of the Spanish authors on other European thinkers. Indeed, the essay by Norman Wells shows that while one must consider the linkages between Suárez and Descartes, there is [End Page 464] no reason to believe that the latter made Suárez’s position on the moderni...

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