The philosophical being of Luis Villoro

The tributes that the National College and the UNAM paid him on the centenary of his birth were an unusual example of how a person dedicated to philosophy in this country can be appreciated with such seriousness and sympathy. For two academics close to the professor of Catalan origin, Guillermo Hurtado and Aurelia Valero, he managed to combine reflective rigor and the location of the most pressing problems in the world today, he moved between the divine and political activism, between academia and immediate reality. , guided by an attachment to the community idea. Hence his arguments to believe in a new society.

MEXICO CITY (Process).– One hundred years after his birth and eight years after his death, the philosophical, political, and social ideas of Luis Villoro Toranzo (1922-2014) remain absolutely valid. His studies even show that he foresaw many of the current problems.

A clear example is, in the field of political philosophy, in his approaches to the problems of liberal democracy, points out the philosopher and historian Guillermo Hurtado Pérez, coordinator of the recently published book Multiple Identity, edited by El Colegio Nacional (Colnal ), which brings together essays, some unpublished, treasured by his son Juan Villoro.

The researcher at the Philosophical Research Institute (IIF) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) recalls in an interview with Proceso that, at the time, Luis Villoro described that apparently liberal democracy had reached a level of stability and it was believed that it was definitive, “the most finished model of democracy, and everyone was going to convert to that model eventually”.

Now it is being seen that this political system is suffering very serious tensions in several countries, for example the United States:

“He saw all of that very clearly for a long time. And he thinks that another type of democracy is possible, not only possible, he comes to the conclusion that it was already real, that it existed in the Zapatista communities and in other types of similar communities, where democracy is carried out in a different way. .”

Hurtado participated in two tributes for the hundred years of the thinker, who was born in Barcelona on November 3, 1922 and died on March 5, 2014 in Mexico City. The first was in the Colnal, where he presented the aforementioned book. And the second at UNAM, with various specialists who addressed his multifaceted personality: epistemologist, activist and political militant, cultural theorist and historian, among other aspects.

“The multifaceted description seems accurate to me. Villoro was a professional, academic philosopher, dedicated to his university work, and it was more than that too. For Villoro -he said it in various places- philosophy is more than a profession, it is an attitude towards life and it has to do, as he understood it, with a critical position, and that combined perfectly in his own life with his political activism.

“He was not a philosopher locked in an ivory tower, he went out into the street and not only into the street, he went to the Zapatista mountain. Perhaps now we remember more of his connection with Zapatismo, when the truth was that he was always very active in national politics, long before, and he was always very consistent and upright, he was a man of impressive verticality, he never succumbed to the song of the sirens power. He had some administrative and diplomatic responsibilities (he was ambassador to UNESCO from 1983 to 1987), and yet he always did so while maintaining absolute independence”.

In the homage ceremony held in the Colnal, emphasis was placed on his “exemplary figure, of impeccable honesty”, which Hurtado endorses, for whom Villoro committed himself not only to the social causes of Mexico but of the world. In his own words, “all the people who knew him, who were close to him, were touched by his exemplarity.”

The Thinker

Hurtado is asked if Villoro, given his commitment and social activism, had a profile more of a sociologist and not that of a philosopher who, in the imagination of the people, spends his time self-absorbed. The also co-founder of the Philosophical Observatory of Mexico, with Gabriel Vargas and José Alfredo Torres, disagrees:

“No, Villoro was a philosopher in the purest sense of the word. So, if he kept thinking about the most abstract problems, one could see him even with a lost look. The interesting thing is that not only did he stay there, but he also went to the communities, worked with the people, listened to them. In other words, he did both, let’s not pretend that he didn’t do the purest and most difficult philosophy, the most abstract. He had moments of very deep reflection, in which he was totally absorbed.”

And he was just as capable of it, he adds, as of spending hours in an assembly with people, learning from them “with great intellectual humility.” And this is how the Zapatistas remember him, “he sat down and knew how to listen, to find something he could learn in the voice of anyone, that shows his intellectual height, because he was not going to give them a lecture, he was not going to tell them what they had to do.”

Certainly, he says, he spoke with the authority of a thinker with “enormous intellectual power” and, at the same time, with the sensitivity to understand people’s needs; “He did academic work very close to history, political theory, anthropology, sociology, yes, but Villoro cannot be deducted, at any time, from the description of a great philosopher.”

–In those moments of abstraction, what were you thinking about?

–In the great problems of philosophy: does or does not exist God, what is the destiny of human life, how to understand the foundation of morality. He wrote very deep and beautiful texts on spirituality, religion. For example, he has a well-known and widely read essay, The Blue Mosque, in which he philosophically recounts an experience he had in a mosque in Istanbul and how he felt the presence of the divine at a certain point in his life. the.

“He spoke to us about God, the cosmos, the human being, the meaning of life, the difference between good and evil… The number of topics he dealt with is impressive. I could say that he did not leave any subject and philosophies untreated, he addressed almost everything, as great philosophers are. You see, the great philosophers of history deal with most topics in philosophy, think of Aristotle or Kant, they dealt with so many topics and they combined and connected them all. Villoro is a thinker of that caliber, neither more nor less”.

He mentions that precisely in the book Creer, saber, conocer, published in 1982, Villoro connects several topics, such as epistemology, ethics, politics, with which he anticipated currents that are still being developed today in, for example, Anglo-Saxon philosophy.

Was he a believer?

Think for a few seconds before answering:

It’s quite a question. In his childhood, Villoro had a very religious, Catholic upbringing, but as a teenager he distanced himself from institutionalized religion, from any Church in that sense. Although throughout his life he continued to think about the subject of the divine, I believe that he rejected the idea of ​​a personal god. In some of his works he explores a different vision, perhaps closer to pantheism and oriental religiosity, particularly the Hindu religion.

He details that it cannot be said that Villoro was an atheist, because he was not, and it cannot be said that he was a religious man either. Hurtado considers that his life was rather a search for the divine and how to understand it:

“Because the philosopher was always present here. That is the beauty of the article that I pointed out to you, The Blue Mosque. It has two parts, the first is the description of the event and the second is a philosophical analysis of the event. The religious Villoro was never separated from the philosopher, perhaps there was a certain tension that accompanied him throughout his life. And, well, his profile indicates in this sense: ‘A man in search of spirituality who is, at the same time, a philosopher who demands reasons and evidence of the greatest strength.’”

Hurtado was not a disciple of the intellectual of Catalan origin and Mexican mother; She says that she met him as a colleague and became friends with him, who asked her for help in the process of creating the Autonomous University of Mexico City. Villoro was 40 years older than the historian, who affirms that she always viewed him with respect and admiration and continues to learn from him to this day. It was the writer Juan Villoro who asked her to make the commemorative book and who told her that there are still many unpublished writings by his father.

Among the topics in this new volume, he mentions the political philosophy of Mexico City, Mexican democracy, and one that is abstract and at the same time very tangible about justice and how to understand it:

“He says that philosophy has wanted to define justice by itself, and what must be done is to start from the experience of injustice. It is the refusal, that is, to understand a concept from its absence, to have a better vision. It is a philosophical approach that in a country like Mexico, where there is more injustice than justice, it is a closer path and it is a way of doing philosophy that is closer to the realities of the people.”

The researcher reiterates that Villoro will remain in force, since the IIF has a collection of archives of various philosophers, such as Samuel Ramos, José Gaos, Adolfo Sánchez Vázquez, and Juan Villoro donated his father’s archive, which has many manuscripts, from articles that he wrote and they were not published, even his classes, because he spent time preparing them:

“Villoro lived at a time when the pressure to publish by the dots of the National System of Researchers did not exist, and also he was beyond those things, so he wrote his writings and sometimes did not send them to be published. I believe that this material can be recovered, it is a team effort, I hope so and that in future years we will have the surprise of having more books by Villoro.”

Report published on November 13 in issue 2402 of Proceso magazine, whose digital edition can be purchased at this link.

The philosophical being of Luis Villoro