November 11, 1998




The importance of the martyrs today


The structural roots of natural disasters


Ellacuría and X. Zubiri: the passion for truth


Ignacio Ellacuría: philosophy and liberation in Latin America






Everything in El Salvador seems so new that, from time to time, even the memory of the martyrs is seen as an antiquated artifact which hinders progress —when it is not perceived as an impertinence. The martyrs and our memory of them, as in the case of the war and its victims, should already belong to the past and so do not fit into a reality where everything ought to be new. But the tropical storm "Mitch" has laid bare how much there is that is old and how little new in El Salvador at the end of the century. The lack of forethought, improvisation and vulnerability of the rural population, the fragility of the infrastructure, the profundity of ecological depredation, the state of affairs in which accounts are not rendered, the attribution to nature or God of that which is, in great measure, the responsibility of human beings are some of the ills which the devastation of the hurricane brought to light.

Said in another way, financial stabilization, access to the international market, the process of distancing ourselves from military authoritarianism are not sufficient to convert El Salvador into a new country. The reason is really very simple. Without doubt there are new things and new things are being done, but along the same lines as they were done in the past, and in this methodology reproduction is accomplished, but in such a way that there is no possibility for anything authentically new to be achieved.

This "newness" does not come from neo-liberalism, as can be seen from an examination of the current financial crisis, which per force obligates the sternest and fiercest promoters of this ideology to recognize publicly that they were wrong and to commit themselves to formulate new policies from a more social and human perspective. Neither does this "newness" come from democracy, and even less when this is understood as a marketplace. Democracy is still in diapers and very far from the realization of its principles. In El Salvador, democracy is no more than the taking of a decision to distance ourselves from authoritarian forms. In reality, today there is more poverty than before the war, violence is more cruel and bloody, the desire to compete is destroying whatever remains of social relations and the anxiety to consume has caused an interior emptiness and in no few occasions, a lack of purpose.

Faced with the lack of human and Christian response to neo-liberal materialism it is necessary to seek a historically universalizable utopia. This utopia implies a new beginning; with regard to what is universalizable, no one is excluded and with regard to what is historical, its approximation ought to be verifiable. This new beginning does not mean that the past must be rejected —which is neither possible nor desirable—, but it is something more than accomplishing new things, using the same lines as before. Given that what is old is not acceptable, the novelty of utopia brings with it a break, or rupture, from which point all things are made new.

This real and true "newness" or novelty comes from the perspective of the impoverished majority of the population and from the struggle to bring these new things to life and that they should be had in abundance. The historical experience of death —from hunger, misery, sickness, violence and now, from natural phenomena— demonstrates the urgency and courage for which there is no substitute in the material life as a primary and fundamental gift, in which all other values must be rooted. These values ought to be a development from that primary gift of life. A life which extends itself and fills itself as personal self-realization, but social realization as well. It is not clear in what this fullness of life consists and even less how it is to be obtained, but it is clear in what it does not consist and how it ought not to be achieved. And this is not so much from logical deductions starting from universal principles, but rather from historical declaration and confirmation, beginning from the experience of the great majorities.

This need to make all things new start from the point of view of having chosen the option in favor of the impoverished majority to offer a singular newness and present quality to the life of the martyrs of the UCA and the Salvadoran people. That necessity is not arbitrary, nor is it a result of the exercise of discretion because it is the dispossessed reality of those majorities which demand it. The utopian and prophetic life of the martyrs illumines, in and of itself, the horizon in which we ought to move, we the survivors, in order to exceed the limits and ills which afflict us. At the present time, nevertheless, neither utopia nor prophecies are well received, because of the refusal to recognize the existence of obstacles in the path of the liberation of the popular majorities. So then, without them it is not possible to find the road toward human and Christian fullness.

Utopias are looked down upon because they are considered unrealizable, which, of course, is true, but this also only an insufficient and partial evaluation. Certainly, utopia is unreliable in any full and immediate way, but, through a process of permanent approximation, it is possible to begin to make them real. So now, a utopia cannot advance towards its realization without the help of prophecy —another activity which is also not well received— above all by those who consider that, although there are some problems —the final result is fully positive. Prophecy would, in this context therefore, be a meaningless denunciation. For those who think in this way, prophecy would be superfluous. But prophecy is indispensable in order to contrast what utopia would be with what is now concrete historical reality. Without the action of an intense and authentic prophecy one cannot arrive at the realization of utopia —not in theory and even less so in practice. In the action of making prophecies which begins from and bases itself upon this contrast, exist the conditions which will enable it to foresee and announce the future and move towards it. Overcoming the limits and ills of the present, it sketches, as a means of overcoming the present, the desired future, each time more in agreement with the urgencies and dynamics of Christian and human plenitude. At the same time, the future announced, hoped and wished for as an overcoming of the present, helps to overcome these same limits and ills.

The martyrs of the UCA, each one according to his calling, made an effort to approximate the utopia of the kingdom of God and prophesied as a means of denunciation that which impeded their approximation as well as announcing its advances. This commitment with utopia and prophecy explains their assassination and hatred of their assassins. But, transcendentally, it is also the consummation of their lives. It is because of this that, from their martyrdom, they illumine the fullness of the kingdom of God and the road towards that fullness by means of the workings of prophecy and utopia. As with the Lamb of God, from their broken bodies hope springs forth and they offer salvation.






Concern for the popular majorities and for the lacks they are suffering were the principal concerns of the martyrs of the UCA. From this context is where Ignacio Ellacuría's interest for the internal causes of the crisis of the decade of the 1980´s spring, as well as Segundo Montes interests for the distribution of the land in the country.

More than two decades after the conformation of their analyses, the situation remains the same and their pointing out of injustice in the distribution of income and riches continue to be current and applicable. Nevertheless, the manifestations of the problem now go beyond the elevated levels of the lack of fulfillment of basic needs such as food, education, health, housing, and of the civil war of the 1980´s. The majority of the population now confronts new aspects of poverty within which social and natural disasters such as those provoked by the tropical storm "Mitch" can be highlighted.

In reality, since the decade of the 1950´s a marked increase in disasters associated with the rainy season have been observed (droughts, flooding, landslides and other earth movements) which have become dramatic during the decade of the 1990´s, during which three cases of drought have been documented (1991, 1994 and 1997) and four years have seen severe flooding (1992, 1994, 1996 and 1998). There is no doubt that the most devastating has been the recent flooding which caused 225 dead and more than 100 disappeared persons and a little more than 50,000 homeless, all members of the huge number of poor which make up the popular majorities.

This disaster —apparently a product of eminently natural forces— is really not that at all, but rather the product of the interaction of the natural phenomenon within a vulnerable social context. A natural phenomenon in and of itself is not a disaster, but becomes so when it affects social groupings and formations. It is for this reason, for example, that a hurricane is not a disaster if it occurs on the open sea or in an unpopulated area.

Conditions of vulnerability are those which definitively over determine the major or minor impact of natural phenomena. In the case of El Salvador, the impact has been greatly magnified by the development schema implemented throughout the length and breadth of history. Specifically the use of lands for cash cropping and export and the displacement of the population to lands which were previously uninhabited are factors contributing towards magnifying the effects of natural phenomena. To the foregoing may be added, as well, the marginalization of the majority of the population and the proliferation of poverty with all of its manifestations (malnutrition, illiteracy, the precariousness of housing, unhealthy living conditions, natural disasters, etc.).

The environment in its ecological manifestation together with the human geography of El Salvador have suffered important transformations since the implementation of intensive coffee production, the proliferation of the cultivation of cotton and the introduction of sugar cane. Such changes have accumulated to the point at which they result in a reduction of peasant production on the hillsides or on lands with a low productive yield.

During the decade of the 1850´s, the cultivation of coffee demanded the use of the central highlands located along the volcanic chain which are highly productive. The expansion of this crop presupposed the introduction of private property in these central highlands along with the forced expulsion of indigenous peoples, who then had to migrate towards the urban centers or towards the degraded lands in the north of the country. Parallel to this, a high quota of natural resources began to be used for private benefit, especially as a result of the felling of the original forests in order to introduce plantation farming taken together with the use of agro-chemicals, the generation of contaminants in sweet waters and the strong concentration of land as property.

New aggressions against the environment and the rural population took place a century after the so-called "agricultural modernization", which presupposed the intensification of the cultivation of cotton, the introduction of sugarcane and rice and the expansion of livestock activities. New lands were needed for these activities and recourse was had once again to the felling of natural forests —directed this time towards the coastal areas— and new expansions of the population. This modification of the landscape presupposes an increase in ecological vulnerability because, as a result, the coastal forests and manglars were destroyed: these had served as a natural protection against hurricanes and typhoons.

It should not come as a surprise, then, that, since 1950 the coastal zones experienced increases in the surface areas vulnerable to flooding, although without the populations experiencing any major side effects. Then, however, with the disappearance of cotton owing to the lack of its ecological and economic viability, new territory was opened in which was expanded the activity of peasants who occupied the surface areas vulnerable to flooding in order to live and build housing

With regard to this, Segundo Montes indicated that "the recent period, marked by the fact of having reached the agricultural frontier by means of cash-crop production for export with the great demand on the international market for coffee, cotton and sugar cane, signified a climax in the struggle for the land, with a concomitant process of impoverishment, processes in which people left the land and the resulting proletarianization of the rural population, which is still the major fact of El Salvador. This phase, in turn, gave rise to the major social and political crisis of the country which became the civil war".

At this point it must be added that the social crisis has extended to the extreme of social and natural disasters given that, obviously, the dynamics of the use of the land have strongly affected the human and material effects of the disasters in such a way that each time they are felt with greater and more disastrous force. The recent disaster caused by the tropical storm "Mitch" confirms this premise.

Parallel to the problem of the concentration of the land as property and the displacement of populations towards the high risk areas, has also been developed a concomitant process of concentration of wealth and expansion of poverty. This element has become a new causal factor in the expansion of vulnerability owing to the resurgence of unsatisfied needs such as low educational levels, precarious health and living conditions with little or no resistance to natural disasters.

As Ignacio Ellacuría pointed out, "it cannot be denied that structural injustice is the principal basis of the current conflict in the country because it is not only its source but also, and above all, the fundamental, ultimate and permanent cause of all other "evils" originating fundamentally from structural injustice and the vulnerability at different levels which this causes in the marginalized population. The recent disaster caused by "Mitch" is not something natural, it is the result of a specific social ordering: that of the concentration of land as property, accumulated environmental degradation and elevated levels of poor people who have gone to live on the deforested surface areas vulnerable to flooding.

The state is calling for the development of a policy of disaster prevention which arises from the fact that social organization has much to do with these disasters. From this premise schemas for development of disaster prevention must be drawn up and they must attack the true causes: the concentration of land as property, the persistence of practices which do not allow for the sustaining of natural resources and the expansion of poverty, are definitively the "fundamental cause" of the disasters.






I did not know Ignacio Ellacuría personally. The only three images which I have of him are twice when I saw him and another when I heard him speak. The first was on Spanish television. I remember that it caught my attention when the interviewer asked him the usual question: Are you a Marxist? To which Ellacuría answered with great aplomb: "No, I am a Zubirian" and Ellacuría immediately began with enthusiasm to explain what a Zubirian was, the journalist diverted the matter towards questions which could be considered to be of much more current interest. At that moment the little I knew of Zubiri seemed heavy and tedious. Moreover, it appeared to me that he sprinkled his writings with a theological jargon which gave the impression that he was trying to sweeten up the philosophical vocation. I thought that the response of I. Ellacuría was just a "pleasantry", an answer appropriate to an intelligent Jesuit. Later, A. González freed me from these prejudices which had impeded my reading of Zubiri. The second image I have of him is also from the television. I recall, as well, a scenario similar to the first, among several invited guests of different kinds posing with clarity why the fifth centenary ought to be spoken of as "the conquest" and not "the discovery". The third is a news broadcast announcing the massacre at the UCA. This last left us without images, without words and almost without thought.

As time passed, I asked myself more than once, what could the public life and death —active and disquieting, overwhelming—of Ellacuría have to do with the reserved, solitary and simple life and death of X. Zubiri? Not until today have I been able to understand what it was that united I. Ellacuría and X. Zubiri so intimately and how absolutely mistaken that I was in my appreciation of Ellacuría's words.

 Certainly, Carmen Castro and X. Zubiri thought of I. Ellacuría as a son. It is enough to read the biography of X. Zubiri written by Carmen Castro in order to appreciate that more than half of the book is dedicated to Ellacuría and the happy hours that they spent talking together. Zubiri was very enthusiastic that his philosophy could be reproduced in other climes and geographies and he continually encouraged Ellacuría to develop his own way of thinking. He was happy to have in Ellacuría his best disciple and he confidently supported all of his political proposals and actions, which he recognized, with a great deal of humility, that he did no understand very well. It is also true that X. Zubiri was a profound admirer of P. Arrupe and that as in 1937 the Prefect General of the Jesuit Order prohibited all contact for members of the order with X. Zubiri, but as he was being followed by the Fascist Italian police, P. Arrupe opened his arms wide to him. Zubiri felt so close to Arrupe that after being fired from the Franco-dominated university accused of being "disaffected", he only agreed to set foot in any university when P. Arrupe requested him to. But none of this is decisive. What united both of them was a boundless desire for the truth. They were so close because both had the same obstinate qualities which could be appreciated even in their heated discussions. Their stubbornness would not pass except through the opening provided by truth.

One can truthfully say that this is what this belongs to the whole of the philosophical calling . Plato had already said in the PARMENIDES that "the ardent impulse which launches one into the causes of things is beautiful and divine, but one must engage in exercises and training in these philosophical efforts while one is young, because in appearance they are good for nothing and the crowd calls working with words something useless. Otherwise the truth will escape through your fingers". And Pascal, for his part, said of his epoch that "truth is so clouded in these times and lies so well situated that, unless one loves truth, it is not possible to recognize it". It can also be said that it is what belongs to an authentic intellectual and university calling. It is the desire for truth which guided many scientific, philosophic, literary, historic and journalistic creations. Many researchers end up learning other truths than those which constituted their starting point and this aside from the fact that such truth distances them and leads them to obtain a secure job or make themselves rich, famous or popular. It is the passion for truth which permits intellectual humility and the greatness of those who are capable of admitting in the presence of others where it is that their evidence is most vague and unstable, until they come to accept that the other has found or formulated truth over and above a determined question much superior to that which they themselves have found.

The passion for truth is found, above all, in the actions of many human beings, independent of their knowledge, culture and social position. No one can ever control the eruption of a volcano by trying to cover up the top of the crater. The force of truth might seem to be impotent when faced with the omnipotence of reason and the strength and force of lies, but it is there, latent and is felt to be threatening to some few. This force will continue while there are human beings. It is a question of the stubborn strength of a child which springs up even from the fields of hunger and concentration camps of our century. Great names are not proofs of this latent force, but anonymous multitudes such as each year come to meet at the UCA so that the massacre of thousands of innocent Salvadorans is not forgotten and, together with them, are also the thousands of Central Americans and South Americans who are victims of exile, repression or loss of their rights who can speak out against all hope. The schemes of truth are constructed on the basis of apparently insignificant and daily acts which seek to work with transparency and democracy or in horizontal family relationships. What is original here in Zubiri? Is it cheap rhetoric to say that the Zubirismo of I. Ellacuría consists in his radical passion for truth?

I think not. The most interesting and piquant of the Zubirian method and philosophy is that they lead us to an atmosphere where to defend one or another philosophic thesis is completely contingent. What is decisive is to be permanently disposed to remove all kinds of prejudice with the aim of discovering new evidences which we achieve as we go. The passion for truth is of such a caliber that it is preferable to stay out in the cold than to seek refuge in any construction whatsoever. The skepticism which accompanies this passion is a productive skepticism, a skepticism which comes to the point even of doubting skepticism itself when this, instead of being the fruit of a failure in the search, is the fruit of a dogmatic assumption.

The great intellectual lesson of X. Zubiri and I. Ellacuría is their integrity. The passion for the truth is so consubstantial with the Zubirian method that as one enters into it he becomes susceptible to being marked in his own life by it. And so it was, then, that Zubiri and in Ellacuría were profoundly marked. Both were disposed to permanently abandon past convictions, in both solitude is more the fruit of freedom than of fear. Of both, I think, it can be said, within the imprescriptible shadows of everything that is human, that they were free men. They were stubbornly free. So free that they were even capable of friendship and tenderness.

Zubiri, one of the greatest creative philosophers of all time, spent his life in almost complete anonymity, rejected easy money and all kinds of recognition and did not succumb to the temptation most integral to philosophy: that of the seduction to power and fame. Ellacuría, always urgently pressed by the exigencies of the present, could not dedicate himself as much as he would have like "to what is important", as he liked to say. The number of transcripts, notes and documents of X. Zubiri in his files is impressive. But finally what Ellacuría did is doubtless more important. Philosophy, as is the case with any other field of knowledge, is nothing more than a small passion, a little bit of help, somewhat secondary as it faces this difficult thing of knowing how to be in reality. Ellacuría resisted the propaganda, the stylish slogans and even the pressure of whether his work would be considered popular or unpopular. The assassination sealed, as it habitually does in Latin America, this vision and work. The option for truth, intellectual integrity, is consubstantial with both philosophers. For this, Ellacuría would say that he was a Zubiriano and for this reason Zubiri, in 1980, at 82 years of age, was anxious to dedicate his new book, INTELLIGENCE AND REALITY to I. Ellacuría and to begin the dedication with the phrase from the letter to San Juan: "in this way we are collaborators in the truth".

To be collaborators in the truth: it is to this that both invite us from all spheres of life and knowledge. Here and now the passion for truth means not to forget the crimes which happened in El Salvador. The more powerful the criminal, the more serious and responsible he is for his crime, although it contradicts all political realism. Today we know that there are clear proofs against the intellectual authors of the massacre of the Jesuits. The proceedings against Pinochet open the way to hope for the victims who habitually turn out to be guilty, while those who made them victims strut arrogantly before the parliaments of the world pronouncing discourses on justice. Certainly it does not cease to be contradictory that it might be the state which applies international law. To my way of seeing things, what the Pinochet case shows us is a little exception in the world justice system (which, of course, does not officially exist. Even if the House of Lords and the British crown, allied, as some of them are, to arms sales, let him finally return to Chile, it will have been demonstrated that some openings can be taken advantage of in order to benefit the majority of the victims of humanity who have been silenced. With this, perhaps, can be posed once again the question of the creation of a world court which is controlled democratically, which could free the people of the world of the Pinochets and Pol Pots in office. This would be a world justice system which could drag the great criminals from their lairs in the national parliaments.

Finally, it is not less important that here and now the truth of the hurricane is that it is a more social than natural disaster. After the promises and the tours of the politicians with human sensibility we fear that deportations, privatizations, the demands of the International Monetary Fund to reduce public spending —principally in health and education— will continue. After the emergency help, we know that the rich countries will continue selling arms to the poor countries for more than all of the aid sent. All of this we know, but only by conquering bitterness with this strange confidence in humanity which always surges up again in the infernos which we as men create, can we also ourselves try to become collaborators with the truth.



This article was presented by Jordi Corominas, professor in the UCA Philosophy Department.






In Ignacio Ellacuría we find a peculiar idea of what philosophy is, an idea which grows from a philosophical tradition to which Socrates, Karl Marx and Xavier Zubiri belonged and for whom philosophy harmoniously joins theory and practice. This is intimately related to the fact that Ellacuría's offering to Latin American philosophy cannot be taken out of the context of the "philosophy of liberation", given that, according to Ellacuría, all philosophical reflection contains within it a liberating temper, a "liberating function". On the other hand, in the construction of a Latin American philosophy, the foregoing means that there is a primacy given to the fact that it is "liberating" with respect to what is Latin American. These three ideas constitute the three moments of our reflection.

In the first place, what did Ellacuría understand by philosophy? We should clarify that he confronted the matter in a document where he analyzed this question in a detailed manner. We refer to his article entitled "Philosophy and Politics". It is here where, following Zubiri, he conceives of philosophy based on three concepts which, throughout history, have tried to define philosophic activity: philosophy as a knowledge of things, philosophy as a direction for the world and philosophy as a form of life —three concepts of philosophy which correspond to three dimensions of intelligence: theoretical, practical and historical.

"The first concept [of philosophy] would be that of knowledge of this conception of philosophy the cognitive and contemplative aspects predominate, more than the cognitive and operative [...] So it is that to philosophy as knowledge corresponds a predominantly contemplative sense of intelligence" (FP, 56, 59). It is important to mention the philosophy realized by Zubiri here, which we can locate inside this cognitive-contemplative concept, given that from the first courses during the 1930´s and 1940´s, up until the writings in which he worked when death surprised him, Zubiri developed a style of philosophical work which we could consider essentially as a theory. For his part, Ellacuría, as he made the contemplative dimension relative to philosophy, did not become a detractor of that dimension. On the contrary, a good part of the importance of Zubiri's thought in his work is owing to what may be considered "pure philosophy". Moreover , Ellacuría will defend his master against accusations of "evasion", arguing that in order for there to be praxis, it is necessary to have a solid theory. He will also say that, just as it is necessary that there be some philosophers concerned with the political and the current reality, others must occupy themselves with reality as reality and with the eternal.

"The second concept of philosophy [Ellacuría continues], as a direction for the world and for life is already a formally political concept. It is a question of a kind of knowledge, but a knowledge which guides and directs the world and life [...] To philosophy as a direction for the world and for life corresponds a predominantly active and guiding sense of intelligence. Intelligence would be, above all, an activity which transforms one's very life, afterwards the life of the citizenry and even of the material world by means of this active intelligence which the techne handles" (FP, 56, 59). Echoes can be seen in this of the thinking of Karl Marx, a thinker who posed, in a radical way, the work of a philosopher as predominantly that of participating in transformation: "Philosophers have done nothing more than interpret the world in diverse ways, but the point is to change it" (Thesis XI on Feuerbach, in K. Marx, THE 1844 MANUSCRIPTS and the THESES ON FEUERBACH). But Marx also had much influence on the thinking of Ellacuría, as much for his concept of philosophy within ideological parameters, as we will see below, as for the vision of history as a "place" where reality is manifested in its fullness.

"The third concept of philosophy, as a way of life, is essentially political...because it is a form of life in which something happens, that is to say, in the full sense of the word (...). To engage in the activity of philosophizing as a form of life corresponds to an interpretation of intelligence as historic intelligence. Intelligence is, for now, an intelligence situated, that is today, an intelligence which knows that it cannot enter into the depth of itself more than in the sense of being in a situation and aiming to enter into the depth of the situation taken as a whole" (FP, 57, 59). Here it is important to remember Socrates, the philosopher of fundamental importance, according to Ellacuría, above all for the fullness of his implication in the life of the polis, which can only be explained from the point of view of the mutual overlapping of life with the activity of philosophy which characterized him and accompanied him to the final consequence.

Thus, philosophy enjoys an essential relationship with the configuration of the world, given that it constructs theories which facilitate comprehension of the world and because its work is tied to praxis which seeks its transformation and, moreover, inasmuch as it deals with something which happens, makes up a part of the very history of the world. This is what Ellacuría calls "politicization of philosophy" (FP, 60), which does not imply sacrificing theoretical values to this process. "That this [the politicization of philosophy] does not lead to a n exclusive concern with practice and to a forgetting of theoretical values, he demonstrates by using the example of Socrates. His essential character as a political philosopher not only did not close the path to philosophy, but rather made possible one of its most outstanding moments—that of locating the roots of thought in the polis and in the matters concerning the polis thereby making possible and necessary the theoretical expansion of Plato and Aristotle. This lesson of Socrates needs to be analyzed carefully because it outlines clearly the sense and value of the activity of political philosophizing" (FP, 61).

Let us pass now to the second moment in our reflection to see what makes up what Ellacuría calls "the liberating function of philosophy". This takes place in two methodological moments> the critical function and the creative function (Cfr. FLF, 95-107). Criticism of the dominant ideology is what Ellacuría understood to be the critical function of philosophy (Cfr. FLF, 95). So then, it is not the case that there ought to be a deligitimization of all ideology, given that might be taking into consideration that there is a positive character in these ideologies (Cfr. FLF, 98), it is, rather, against the practice of ideologization, the conscious and express hiding, disguising or disfiguring of that reality which directs philosophy in its function of removing the masks (Cfr. FLF, 99). On the other hand, the creative function of philosophy implies the elaboration of a vision of reality which shows it as it is, which contributes to a better understanding of reality and its fundamental bases (Cfr. FLF, 102). It is necessary, here, to clarify that it is not a question of discovering or offering facts and data—an activity belonging to the sciences. Rather it is a question of presenting a global and structural vision of reality which deals, at the same time, with what is radical in that reality.

But philosophy, as liberating as it understands itself to be, is not enough to bring about liberation. .Ellacuría makes the liberating function of philosophy depend upon praxis and upon the subject of the liberation (although he recognizes the relative independence of philosophizing with respect to any historical praxis. (Cfr. FLF, 108-109): Philosophy can only carry out its creative and critical ideological function in favor of a praxis of effective liberation if it situates itself adequately inside that liberating praxis which, in principle, is independent of it" (FLF, 108). Those to whom it will correspond the carrying out of such an enterprise is what is understood to be the subject of liberation. For Ellacuría it is clear that this subject is the popular majority of the population which suffers oppression. "The liberation of peoples, as well as their oppression, is accomplished by social forces...Social forces which, in principle, can most contribute to the liberation are those which constitute the principal contradiction of the forces which are principally responsible for domination and oppression " (FLF, 114).

Philosophy will always be liberating, given that if we find ourselves with a theoretical explication of reality which turns out to be an agent which in fact disguises it, we do not call it philosophy, but rather the activity of creating ideologies. It is thus that the two constituent terms the "philosophy of liberation" are explained by beginning from the premise of the struggle against the dominant ideology (philosophy, which is the theoretical offering to the struggle against the social forces which mutually support each other in such an ideology in order to carry out their specific historic domination (liberation).

So now, let us proceed to our last problem: "how does this conception of Ellacuría's of philosophy relate to the efforts to construct a "Latin American philosophy". If we adhere to what we have presented above, for Ellacuría, philosophy will be a synthesis of the intellectual and political life: it is important to carry out the "contemplative" life, the search for the most fundamental in reality, and it is important that this theoretical model implement itself hand in hand with political activity, the efficacious effort to transform the world. The synthesis of the bios theoretikos and the bios politikos make up philosophy as a philosophy of liberation. This means that "the will to truth" is not enough; the "will to good" is needed as well. It is for this reason that Ellacuría proposes philosophy as a Socratic labor, a "form of life which is an intellectual search as well as political practice."

A Latin American philosophy of liberation will be, rather, a philosophy for liberation in Latin America, which means that in Ellacuría there is a primacy in the liberating dimension over and above a "cultural" reflection for philosophizing. In any case, the point of encounter between the two terms philosophy and Latin American—that which is "philosophy" and "Latin American"—is the liberating character of theoretical reflection, its contribution to an effective liberation of the impoverished and marginalized masses which in our sub-continent are the majority (Cfr. FLF, 94). So now, given that the conditions of oppression are not exclusive to Latin America, neither will this liberating function be so. The emphasis is focussed on the liberating character of all philosophy and the historical importance of all philosophizing; in Ellacuría there does not exist the imperious need to recuperate "the history of Latin American philosophizing", as if it were a question of a premise sufficient in itself—and therefore exclusive in nature—or indispensable for the constitution of a philosophy in Latin America. He does not even pose that famous question concerning whether there is or is not a "Latin American philosophy", in the sense of "autochthonous thought" or "authentically Latin American reflection". In fact, Ellacuría thinks, there will be a Latin American philosophy only when Latin American reality is assumed philosophically, and, as this reality manifests a very concrete condition of oppression and given that philosophy is necessarily liberating, only then will this philosophy to be carried out be liberating.

On the question of whether there will be specific ways or modalities of philosophizing, arising from the cultural particularities of Latin America, Ellacuría does not deal with this problem (at any rate, this is a question of an ulterior problem). Perhaps we can infer that he dealt with it through omission: for Ellacuría, the important thing is the location (situs) and finality (telos) of philosophizing which has a history beginning in Greece, developed in the "occidental world" and which all of us, including Latin Americans, inherit.



This article presented by Carlos Molina, professor in the UCA Philosophy Department.