Who is Enrique Dussel ?

 Enrique Domingo Dussel Ambrosini (born December 24, 1934 in La Paz, Mendoza, Argentina)[1] is an Argentine-Mexican writer and philosopher.


Dussel was born in Argentina, but since he was attacked with a bomb in his house by a paramilitary group in 1973, he was forced into exile in Mexico in 1975, and today he is a Mexican citizen.[2] He is a professor in the Departament of Philosophy in the Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM), Campus Iztapalapa in Mexico City and has also taught at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He has acquired a doctorate in philosophy in the Complutense University of Madrid and a doctorate in history from the Sorbonne of Paris. He also has a license in theology from Paris and Münster. He has been awarded doctorates honoris causa from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland and the Higher University of San Andrés in Bolivia, and has been visiting professor for one semester at Frankfurt University, Notre Dame University, California State University, Los Angeles, Union Theological Seminary (New York), Loyola University Chicago, Vanderbilt University, Duke University, Harvard University, and others.
Dussel has maintained dialogue with philosophers such as Karl-Otto Apel, Gianni Vattimo, Jürgen Habermas, Richard Rorty and Emmanuel Lévinas [3]
He is the founder with others of the movement referred to as the Philosophy of Liberation, and his work is concentrated in the field of Ethics and Political Philosophy. Through his critical thinking he proposed a new way (a critical way) to read the universal history, criticizing the Eurocentric discourse. Author of more than 50 books, his thoughts cover many themes including: theology, politics, philosophy, ethics, political philosophy, aesthetics, and ontology. He has been a critic of postmodernity, preferring instead the term "transmodernity."


Enrique Dussel and Noam Chomsky at Loyola University. Chicago. 1994.
Roughly half a century has passed since the time of Theodor W. Adorno’s and Martin Heidegger’s major writings. In the meantime, the world has dramatically changed. With the destruction of the Nazi regime, fascism—at least in its overt totalitarian guise—has passed from the scene. With the demise of the Soviet Union, Soviet-style totalitarianism likewise has disappeared. However, appearances are deceiving. In new guises and under new labels Macht and Machenschaft continue to haunt the world. Under the aegis of globalization, totalizing ambitions are no longer limited to intra-societal domination but have a acquired global or planetary dimensions. As a result, social and political divisions are no longer confined to domestic class conflicts but assume the character of a global divine: that between developed and developing societies, between North and South, between center and periphery. Given the enormous accumulation of technological, military, and economic power in the “developed” hemisphere, the divide readily translates into the hegemonic domination of the North over the South or—in Samuel Huntington’s phrase—of the “West” over the “Rest.” In this situation, the dialectic of enlightenment and modernity is bound to be most intensely experienced by its victims or “subaltern” targets: ordinary people and intellectuals living at the borders or margins of development. One of the most eloquent and trenchant contemporary intellectuals hailing from the South is the Argentinian-Mexican Enrique Dussel whose name is closely linked with the (so-called) “philosophy of liberation.” For present purposes, the discussion will be limited to two of his major texts: The Invention of the Americas (of 1992) and The Underside of Modernity (of 1996).
In terms of intellectual background, Dussel’s work has been strongly influenced by a number of European writers: ranging from Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, and Adorno to Heidegger, Paul Ricœur, and Emmanuel Levinas. From Marx he derived insight into the dynamics of economic class conflicts and their progressive globalization under neo-liberal capitalist auspices—although he carefully steered clear of any type of determinism (an aspect linking him with Gramsci). From Adorno he learned about the “mythical” feature of Western modernity, and also about the need to avoid the totalizing ambitions of Hegel’s conceptual dialectics. Connections with Heidegger’s writings are particularly pronounced. With the latter he shares, among other things, the emphasis on concretely situated human existence, on finite Dasein as “being-in-the-world”—where “world” is not external to, but co-constitutive of human being (in contrast to the Cartesian legacy). Like Ricoeur and Gadamer, Dussel is committed to hermeneutics or hermeneutical interpretation, deriving from the conviction that seeing is always a “seeing as” and action an imagining or “shaping as” inspired by sedimented memories and pre-judgments. In pursuing his intellectual path, Dussel has been in recent years also deeply drawn to the teachings of Emmanuel Levinas—although the latter never fully eclipsed his earlier philosophical moorings. What attracted him in Levinas’s work was especially the debunking of egocentrism, that is, the insistence on non-totality in the sense of an openness to the ethical demands of the “Other,” especially the marginalized and disadvantaged—a debunking which clearly resonates with Adorno’s stress on non-identity and Heidegger’s accent on self-transcendence. What emerged from this confluence of intellectual mentors is a “philosophy of liberation” particularly attentive to “third world” needs or (in a different formulation) an “ethical hermeneutics” taking its departure from the vantage of the oppressed (paralleling the “preferential option for the poor” favored by liberation theology).
The full title of the first study mentioned above is The Invention of the Americas: Eclipse of the “Other”and the Myth of Modernity. The title immediately announces the book’s central target: the rise of “Eurocentrism” manifest in the West’s totalizing hegemonic ambitions. For Dussel, the “birthdate of modernity” was 1492, that is, the discovery and ensuing conquest of the Americas. While foreshadowed by some tendencies of the later Middle Ages, he writes, modernity “came to birth in Europe’s confrontation with the Other: by controlling, conquering, and violating the Other, Europe defined itself as discoverer, conquistador, and colonizer of an alterity that was likewise constitutive of modernity.” Using language borrowed in part from Horkheimer and Adorno, he adds: “Modernity dawned in 1492 and with it the myth of a special kind of sacrificial violence which eventually eclipsed whatever was non-European.” Although insisting on the tensional relation between Europe and its “Other”—or between the “West” and the “Rest”—Dussel does not erect the conflict into an unbridgeable or incommensurable gulf. The relation for him remains dialectical—but not in the sense of Hegel’s dialectic where the “Other” is ultimately absorbed in a higher synthesis. One of Dussel’s distinctive contributions is the notion of an “analectical” mode of reasoning and interacting, a mode which preserves the linkage between dialectics and (a certain kind of) dialogue. As he writes at one point: Analectics designates a method “which begins from the Other as free, as one beyond the system of totality; which begins, then, from the Other’s word, from the revelation of the Other, and which, trusting in the Other’s word, labors, works, serves, and creates.” Although favoring dialogue, analectics does not end in a bland consensualism but respects the gap or difference (dia) between self and other, between oppressor and oppressed, shunning the temptation of a totalizing synthesis: “I want to develop a philosophy a dialogue as part of a philosophy of liberation of the oppressed, the excommunicated, the excluded, the Other.”19 For Dussel, liberation of the oppressed does not involve a brute struggle for power—which would only lead to the replacement of one type of oppression by another. In line with the idea of an “ethical hermeneutics,” his aim is not only to liberate the oppressed and excluded, but also to liberate the oppressor from their desire to oppress—thus ultimately appealing to a latent ethical potential. It is in this respect that Dussel invokes the example of Bartolemé de las Casas, the Spanish cleric who, at the time of the conquest of the Americas, denounced the violence of the conquistadors, but without endorsing simple counter-violence or the unleashing of totalizing carneage. As he writes in The Invention of the Americas, it was Las Casas who, in traveling in the New World, had a transformative experience: he “underwent tutelage at the hands of the oppressed and learned to admire the beauty, culture, and goodness of the indigenous, the new, the Other.” In a Levinasian sense, Las Casas discovered in the Americas an ethics which is not abstractly imposed but arises from the concrete encounter with the “face” of indigenous peoples; and “out of his love” for them he launched his critique of their oppression, while pleading for a different, “analectical” mode of interaction. Proceeding to a more general level, the text crisply pinpoints the preconditions of a non-imperialist dialogue applicable to our present time. The idea of such a dialogue, Dussel writes, should not lapse into “the facile optimism of a rationalist, abstract universalism” which merely imposes Eurocentric standards on the rest of the world. At the same, it must steer clear of the quagmire of “irrationality, incommunicability, or incommensurability” which is merely the flip-side of Eurocentrism. What is needed instead is the fostering of an alternative or analectical reason open to the traumas of exclusion and oppression, on outlook which should “deny the irrational sacrificial myth of modernity” while simultaneously affirming “the emancipative tendencies of the enlightenment and modernity within a new transmodernity.”
The second study cited above—The Underside of Modernity—radicalizes the critique of Eurocentric modernity by inserting this critique into the broader parameters of the ongoing process of globalization. Arguing against some recent Western thinkers (like Habermas and Charles Taylor), Dussel insists that the meaning of modernity cannot be solely found in the “discourse of modernity” or in the Western “sources of the self.” Despite certain triggering factors operating within the geographical confines of Europe, modernity also has broader connotations—which makes it possible to distinguish between its purely “Eurocentric” and its “global or planetary” significance. What the latter dimension reveals is the role of modernity “as center of a global process” where the center elevates itself with reference to the global “periphery” (which is variously called colonial, neo-colonial, under-developed, “third world,” and now South). Notwithstanding the influence of Reformation, European enlightenment, and revolution, the text asserts, modernity in its broader reach was born “when Europe begins its expansion beyond its historical limits.” At this juncture, Europe “arrives in Africa, in India and Japan, thanks to Portugal; in Latin America and from there in the Philippines, thanks to the Spanish conquest.” While Europe thus establishes itself as “center” and vanguard, other societies and cultures are deprecated as “immature, barbarous, underdeveloped.” It is thus that the “second moment” of modernity—its other side or underside—is inaugurated: no longer as “an emancipatory rational nucleus” but as “an irrational sacrificial myth.” Although most empires in the past considered themselves as centers of a certain geographical context, the situation is changed in modernity because of the latter’s global reach: “Only modern European culture, from 1492 onwards, became the center of a world system, of a global or universal history that confronts (with various forms of subsumption and exteriority) all the other cultures of the world—cultures that now will be militarily dominated as its periphery.” According to Dussel, the (Habermasian) notion of a “discourse of modernity” is flawed not only because of its Eurocentric focus, but also because of its very restricted scope of possible “counter-discourses” (which cannot be limited to Nietzsche and postmodernism). In contrast to the stress on recent, intra-European skirmishes, the text insists that the idea of a “counter-discourse” to modernity is already five centuries old: it began on the Hispaniola Island “when Anton de Montesinos attacked the injustices that were being committed against the Indians” and from there extended to the classrooms of Salamanca, to the work of Bartolemé de las Casas and the lectures of Francisco de Vitoria. Here, the importance of the periphery comes into view. For, Bartolemé de las Casas “would not have been able to criticize Spain without having resided in the periphery, without having heard the cries and lamentations, and without having seen the tortures that the Indians suffered at the hands of the colonizing Europeans.” For Dussel, it is the “others” in the periphery that constitute the real source and impetus of modern counter-discourses (even in the European center). Hence, for philosophers and intellectuals, the study of Latin America, of Africa and Asia is not “an anecdotal task” or a residual pastime. Rather, it involves historical “truth and justice”; it is a matter of remembering a history that “rescues the non-hegemonic , dominated, silenced, and forgotten counter-discourse, namely, that of the constitutive alterity or underside of modernity itself.” Henceforth, the study of philosophy or the history of ideas can no longer be confined to a Western canon. What is demanded by our time—the age of globalization—is the development of “a new global vision of philosophy,” one which will reveal hitherto unsuspected dimensions once the “rich thematic of the refraction of the center in or by the periphery” is perceived as the untapped and perhaps inexhaustible heritage or patrimony of the entire world.
As formulated by Dussel, the “philosophy of liberation” is one of the prominent counter-discourses of our time. It stands in the tradition of “critical philosophy”—though it moves beyond Kant’s transcendental formalism in the direction of a greater awareness of its historical and social situatedness. It is a philosophy “born in the periphery” but with “global or planetary aspirations.” Such a philosophical outlook, Dussel asserts, must always ask first of all “who is situated in the exteriority of the [dominant] system” or “in the system as an alienated, oppressed segment.” In line with negative dialectics and its notion of non-identity, liberation philosophy rejects all forms of totalizing synthesis, in the realization that “all totalities can be fetishized”—regardless of whether one deals with political totalities (such as imperial regimes) or cultural totalities (such as “Judaeo-Christian civilization” or the “American way of life”). In support of this outlook, the text repeatedly invokes the teachings of Heidegger and Adorno, supplemented by some Levinasian insights. Basically, we read, the approach started from “Heideggerian phenomenology” and from “the Frankfurt School at the end of the sixties,” and then turned to Levinas because of his stress on “exteriority” and non-totality. More specifically, the point of departure was the “later Heidegger’s” concern with “Lebenswelt” (world of daily life) and the concrete situatedness of human existence (being-in-the-world). In the case of Adorno, the main sources of inspiration were the notions of “negative dialectics,” “myth of modernity,” and “dialectic of enlightenment” (all reinterpreted from the angle of periphery). Amplified by some further ideas, what all these precedents bring into view is a difficult course between affirmation and empty rejection. Taking up a central point of the earlier study, Dussel states:
Liberation philosophy criticizes the “sacrificial myth” of modernity as irrational, albeit presupposing and preserving its “rational emancipatory nucleus,” thereby also transcending modernity itself. Our project of liberation can be neither anti- nor pre- nor post-modern, but instead must be transmodern. This is . . . the condition of all possible philosophical dialogue between North and South, because we are situated in an asymmetrical relation. What Dussel here calls asymmetry is otherwise often called hegemony—or else the onset of a new global imperialism (involving the rule of the “West” over the “Rest”). In such a situation, nothing can be more important and salutary than the cultivation of global critical awareness, of critical counter-discourses willing and able to call into question the presumptions of global imperial rule. The dangers of such totalizing domination are becoming more evident every day. With the growing technological sophistication of weaponry we are relentlessly instructed about the underside of modernity, about the fateful collusion of power and knowledge in the unfolding of modern enlightenment (as analyzed by Adorno and Horkheimer). Coupled with the globalizing momentum, military sophistication greatly enhances the prospect of global warfare—indeed of global “total” warfare (as envisaged by Heidegger in the 1930s). Such warfare, moreover, is profiled against the backdrop of hegemonic asymmetry (as seen by Dussel): the vastly unequal possession of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. In this situation, the goal of global warfare is bound to be the “total” subjugation of less developed or subaltern societies—a subjugation accomplished through long-distance military offensives capable of inflicting maximum casualties on enemies while minimizing the attackers’ costs. Given the intoxicating effects of global rule, must one not also anticipate corresponding levels of total depravity and corruption among the rulers? In fact, must one not fear the upsurge of a new breed of “global master criminals” (planetarische Hauptverbrecher) whose actions are likely to match those of their twentieth-century predecessors, and perhaps even surpass them (behind a new shield of immunity)? Armed with unparalleled nuclear devices and unheard-of strategic doctrines, global masters today cannot only control and subjugate populations, but in fact destroy and incinerate them (from high above). In the words of Arundhati Roy, addressed to the world's imperial rulers:
To slow a beast, you break its limbs. To slow a nation, you break its people; you rob them of volition. You demonstrate your absolute command over their destiny. You make it clear that ultimately it falls to you to decide who lives, who dies, who prospers, who doesn’t. To exhibit your capability you show off all that you can do, and how easily you can do it—how easily you could press a button and annihilate the earth.


Select bibliography

  • Twenty Theses on Politics, Duke University Press, Durham, 2008.
  • Beyond Philosophy: History, Marxism, and Liberation Theology, Rowman and Littlefield, Maryland, 2003.
  • Philosophy of Liberation, Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2003 [1980]
  • Towards an Unknown Marx: A Commentary on the Manuscritps of 1861-1863, Routledge, London, 2001
  • The Underside of Modernity: Apel, Ricoeur, Rorty, Taylor and the Philosophy of Liberation, Humanity Books, 1996.
  • The Invention of the Americas: Eclipse of "the Other" and the Myth of Modernity, Continuum Intl Pub Group, 1995
  • Ethics & Community (Liberation & Theology), Hyperion Books, 1994
  • The History of the Church in Latin America: Colonialism to Liberation (1492-1979), Eerdmans, 1981
  • History and the theology of liberation. A Latin American perspective, Orbis Books, New York, 1976.
  • Ethics and the theology of liberation, Orbis Books, New York, 1978.
  • Hipótesis para el estudio de Latinoamérica en la historia universal. Investigacion del “mundo” donde se constituyen y evolucionan las “Weltanschauungen, 1966.
  • El humanismo semita, 1969.
  • Para una de-strucción de la historia de la ética I, 1972.
  • La dialéctica hegeliana. Supuestos y superación o del inicio originario del filosofar, 1972 (2a. ed.: Método para una filosofía de la liberación. Superación analéctica de la dialéctica hegeliana, 1974).
  • América Latina dependencia y liberación. Antología de ensayos antropológicos y teológicos desde la proposición de un pensar latinoamericano, 1973.
  • Para una ética de la liberación latinoamericana I, 1973.
  • Para una ética de la liberación latinoamericana II, 1973.
  • El dualismo en la antropología de la cristiandad, 1974.
  • Liberación latinoaméricana y Emmanuel Levinas, 1975.
  • El humanismo helénico, 1975.
  • Filosofía ética latinoamericana III, 1977.
  • Introducción a una filosofía de la liberación latinoaméricana, 1977.
  • Introducción a la filosofía de la liberación, 1977.
  • Filosofía de la liberación, 1977.
  • Religión, 1977.
  • Filosofía de la poiesis. Introducción histórica, 1977 (Reedición aumentada: Filosofía de la producción, 1984).
  • Filosofía ética latinoamericana IV: La política latinoamericana. Antropológica III, 1979.
  • Filosofía ética latinoamericana V: Arqueológica latinoamericana. Una filosofía de la religión antifetichista, 1980.
  • Liberación de la mujer y erótica latinoamericana. Ensayo filosófico, 1980.
  • La pedagógica latinoamericana, 1980.
  • Praxis latinoamericana y filosofía de la liberación, 1983.
  • La producción teórica de Marx. Un comentario a los Grundrisse, 1985.
  • Ética comunitaria, 1986.
  • Hacia un Marx desconocido. Un comentario de los Manuscritos del 61-63, 1988.
  • El último Marx (1863–1882) y la liberación latinoamericana. Un comentario a la tercera y cuarta redacción de “El Capital”, 1990.
  • 1492: El encubrimiento del Otro. Hacia el origen del “mito de la Modernidad”, 1992.
  • Las metáforas teológicas de Marx, 1994.
  • Apel, Ricoeur, Rorty y la Filosofía de la Liberación con respuestas de Karl-Otto Apel y Paul Ricoeur, 1994.
  • Historia de la filosofía y filosofía de la liberación, 1994.
  • Ética de la liberación en la edad de la globalización y la exlusión, 1998.
  • Ética de la liberación ante Apel, Taylor y Vattimo con respuesta crítica inedita de K.-O. Apel, 1998.
  • Hacia una filosofía política crítica, 2001.
  • Ética del discurso y ética de la liberación (con Karl-Otto Apel), 2005.
  • 20 tesis de política, 2006.
  • Filosofía de la cultura y la liberación, 2006.
  • Política de la liberación. Historia mundial y crítica, 2007.
  • Materiales para una política de la liberación, 2007.
  • Frigørelsesfilosofi, Forlaget Politisk Revy, København, 2008.
  • Política de la liberación: Arquitectónica, 2009.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enrique_Dussel