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Latin America, colonial thought in

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-ZA005-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

Colonial refers to Spanish and Portuguese sovereignty in America from the arrival of Columbus in 1492 up to the emergence of modern Latin American states in the nineteenth century. The intellectual life of the colonies and their mother countries at that time falls into two phases: traditional and modern. The traditional phase includes the siglo de oro, or the Golden Age of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This was a time when literature and the arts flourished, along with Scholastic philosophy, jurisprudence and theology. During the eighteenth century, traditional thought gradually gave way to modern movements, particularly from France.

The universities founded in the mid-sixteenth century, notably those of Mexico and Peru, as well as colleges and seminaries, were impressively productive in the area of philosophy. The pressure of events such as the clash between European and Native American cultures in the sixteenth century and the struggle for independence from Spain and Portugal in the nineteenth century brought about numerous nonacademic works with philosophic content. Authors wrote in both Latin and Spanish or Portuguese and often knew native languages, such as Nahuatl and Quechua as well. Many operated in several different areas, such as the nun, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, one of the greatest poets in the Spanish language, who wrote a book on logic in Latin, which has since been lost.

Students studied philosophy first, then specialized in medicine, law, or theology. The core philosophy curriculum was logic, natural philosophy or physics and metaphysics. In the eighteenth century Scholastic logic, similar to what has come to be known as formal logic, was weakened and natural philosophy began to incorporate experimental science. The bulk of philosophy was affected by modern thinkers such as René Descartes.

Eighteenth-century savants were critical of Scholasticism and later Latin American intellectuals tended to disavow the entire colonial past. However, historians since the 1940s have stressed the currency of modern scholarship, especially in science and since the 1960s have been rediscovering the sophisticated philosophy of the Golden Age.

Citing this article:
Redmond, Walter B.. Latin America, colonial thought in, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-ZA005-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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